Lions linebacker James Houston knocks the ball away from Bears quarterback Justin Fields during the first half Sunday.
DETROIT — It’s hard to discern anything the Bears are accomplishing other than quarterback Justin Fields making strides in what has been nearly a total loss of a season.
Beyond Fields, their great hope is a war chest of future salary-cap space. Those are still just numbers on a spreadsheet at this point. None of that cap space played Sunday as the Bears got thumped 41-10 by the Lions at Ford Field.
That matters, by the way. Sure, this season was never headed anywhere and it fell apart a long time ago, but the fact that the Lions are this far ahead of the Bears in their dueling rebuilds creates one more hurdle for an organization staring down what seems like an endless string of them.
Other than Fields, this season has been unwatchable. This loss was their ninth in a row, their longest losing streak ever. If they fall again next week to the Vikings, they’ll finish with their second-worst record all-time.
Take that in for a moment. This franchise has been around more than a century and has had some dreadful seasons. This could be worse than all but one of them.
And going 3-14 would be fine if it proves to be a step toward something. If this is what it costs to eventually build a Super Bowl winner, no problem.
But what if it’s just another empty Bears season like so many others? An entire season — five months of mostly meaningless games — is a lot to give up.
Fields has grown into the franchise’s foundational piece — the first time that can be said confidently of a Bears quarterback in years — but this season has shown the cap of how far he can take the team without any blocking, receiving playmakers or defense.
The Bears have wasted the first two affordable seasons of his rookie contract.
The Bears aren’t going to stick with this roster, of course. Almost everyone playing Sunday was a placeholder for whoever general manager Ryan Poles signs with his NFL-high $122.2 million in cap space and drafts with full slate of picks that likely will begin with No. 1 or 2 overall. The Bears also will get wide receiver Darnell Mooney, safety Eddie Jackson and cornerback Jaylon Johnson back after season-ending injuries.
But nothing is guaranteed. Rebuilds have been misguided, money misspent and draftees misevaluated. Filling out the majority of the starting lineup is difficult even with an arsenal of resources, and as a first-time general manager, Poles has never done it. It takes a lot of faith to sit through another loss every week on the assumption that the Bears will get everything right in the coming offseason.
What if the upgrades end up bring more modest than magnificent?
It’d be easier to bet on the Bears’ future if they’d found more answers this season. That was supposed to be part of the process, not merely clearing out Ryan Pace’s bad contracts. Anyone could’ve burned the roster to the ground. Construction is hard part.