Schrock: No. 1 pick sets Bears up for transformative offseason

CHICAGO — George McCaskey walked through the bowels of Soldier Field with panache in his stride on Sunday. He didn’t look like the chairman of a franchise that just finished the 2022 season 3-14 and on a 10-game losing streak. He seemed happy and hopeful.

Why shouldn’t he?

Sunday’s 29-13 loss to the Minnesota Vikings is irrelevant. It’s not part of the big picture. Hell, it’s not even close to the blueprints that General Manager Ryan Poles creates. Sunday’s result at Soldier Field mattered only in that it allowed the Bears to top off a successful season.

When Davis Mills and Jordan Akins connected with a 28-yard touchdown pass followed by a two-point conversion to give the Houston Texans a 32-31 lead over the Indianapolis Colts with 50 seconds left on Sunday, it was clear that everything broke the way for the Bears during the 2022 season.

The Poles arrived and went to work gutting the Bears’ squad to clear the deck for his grand rebuild. Quarterback Justin Fields made a leap in Year 2 despite the Bears surrounding him with a terrible offensive line and limited weapons. Those at Halas Hall are impressed with Fields’ leadership and ability to navigate difficult circumstances. He’s made progress as a passer and they believe another off-season of development and more talent around him will allow him to thrive next season.

Then came the Sunday events. When the Texans defeated the Tennessee Titans in Week 16, it put the Bears back in the game to become the No. 1 overall pick. When the Bears closed Fields on Wednesday because of a hip strain, it was clear that the Poles got the job.

The Bears took on the Vikings Sunday in a quarterback rotation of Nathan Peterman and Tim Boyle. By taking Fields off the board, the Bears eliminated any chance of a surprise win in Week 18 and ensured that a Texans win over the Colts gave them the No can do when he took the job a year ago.

Sunday has a chance to be a day of transformation for the Bears franchise.

With number 1 in their pocket, the bears now hold the key to the draft and the free hand.

They will go into the off-season with salary caps over $110 million. They believe they have a franchise quarterback in Fields and own the #1 pick they could auction off to a desperate quarterback team willing to mortgage their next few years on first-round picks for the right, CJ to draft Stroud or Bryce Young.

The salary cap space makes the Bears a player for any top-tier free agent that makes it onto the market. Orlando Brown Jr? Daron Payne? Mike McGlinchey? It also allows the bears to take any contract they want in a trade.

In theory, the offseason should run through Chicago.

The Poles’ first off-season as general manager was all about the teardown. It hasn’t given us much insight into his talent rating or the kind of team he wants to build.

After losing to the Vikings, Poles emerged from the back of the Bears’ dressing room. He didn’t stay long. The manager put on his winter coat without breaking a stride and headed for the door.

You no longer have to spend time on the 2022 Bears. Your work is finished.

After a perfectly executed season and a potentially transformative Sunday at the lakeside, the Poles’ work is just beginning.

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