The Bears ended with the worst record in the NFL last season, finishing with a 3-14 mark that gave them the top pick in the draft.
General manager Ryan Poles eventually traded that selection to the Panthers and the Bears were able to get Justin Fields a go-to receiver in DJ Moore, right tackle Darnell Wright with the 10th pick, a second-rounder that Poles used in a trade to move up for cornerback Tyrique Stevenson and future draft capital including Carolina’s No. 1 pick in 2024.
Securing the first pick in the draft was huge for the Bears, but it’s not a position the organization would like to be in again anytime soon. And given the new additions to the team through free agency and the draft while also accounting for the continuity on the coaching staff, the Bears should see their win total increase in 2023.
After the 2023 NFL Schedule was released, there seems to be a good amount of Bears fans optimistic about the team.
But how much can the Bears really improve in the win column after only securing three victories in 2022? Can they reach double-digit wins in 2023?
If you look at the last two decades, dating back to 2002, the answer would be probably not. Only four teams in the last 20 years have gone from having the least amount of wins in the league to double-digit victories the following season.
- 2012: Chiefs (2-14) –> 2013: (11-5)
- 2011: Colts (2-14) –> 2012: (11-5)
- 2007: Dolphins (1-15) –> 2008: (11-5)
- 2003: Chargers (4-12) –> 2004: (12-4)
Also, only three teams have gone from worst to first in their respective divisions the following season. The Jaguars did it most recently in 2022, winning the AFC South with a 9-8 record after finishing 3-14 the previous year. The Dolphins won the AFC East at 11-5 in 2008 after only winning one game in 2007. And the Chargers secured the AFC West in 2004 with their 12 wins after winning just four games in 2003.
Here’s the good news for the Bears, though: All four of those teams featured either an experienced quarterback or in the case of the 2012 Colts, a standout rookie in Andrew Luck.
If Justin Fields takes another big jump in 2023, a double-digit win season is definitely in play.
Since 2002, 13 quarterbacks were taken with the No. 1 overall pick. Each of the teams that selected a quarterback went up in wins the next season. Luck had by far the most success in his first season out of any of the quarterbacks, leading his team to an 11-5 record and second-place finish in the AFC South.
Outside of Luck’s Colts, the other teams that finished first or second in their respective divisions after posting a league-low in wins all had a quarterback with at least one year or more of NFL experience.
• Drew Brees was going into his fourth season when he helped the Chargers win 12 games in 2004.
• In 2008, the Dolphins signed veteran quarterback Chad Pennington and he led them to an AFC East title.
• The Chiefs traded for a 29-year-old Alex Smith in 2013, and he performed well in the 11-win season.
More recently, Jared Goff was a big reason why the Lions finished with nine wins in 2022. Trevor Lawrence also stood out in his sophomore season last year and helped lead the Jaguars to their first playoff berth since 2017.
All those teams were able to make a quick turnaround with a quarterback who had some level of experience after the disappointing season, and there is no question that better quarterback play had a significant part in making that happen.
Can Justin Fields make a similar impact?
Fields is entering his third season in the NFL and his second with offensive coordinator Luke Getsy. With more familiarity in the offense and new weapons for Fields to utilize, the 24-year-old quarterback will be in a better position to help the Bears win more games in 2023.
If all goes according to play with all the new additions to the Bears’ roster, the team could be on a similar win trajectory that the Lions accomplished after having the worst record in the league. The Lions gave Goff more weapons going into 2022, signing wide receiver DJ Chark and re-signing receivers Josh Reynolds and Kalif Raymond. Also, Detroit selected WR Jameson Williams out of Alabama with the No. 12 overall pick.
Another important factor that impacted the Lions was now offensive coordinator Ben Johnson. In head coach Dan Campbell’s first season, Johnson served as the passing game coordinator. After the Lions parted ways with Anthony Lynn, Johnson took over as the offensive coordinator in 2022 and Goff had one of his best seasons as a pro, throwing for 4,438 yards, 29 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
Having more pass catchers and added familiarity in the passing game impacted Goff in a positive way, and it should do the same for Fields in 2023.
After analyzing the Bears’ 2023 schedule, I think Chicago can win anywhere from 7 to 9 games. If Fields takes the next step in the passing game and the defense improves from being the league-worst in sacking the quarterback and becomes more effective at stopping the run, then the Bears are going to be competitive in a lot of the upcoming matchups.
First, though, the Bears must prove they can compete within their own division. The Lions, Packers and Vikings all swept the Bears in 2022, but the NFC North will look a lot different without Aaron Rodgers, sending the division up for grabs.
Despit the final win total, the Bears were still largely competitive last season with a depleted roster, so all the new players should help balance out those one-score games that the team finished 1-7 in a season ago.
Double-digit wins in 2023 may be a stretch, but it wouldn’t be too surprising if Fields and the Bears aren’t too far off from that mark next season.