Chicago Bears win: Blind optimists 1, experts 0

My optimism over the Bears opener against San Francisco was less about a loyal fan’s Pollyannaish view of the Chicago Bears and more attributable to me being a natural contrarian. Everyone was talking about how bad the Bears would be. Not just that a mediocre team would continue to struggle, but that they would be one of the worst teams in the NFL, predicted to finish near the very bottom of the league by most experts. I didn’t understand this. There was already clear evidence that the new leadership team was more professional, more disciplined and has improved the culture.

The biggest criticism was that the new regime didn’t surround Justin Fields with more offensive talent. Well, the Bears had many holes to fill and Ryan Poles went about filling them in a disciplined manner. The clear priority was building the offensive line and though they did not address it in the early rounds, Poles signed multiple players, aggressively drafted lineman in the mid and later rounds and continued to work the waiver wires. He picked up former first round pick Alex Leatherwood after being cut by the Las Vegas Raiders.

While some see these ongoing additions as a sign the Bears were unsatisfied with their current starting five, I see it more as an indication of Poles’ priorities. He made it clear that the offensive line was a priority—he is a former offensive lineman—and you may recall that his biggest professional disappointment was probably the Kansas City Chiefs losing Super Bowl LV as a heavy favorite to the wildcard Tampa Bay Buccaneers. While folks like to attribute the Bucs win to the greatness of Tom Brady, the real star was the Tampa Bay defense that exploited injuries to the Chiefs offensive line. The Chiefs lack of depth on their offensive line arguably was the biggest factor in the loss. Poles remembers this.

Bears Win Proof of Poles’ Approach

I would compare Poles approach to taking an adult attitude to building a team. Sure, it would be sexier to go after expensive free agent receivers and big names, but building a line is akin to making sure you eat your vegetables before gouging out on candy.

I made the point in my previous post that playing smart error free football would lead to victories in games that would have produced losses under the previous regime. This was especially true Sunday. While some analysts will point out just how bad the Bears offense was in the first half, they seem to miss the point. Yes, the Bears offense is a work in progress. But the San Francisco 49ers have one of the best defenses in the league. The fact that the Bears were patient, didn’t make the big mistake that would have put the game out of reach early is a testament to this discipline. Their strong defensive play and the lack of major mistakes kept it a one score game.

What is also annoying in lieu of the victory is those experts who got it wrong, dismissing those who got it right. I listened to a pregame radio show where everyone picked the 49ers. The same group on the same radio station pointed out how the Bears defied the national experts but failed to mention that he picked the 49ers by 10 a few hours earlier. His partner, David Haugh, wrote after the game “…a Week 1 outcome only those with blind optimism saw coming.” He and his colleagues got it wrong and instead of acknowledging that they got it wrong, he dismissed everyone who got it right. Those who picked the Bears to win where suffering from blind optimism.

I got it right and made money. Not only taking the Bears and the points but betting the Bears on the money line and collecting 2.5-1 odds in the process. As a side note, I have written about markets for multiple decades and many experts have set up futures markets on sports and politics to prove that when people put money on the line, their predictions tended to be more accurate.  While I will not be taking a vacation with my winnings, it is the third straight week I collected better than even money odds with a Bears moneyline bet.

This brings up a depressingly true view of predictions. If you are wrong with the crowd, you rarely face any consequences; whereas when you are wrong alone you may get fired.  This tendency has proven true in much more serious environments. I learned this as a financial journalist. As many large institutions invested with Bernie Madoff even while Harry Markopolos called out Madoff’s fund as either illegally front running the market or being a giant ponzi scheme. Few of those institutional advisors who invested with Madoff lost their jobs. This was depressing as Markopolos laid out the facts pretty clearly. Even the Securities and Exchange Commission was complicit.

It is bad form to get it wrong and then dismiss those who got it right. Bears beat a team many view as a Super Bowl winner while the Green Bay Packers lost convincingly to a team, the Vikings, that are viewed as a possible wild card team but not a serious Super Bowl contender. Yet the Packers were installed as 9.5-point favorites.  A Bears moneyline bet is paying roughly 3.5-1!

I won’t be talked off of it by someone who has been wrong and does not have the humility to acknowledge they were wrong.

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