It’s easy, as a Bears fan, to use any piece of news to lament your lot in life. The slightest misfortune or misstep, and we can’t wait to find the nearest fiery pit to throw ourselves into, as long as there’s a cross we can land on briefly before watching our skin peel off (yes, I know a cross almost certainly wouldn’t be able to survive in a fiery pit, but this is where we are on the lakefront). That’s how it’s been forever for all of us who don’t remember 1985, which is becoming a larger and larger percentage of Bears fans as all that “au jus” comes to collect.
The news of Roquan Smith asking for a trade out of Chicago while he tries to negotiate a new deal for himself (and he’s repping himself, which might be part of the problem) isn’t really that abnormal for the NFL. This has become standard operating procedure. Just this offseason, DK Metcalf, Deebo Samuel, and Aaron Rodgers have all publicly declared, “I just can’t with these guys anymore!” and shockingly ended up in the same jersey when camp opened because the dollars lined up. Kyler Murray didn’t publicly say he wanted out, but these days changing your profile or references on social media is just about the same thing (I really wonder how much longer I’ll be able to understand this modern language). He then got a cruise ship full of money parked at his door, however one gets a cruise ship to a residential neighborhood.
But because it’s the Bears, it just has to be weirder. Certainly, Roquan The Chef is dicking the Bears in any way he can. He’s an immensely popular, and really good, player, who is calling on ownership to step in. And he did it during the team’s one practice that’s at Soldier Field during training camp, known as Family Fest. Every team has something like this, but Roquan chose this morning knowing that whatever lost cause takes time out of his or her day to watch practice is probably going to be a bit vocal on Roquan’s status. He’s already testing the backing a new GM, Ryan Poles, might have from an ownership group that’s politely described as “skittish.”
The funny thing about Smith’s letter is that the last thing he should want is any McCaskey getting involved at all. There’s no situation that a McCaskey can’t make worse, no matter how well-intentioned they think they are or may be. They are The Football Cooler. Their mere presence just makes things around them completely silly and stupid. The president, George, admitted at his press conference/rejected Pee Wee’s Playhouse replacement when announcing the firing of Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace that he didn’t really know shit about football, despite his family business being…football. You’d think through osmosis he’d have picked up a few things to make his knowledge slightly higher than “drunk radio show caller” but you’d think a lot of things about the Bears that aren’t the case.
So it becomes a test for Poles, and it’s not like he has passed the “Is this dude as weird as all the others?” test yet either. Poles has cleaned house since walking in the door, and really cleaned house down to all levels. He fired the VP of Player Engagement who helped hire him. He fired equipment guys who have been around for 30 years, though no one was quite sure what they all did in the first place.
At first blush, it can break one of two ways. One, the Bears have been so backward and so inert in so many ways, they do need a complete reshaping. The other is that Poles is a paranoid, power-hungry jackass who can’t have anyone around he didn’t hire and anyone who isn’t in line. The fact that his coaching staff has engaged in what they think is Langley-level secrecy about any injury in camp, a full five or six weeks out from the first game that counts, kind of points you in one direction.
When it comes to building the team, it would seem baseball-style rebuilding has come to football, or at least the Bears. Sure, the roster definitely needed a certain level of a controlled burn to get it back to where it has to go. But Roquan, should he not re-sign eventually, is the exact type of player one would build around — a 25-year-old stud. To trade him is to do it just to trade him. The idea of a rebuild, or at least what it used to be, is that your team has gotten completely old and useless and the only thing left are 35-year-olds who wheeze merely jogging onto the field. There’s no other choice but to start over, not just some option to click when you’ve run out of other ideas or more likely just don’t have the gumption, funds, or creativity to keep a certain era of a team going.
What a “rebuild” has become is a catch-all for a front office to buy themselves as much time as they can, whether they know what they’re doing or not. If Roquan sticks around, and Jaquan Brisker and Kyler Gordon are everything they promise to be already, the clock starts ticking. Remove Roquan, you buy yourself more time to find another Roquan. You see it everywhere now, where instead of waiting for the building’s foundation to rot and the walls start to crumble, you just tear down a still pretty useful apartment building to erect a single-family home (another problem we have around here, so at least Poles is tuned into the local scene). Not that the Bears were good or didn’t need a lot of work, but Smith isn’t just some vanity you tear out. You sort of wonder how long it’ll take before Poles and Eberflus turn their eyes to Justin Fields and wonder how much more time jettisoning him will get them, seeing as how they’ve not given him an offensive line that will prevent him from getting his ribs turned into putty or receivers that can find their ass with either hand much less the ball with both.
This is the Bears, and though on the surface this isn’t all that different from what any other team can go through with their star players, you can be sure it will get weirder and worse.