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Yeah, but it's the good kind of 8-8

  • The emergence of wide receiver Alshon Jeffery is one reason Bears fans should be optimistic about next season.
The emergence of wide receiver Alshon Jeffery is one reason Bears fans should… (Nuccio DiNuzzo / Chicago…)
January 01, 2014|By Ben Johnson | For RedEye

Another Bears season is in the books, and all over this city we are lumbering toward consensus on what this team did and did not accomplish, what to look forward to and in what to find despair.

It's January in Chicago. We don't have much else to do.

I'm upbeat about these Bears. Sure, they finished the year 8-8, losing the NFC North in brutal fashion. But that was one play, and neither the 2013 Bears nor the 2013 Packers looks especially championshippy this year, so it's one play for one extra game. Maybe two.

I believe the Bears are better than the exact mediocrity their record indicates. They've done a lot of good things, like develop a second wide receiver who can jump and grab a football like it's a Fabergé egg, stabilize their offensive line and come one play away from a division title even though half their starting defense ended the season on a gurney somewhere.

Coach Marc Trestman makes gutsy, nonconformist calls that sometimes work and sometimes don't. But the fact Trestman is emboldened to take risks is a sign of organizational-level trust that speaks to good management.

I do numbers. I'm the guy who stays up all night making spreadsheets before your fantasy football draft but loses anyway and then gets all pissy about it. I read the football nerd blogs, because I have time on my hands and I'm curious about this stuff.

The blogs say these 8-8 Bears won 0.7 more games than they should have this year. To me that means 0.7 games' worth of good coaching. The blogs say the Bears had the sixth best offense in the NFL this year, and that's with Josh McCown starting five games at quarterback. Good coaching.

My own dalliances in Microsoft Excel suggest the Bears were somewhere around 64 percent more injured than an average NFL team this year, with Week 1 starters combining to miss a total of 43 games. That's an average of three key guys hurt per week, and it doesn't even include injuries to backups who replaced injured starters. That's 11-5 with better health luck.

It's hard to get excited about an 8-8 Bears team when it's 1 degree outside and you're shoveling your sidewalk. But to the extent that you can be excited, Chicago, you should be. This is what an 8-8 team looks like when they're learning on the job and making, generally, the right moves. I would not be surprised if your Sundays look a lot more social next January.

RedEye special contributor Ben Johnson is a comedian at iO Theater in Chicago.

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