Arkush: Reloading -- not rebuilding -- will give Bears best chance to compete with Justin Fields

  • Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields walks off the field at halftime of an NFL football game between the Bears and the New York Giants Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022, in Chicago.

    Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields walks off the field at halftime of an NFL football game between the Bears and the New York Giants Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022, in Chicago. Associated Press

Updated 1/24/2022 6:01 PM

Don't panic, folks. Of the eight NFL head coaching openings and four general manager spots, only one GM job has been filled.

The Bears aren't late to the party yet and the dam is about to break. Both Bears openings will almost certainly be filled by the end of the week, if not sooner.


Once the first domino falls, the game of musical chairs begins, and then, of course, it's a game no NFL team wants to play.

I have my top three choices for each spot, but there are more quality options than that.

We'll know soon enough. One certainty is neither my own nor any of your opinions are going to factor into the final choices.

Our only real concern should be if the Bears hire a coach before they hire a GM. Or if the new GM isn't given total control of the head coach decision, including the opportunity to add new candidates that haven't interviewed yet, if he so desires. If not, there will have been no real changes made to the football operation and this regime will almost certainly fail again.

They say patience is a virtue, so let's all try and find some.

In the meantime, how about those games this weekend?

Not sure how they could have been much better. How the four contenders still standing were put together got me to thinking about a much more interesting debate surrounding the Bears than the current hiring buzz.

Once the team has its new hierarchy in place, will it be time to rebuild or reload?

Of the four teams still playing, only the Bengals are a product of a rebuild, and a relatively young football team.

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They are built around excellent first- and second-day drafting. In 2018, the Bengals selected Billy Price (1st round), Jessie Bates III (2nd) and Sam Hubbard (3rd). In 2019, it was Jonah Williams (1st) and Germaine Pratt (3rd). In 2020, they took Joe Burrow (1st), Tee Higgins (2nd) and Logan Wilson (3rd). In 2021, they took Jamar Chase in the first round.

The Bengals mixed this talent with veteran but still young players they developed such as Joe Mixon and Tyler Boyd, and made a pair of free agent splashes in Trey Hendrickson and Vonn Bell.

There are, however, three big issues here for the Bears:

1. They have no first-round pick and only five total draft choices this spring.

2. Justin Fields' rookie year wasn't close to as impressive as Burrow's, and there is no certainty his second or any season ever will match Burrow's campaign this year. There is also no option now but to see it through with him.

3. What are the chances Bears fans are willing to wait three, four or five years while Fields' rookie contract runs out, or that the Bears' stadium quest builds momentum in that environment?


Do not underestimate the impact this has on getting a new football palace.

On the other hand, the Chiefs, 49ers and Rams are all currently middle-aged roster to even aging in spots -- like the current Bears -- and built around a few superstars on either side of the ball.

Of course, Patrick Mahomes speaks for himself, but while you'd obviously rather have Matt Stafford than Fields today, he, Jimmy Garoppolo and Trey Lance all come with similar questions as Fields.

Beyond that, take Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, Chris Jones and Tyrann Mathieu off the Chiefs, Cooper Kupp, Aaron Donald, Von Miller and Jalen Ramsey off the Rams or Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, Nick Bosa and Fred Warner off the 49ers, and what do you have?

No, the Bears don't have any offensive superstars, but David Montgomery is a notch below. Khalil Herbert, Darnell Mooney and Cole Kmet haven't found their ceilings yet, and the Bears will have a bunch of cap space to work with to seek special weapons.

On defense, at least for another season or two, there is no reason to believe Khalil Mack, Robert Quinn and Roquan Smith won't remain superstars, and Jaylon Johnson and Trevis Gipson are also still emerging.

Trade them all and you get maybe one or, best-case, two first-round picks.

At the end of the day, neither path is ever certain, but it sure seems like if they get the general manager hire right, trying the reload first makes a lot more sense than tearing it all down.


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