The Bears' 2019 season all but came to an end Sunday night after falling to the Los Angeles Rams, 17-7, in what amounted to another lackluster performance by an offense that climaxed late in the fourth quarter when Matt Nagy pulled Mitch Trubisky for Chase Daniel.
Nagy said after the game that his decision to pull Trubisky was related to a hip injury he suffered a few series earlier. But social media lit up with speculation that the Bears finally decided it was time to move on from the franchise's most costly asset.
Whether Nagy and the Bears are being honest about Trubisky's health will be revealed in time.
It seems more likely that it was injury-related considering Trubisky had one of his better performances of the season, even if his final stat line (24-of-43, 190 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) doesn't reflect it. He was victimized by several drops.
But we've been down this road before. Another loss followed by an optimistic message from Nagy about the character in the locker room and the ability to continue playing hard in a season with nothing left to play for. Nagy said the pieces are in place for the Bears to have a productive offense, but early-game failures and the inability to seize the moment -- like converting turnovers into touchdowns -- continue to haunt the team.
At this point, it's time to look forward. With 10 games (4-6) and 11 weeks in the rear-view mirror, the roster's weaknesses have crystallized and the offseason needs have become clear. If this team really wants to be a Super Bowl contender, changes have to happen.
It starts at quarterback, where general manager Ryan Pace is facing the most difficult decision of his tenure in Chicago. Trubisky is his guy, the player he hand-picked to be this franchise's Drew Brees. He hasn't shown anything on the field in many of his 35 regular-season starts that suggests he can be relied on as a consistent NFL starter, let alone a Hall-of-Fame caliber player. So, the most important responsibility Pace must meet over the next several months is to protect Chicago's championship window by adding a quality veteran quarterback who can win games.
But it doesn't end there. The Bears can't just add a stop-gap; the veteran they add has to serve as a bridge to a bright future. Maybe that's Trubisky. Maybe it's a rookie added in the second round of April's 2020 NFL draft. The bottom line is Pace can't get this wrong and he can't let his ego get in the way. He has to be honest in his evaluation of Trubisky. His career and the future of this team depend on it.
The Bears' problems aren't limited to Trubisky, though. The offense as a whole needs rebuilding and the most logical place to start is the offensive line. The duo of tackles Charles Leno, Jr. and Bobby Massie have been solid in recent seasons, but as 2019 has shown, solid isn't good enough. The Bears have to consider adding a top-flight offensive tackle in free agency (if there's one available) and invest draft picks into the offensive line. No position is immune to an upgrade at this point. Pace has to hit the reset button and evaluate all five starters without being influenced by draft pedigree or contract status.
As for the defense, the Bears don't need much of a facelift. But they do need a running mate for Khalil Mack. The pass rush has been non-existent since Akiem Hicks suffered an elbow injury in Week 5, and he was placed on injured reserve shortly thereafter. Leonard Floyd has been a complete failure as a pass rusher and no other Bears defender aside from Nick Williams has had a pulse in that department since the loss of Hicks, including Mack.
The Bears mortgaged their future on Mack when they traded two first-round picks (and then some) for him at the start of the 2018 season. In order to get a maximum return on that investment, they need to provide him with some help. As much as he plays like Superman, he isn't a superhero. If the Bears don't find a way to generate pressure opposite him, he'll fail to live up to the expectations that came along with the trade.
And then there's the unavoidable problem at kicker. Eddy Pineiro is trending in the wrong direction after missing two kicks Sunday night, and while Nagy said the Bears aren't going to bring in any competition, they have to invest free-agent dollars on a proven veteran this offseason.
Sure, they tried that approach with the failed Cody Parkey transaction, but that failure can't make Pace fear a second swing. Too many points have been left on the field because of missed kicks. It's unacceptable and needs to be a priority, not a gimmicky series of tryouts.
Quarterback, offensive line, pass rusher and kicker. The Bears' season is over because of those four problem areas, and it may take more than one offseason to truly repair.
And we haven't even tapped into the coaching staff. That's for another day.
Bears' playoff hopes dashed in Week 11 loss to Rams, so what's next? originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago