By Chris Emma–
(670 The Score) The question deep inside U.S. Bank Stadium, the site of Super Bowl LII this upcoming Sunday, was related to the Bears. But what was Alshon Jeffery thinking at the time of a stunning prediction?
The Bears had just been embarrassed in a 38-10 loss to the Vikings on New Year’s Day 2017, finishing the 2016 season with a 3-13 mark, and Jeffery was frustrated after what would be his final game with the team. He was soft spoken with a crowd around his stall in the visiting locker room and disappointed by what had occurred with the Bears.
Then came a statement that could best be described as bizarre.
“I guarantee you we are going to win the Super Bowl next year,” Jeffery said when asked about the Bears’ future.
It was uttered so gently that this reporter didn’t realize what was said until later on. The comment would become a laughingstock for Jeffery and the Bears. But it’s worth wondering whether he truly believed what he said. Did Jeffery even see a future for himself in Chicago or was the writing on the wall?
This Sunday, Jeffery and the Philadelphia Eagles will play the Patriots at U.S. Bank Stadium for the Super Bowl. The comments by Jeffery a year ago will be bandied about plenty during this week.
At the time, Jeffery was set to become a free agent for a second straight offseason. He hadn’t earned a long-term deal in the mind of Bears general manager Ryan Pace and this time wouldn’t be tendered the franchise tag. It was just a matter of what the Bears would offer Jeffery — and whether he wanted to return.
The Bears stood firm to their belief in Jeffery’s market value and appeared to have it measured fairly based on the underwhelming offers he received. Jeffery signed a one-year deal worth $14 million with Philadelphia and left Chicago.
Jeffery, now 27, posted 57 receptions for 789 yards and nine touchdowns this season while establishing himself as a target for MVP candidate Carson Wentz. He earned the long-term deal he coveted, signing a four-year extension in December to stay an Eagle.
Meanwhile, the Bears went 5-11 in 2017 and desperately missed the presence of an impact receiver like Jeffery. The Eagles pounded Jeffery’s former team in late November, winning 31-3 in Philadelphia.
During the week leading to that game, Jeffery referred to his decision leaving the Bears as “just a better decision for me and my family, honestly.” There had been questions of Jeffery’s desire to stay in Chicago during his tenure with the Bears.
A recent Philadelphia Inquirer story on Jeffery revealed some greater context to his departure.
“To be honest, I didn’t think he was going to leave Chicago,” Jeffery’s older brother Charles Ben told the Inquierer in an August interview. “He loved Chicago, and I didn’t think he was going to leave, you know? Then he called me, and he was like, ‘What do you think about Philadelphia?’ I was like, ‘Bruh, I’m with you a hundred percent, no matter what you do.’ I said, ‘Go for it. If you feel that’s the right fit for you, then do it.’ He’s excited. If the quarterback plays just a little better, you know, that’s all he really needs.”
With the standout Jeffery, Wentz established himself as one of the game’s top quarterbacks during his second season. Meanwhile, Bears rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky sorely lacked a game-changing target of Jeffery’s caliber.
This offseason, the Bears will look for major upgrades to their roster with the hopes of benefiting Trubisky and new head coach Matt Nagy. The position of receiver will surely be a top priority, as Pace alluded to earlier this month.
Ultimately, the change of scenery was likely better for Jeffery, who struggled for certainty with the Bears. This Sunday, he could hoist the Lombardi Trophy just as he predicted — kind of.