By Tim Baffoe–
(CBS) It may be the hardest thing to do when it comes to involving yourself in sports. It completely goes against all your years of fan conditioning and tribal instinct. You might as well decide to exclusively use the opposite hand at work or spontaneously pick gin as your beverage of choice.
But an unfortunate once in a while it has to be done. For the greater the good, the long run, hopefully a brighter future.
Right now and even more so Sunday and each week hereafter, you, Jane Q. Butkus and John X. Payton, need to repress all immediate emotional discharge. And you need to consciously root against the Chicago Bears.
A terrible position to be in, Lord Ditka knows. The season is brand new, your hankering for actual professional football is about to be sated, and there’s a blissful innocence overrunning your faculties at the moment. One that thinks, “Sixteen games, anything can happen — this is, after all, the NFL.”
These are, after all, the Chicago Bears, though. It’s a team that could best be politely described in its current state as piping fresh garbage.
That’s no hot take. Major voices who have seen the trailer for this 2015 Bears movie have declared it a wait-for-Netflix pick. All eight CBS Sports experts have the Bears finishing last in the NFC North. USA Today called the Bears potentially the league’s worst team back in May and hasn’t budged since. Sports Illustrated predicts three wins. The nerds at Five Thirty Eight crunch the Bears at six wins and just six teams with a worse chance at making the postseason.
NFL predictions, though, are one of life’s greatest crapshoots, even though the very low bar the Bears have set for themselves makes none of those surprising. But if your plan is to ignore the haters, what about the Bears drowns out those negative voices?
The new people in charge? John Fox, Vic Fangio, Adam Gase and Ryan Pace look the part, even if that part is simply not being Marc Trestman and Phil Emery. But this new regime is eerily Soviet, treating the media with derision and massaging all news about the team so as to make the team website basically Pravda. After ousting the bungling tsar, the Bolsheviks were a welcome change and seemed great on paper, too.
The defense should be better under Fangio, but not giving up 50 points would be an improvement here. Should the pass rush not be incredible, what about the secondary suggests that most opposing quarterbacks won’t have their season-best games against the Bears?
Jay Cutler’s best receiving option Sunday might be his tight end. Martellus Bennett is a very good player, but he isn’t Gronk or Graham, so if he’s your best receiving threat — or if Matt Forte is — you’re dead before you begin. The Bears plan to run the ball more this season, but best-laid plans and whatnot. This year seems to genuinely be one where excuses can be made for any shortcomings with Cutler.
And the Bears schedule? Good luck in those first six games, as 2-4 should be what a best effort yields. But that only gets them closer to mediocrity, which is the worst thing that could happen. Improving on last year’s 5-11 record (did they really somehow win five games?) wouldn’t be actual improvement, not with the roster turnover and the organization rebuilding (even if they won’t say it aloud). That rebuild will largely occur in the draft, and the higher the picks, the better.
That’s particularly true in the first round, because that’s where a potential franchise quarterback is. The 2016 draft will be pretty good in terms of quarterbacks, and 6-10, 7-9 or 8-8 could knock the Bears out of contention for one who can finally take over for Cutler. That Venn diagram of super diehard Bears fans and people who want Cutler not quarterbacking them has a pretty strong overlap, right or wrong.
And, honestly, what about six or eight wins can you hang your hat on? There’s a special pride in identifying with a spectacularly bad team, no? Especially when the really bad in the NFL put themselves in a better position to grow than the piddling middlers.
If you need to trick yourself into positivity, root for signs of progress from young guys filling what will make up the core of the Bears going forward. But also pray for embarrassment Chicago style — early and often. It will numb you to any pain by the bye week and save you needless gray hairs hanging on this inferior team game by game.
Go Bears. To the bottom this season, please.
Tim Baffoe is a columnist for CBSChicago.com. Follow Tim on Twitter @TimBaffoe. The views expressed on this page are those of the author, not CBS Local Chicago or our affiliated television and radio stations.