Pro Football Weekly GM Hub Arkush and lead Bears writer Bob LeGere debate what is the club's most pressing offseason concern:
ARKUSH: Bob, there is a ton of "feel good" around the Chicago Bears right now in spite of their disappointing early exit from the playoffs, and I get it. But coming away from Ryan Pace's and Matt Nagy's season-ending press conference Monday, it almost felt like a bunch of folks sitting around saying, "What, me worry?" The Bears are in very good shape but . . . a new defensive coordinator is now starting to look like a mostly new defensive staff. The running game is a bit of a mess. The kicker will be cut, the punter is a free agent and, while your punt returner is an All-Pro, kickoff returns were among the worst in the league. Massie, Callahan, Amos, Lynch, Robertson-Harris, Irving, Cunningham, Bellamy are all free agents, etc. Yes, I'd rather be the Bears than any other team in the NFC North, but what is the biggest concern facing the team this offseason?
LEGERE: Hub, my advice to Bears fans and to you is this: “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” To me, just about everything you mentioned is “small stuff.” It’s not as if Chuck Pagano is unproven, and as long as he doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel, the Bears’ defense will be excellent in 2019. I’m a firm believer in the old axiom: “It’s not the X's and O's; it’s the Jimmys and Joes.” The Bears have an excellent group of Jimmys and Joes. I’m a bit concerned that Callahan will be difficult to replace, especially after the Bears erred by cutting Cre’Von LeBlanc, who would have been the perfect fallback option. Amos might be one of those guys you don’t appreciate until he’s gone, but if he leaves, Deon Bush has earned a crack at the job. Massie is solid but replaceable. The rest are role players, and as long as you’re replacing role players instead of quality starters, you’re ahead of most NFL teams.
ARKUSH: Again, I think the Bears are in very good shape, but there's nothing small about a few of the things I've listed here. Chuck Pagano is an excellent hire and I'm not worried about him at all, nor am I freaked by losing an OLB coach. But if that turns into the secondary and D-line coach too and now you're talking about your 'D' getting to know a whole new staff, there will be adjustments necessary. We're also talking about basically all the special teams. I think they'll get it right but hoped they had this past year. You hate to lose free agents, but their list isn't that bad. The major concern I do have is if they don't fix the running game they aren't going anywhere — look at the results of the divisional playoff games last weekend — and I left Monday feeling like Matt Nagy could be serious about considering Kareem Hunt. I think that would be a serious mistake.
LEGERE: Hub, I will concede that if the Bears lose DB coach Ed Donatell and DL coach Jay Rodgers in addition to Vic Fangio, the amount of turnover would be disruptive, at least initially. But I’m confident that, after 17 years in the NFL, Pagano has a long list of qualified assistants to consider. Keep in mind, the Bears’ entire offensive staff, with the exception of QB coach Dave Ragone, was new this season, and they still made major strides in Year One. And that was also with a major infusion of skill-position personnel. The Bears’ personnel on defense next year will essentially be the same. So I say, “No worries.”