(670 The Score) After all the ups and downs of this season, it was abundantly clear what these Bears were -- a sloppy, undisciplined football team that was never close to being a championship contender.
The Bears did everything they could to lose at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Sunday, falling 21-9 to the Saints in their wild-card round matchup. Chicago's topsy-turvy season ended with the kind of playoff loss that should call jobs into question once again.
"It's not where we want to be," Bears coach Matt Nagy said.
This was a disheartening performance from a team that didn't belong on the playoff stage after it grabbed the No. 7 seed in the NFC in the expanded field. The Bears were far too conservative in play-calling and game management. Receiver Javon Wims dropped a touchdown pass early, receiver Anthony Miller was ejected in the third quarter and a once-dominant defense missed seemingly too many tackles to count.
The Bears only reached the playoffs by virtue of a tiebreaker. By the end, it was clear they weren't the same caliber of team as the others in the postseason field. Chicago was 7-2 against teams that missed the playoffs and 1-7 against those that made it. They've had back-to-back 8-8 regular seasons, with the only difference being the new No. 7 seed in an expanded playoff field this year.
Bears chairman George McCaskey needs to be honest with where the franchise stands -- stuck in the middle with no upward trajectory in sight with the current makeup of the organization. The Bears have a offensive-minded head coach whose offense remains a problem, a general manager who built a flawed roster that's now facing a salary cap crunch and no solution at the most important position in the game.
"There's a lot of things that we need to do better," quarterback Mitchell Trubisky said. "A lot of things that need to change.
"I know there are some decisions that are going to be made this offseason."
Does McCaskey want to bring Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace back for another season? Or was this season -- and brief playoff showing -- the final straw for this regime? These are all questions McCaskey and the Bears' board of directors must answer this week.
For his part, Nagy said after the game that he hadn't yet sought or received any assurances about his job security. Pace's future also remains unclear.
The Bears went to New Orleans believing they could beat the Saints. They had "nothing to lose," as Trubisky put it. Then they played like there was also nothing to win.
The drop by Wims in the end zone on a perfect ball from Trubisky in the first quarter was a crucial missed opportunity. With the Bears later trailing 7-3 with 1:49 left in the second quarter, Nagy declined to run a two-minute drill and instead ran down the clock to halftime.
In the fourth quarter, the Bears trailed 21-3 when Nagy elected to punt. He was waving the white flag on his team and its season. Chicago went 1-for-10 on third-down conversions and posted 239 total yards of offense.
The Bears offense's breakthrough against weak competition late in the season looks fraudulent now. It had more to do with playing poor teams rather than making truly meaningful progress. The Bears defense has also shown that it's no longer dominant. And given the salary cap constraints for the team moving forward, it will be difficult to make a lot of major changes on the roster.
The Bears failed to accomplish anything of significance this season or inspire hope for 2021. In the end, they showcased what they are -- and what they could be stuck being for some time.
"We understand we got to grow from this," Nagy said. "We got to learn in a lot of different areas.
"Wherever there's a weakness, we (must) make it a strength."
Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.