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Bears fans have just about done it. They have just about made it through an entire preseason without playing the sucker.
The call went out before the exhibition season even started: don't do it this time people, don't let baseless optimism creep in no matter how inevitable it seems. You've been deceived before but this time memories of recent past failures are seared into your brain.
This time you won't be fooled again and you won't tell yourself any sort of fairy tale of Jay Cutler finally figuring it out and young defenders playing surprisingly well and a great coaching staff organizing surprisingly successful stretches of football.
It is not happening.
On the other hand, this is Chicago, where the motto is "Urbs in Horto (City in a garden)" but the mantra is "It could be worse," i.e., "Sure the wind chill is negative 20 but do you remember when it was negative 60 a few years ago?" Or, "Sure, the Cubs haven't won in 106 years but man, that sure was a fun celebration of 100 years of losing at Wrigley last year."
And, as a point of fact, someday we will look back on this 2015 Bears season and say, "It could have been worse." I'm not sure how, but it will happen.
I've been looking for reasons why and on Monday at least one respected voice weighed in to say the Bears not only won't be the worst team in the league, they won't even be one of the eight worst teams in the league.
"As we do every year in this space, we split the NFL's 32 teams into four groups. Today's list includes the eight teams that should expect to compete for the first overall pick in next year's draft," Bill Barnwell wrote for Grantland. said grantland.com's Bill Barnwell. And lo and behold, the Bears aren't one of them.
I'm fully expecting the second-worst quartile of projected 2015 NFL teams to feature the Bears, and surely something along the lines of "If we were ranking teams 1 through 32, the Bears would clearly hold the 24th spot" could very well be a part of that prediction. But hey, No. 24 is way, way better than No. 32.
Now, some may argue that that would be a mistake, and that the Bears should be aiming for No. 32 and the top draft pick that goes with it. Let's be clear: those people are misguided, misinformed and misanthropic (because you would have to hate Chicago-based humanity to wish a No. 32 finish on this team).
My primary question to those who believe such a thing: So if the Bears had totally tanked this past season and grabbed that worst record in the league and the pick that goes with it, they would have been in position to draft . . . Jameis Winston? Who, besides Lovie Smith, really wants Jameis Winston on their team? I didn't think so.
In a league where the best quarterback, Tom Brady, was drafted in the sixth round and the best young quarterback except maybe Andrew Luck (and the jury is still out, OK? Get back to me when Luck leads his team to a Super Bowl), Russell Wilson, was drafted in the third, let's all acknowledge that drafting first ain't no guarantee of anything.
So there is clearly at least a chance the Bears won't be terrible - or at least that they will be less terrible than maybe even double-digit teams. I don't see any way they finish .500 or even 7-9. But I haven't decided on a final, projected record. Given that I said the Bears would finish 11-5 last season, perhaps you can understand my hesitance to do so. But I'll go on record before game time on Sunday.
Because, hey, it could have been worse. I could have said the 2014 Bears would finish 13-3.
Jim "Coach" Coffman is our man on Mondays, and Tuesdays after a holiday. He welcomes your comments.