Mary Dixon: The Chicago Bears finished their season on Sunday with a 3-14 record, the most losses in team history. They lost 10 straight games. That's also a franchise record. Joining us for the post mortem on the season is WBEZ sports contributor Cheryl Raye-Stout. Good morning, Cheryl.
Cheryl Raye-Stout: Good morning, Mary.
Mary Dixon: So yeah, it was a historically bad season for the Bears. But now they're entering the draft in a very strong position, they got number one overall pick and the biggest purse. So how did the Bears make the most of this?
Cheryl Raye-Stout: Well, it's the first time they had the number one picks us 1947, let's put that in the context of how long ago that was. But there's, there's a lot of interesting things that could happen. First off, because you have the number one pick, you have the enviable position of having something that somebody else may want. And so what they have to decide is, is Justin Fields our guy, is he their franchise quarterback? The answer is probably yes. But for another team that wants to move up, the number one pick is likely going to be a quarterback too. So they could trade their pick, so that they can even move down, get more capital. They also have $110 million under the salary cap, which they could use for free agents. So they have all those, all those assets to be able to deal with. And they picked up a lot of draft picks when they made trades earlier in the season.
Mary Dixon: And they - they have a lot of positions they need to fill.
Cheryl Raye-Stout: Yes, yes, they're... If you look at the trenches, that is called the defensive line and the offensive line, that's where they have some real holes, and they really need to fix that. They also have to get some weapons for Justin Fields if he's your quarterback, and I think he is. But Cole Kmet's the only one that really had a good season this year. And the fact is, Justin Fields was sacked 55 times. I mean, his body was you know, like a ragdoll being knocked around all the way he was. So you have to protect him.
Mary Dixon: Let's talk about the Justin Fields of it all. Did he prove himself as a franchise quarterback?
Cheryl Raye-Stout: I think he's done a lot of things right. He broke the bears single season rushing record for a quarterback. That's nice. However, you want him to be able to pass more. You want him to be able to connect with receivers, you want to be able to - really in the crunch time, when it's down to the fourth quarter, where you have to win, he's got to be able to perform there. And that's something that wasn't happening this season.
Mary Dixon: There's a new Bears president coming in the next few weeks. Is that right?
Cheryl Raye-Stout: We're hearing that should happen very, very soon. Ted Phillips will be retiring in February. And the odds on favor right now is Kevin Warren. He's a Big 10 Commissioner. And he came from the Minnesota Vikings. And this is where it's interesting. He helped build their stadium there. So he's got that cache when he - if he gets this job. The other thing is he's familiar with the NFL. And when he came to the Big 10, he helped the expansion for the Big 10. So there's a lot of things he's done, that fits right in with what the Bears need at this time.
Mary Dixon: So the Bears don't take the field again for nine months. Do fans have reason to believe that 2023 and 24 are gonna be a good season?
Cheryl Raye-Stout: The one thing that made fans happy this year was Justin Fields. When he started running the ball, when they designed plays for him, when they had that little mini break there and they changed the offense around him. He brought excitement. Yes, of course they want them to win and Justin Fields have to be able to perform in the fourth quarter. Be able to you know, be able to get those wins. But Justin Fields is one of those players, that has brought a lot of excitement back to the Bears, even though they were 3-14. Now the other thing is that the Bears are going to be playing a losers - I should say, the losers bracket you know, like it is in basketball. But they play the last place schedule. And that last place schedule means that your opponents are just as bad as you are... maybe a little bit better, but it gives you the ability to be able to build wins. And as long as Ryan Poles is able to give the assets to Matt Eberflus to be able to do it on the field, with a Justin Fields, with other things... fans should be excited.
Mary Dixon: Cheryl Raye-Stout covers sports for WBEZ. Thanks so much, Cheryl.
Cheryl Raye-Stout: Thank you, Mary.
WBEZ transcripts are generated by an automatic speech recognition service. We do our best to edit for misspellings and typos, but mistakes do come through.