It turns out by comparing this year's edition to the 1995 group, I was being too generous to the current crop of Bears.
Initially I connected the two in my mind because the '95 Bears could put points on the board but weren't so great at keeping the other team from doing the same -- just like the team they have now.
But that sells the best team of the Dave Wannstedt era short, and probably by a good margin. The '95 Bears (9-7) finished the season as the eighth-highest scoring team in the league, and it was no fluke. They were also ninth in overall yardage gained. Erik Kramer was having what is likely the best season every by a Bears QB. Curtis Conway and Jeff Graham each caught for more than 1,000 yards. Even Rashaan Salaam gained 1,000 rushing yards, despite a pathetic 3.5 yards-per-carry average.
In short, it may have been the best offensive season the Bears have had since the Super Bowl-winning season. And I'm including the Super Bowl-losing season in which they finished second in the NFL in points but only 15th in yards, because -- lets face it -- the offense was pretty lucky that season, and by the end of that year QB Rex Grossman was in full meltdown mode after playing huge through the first third of the schedule.
The 2008 Bears? Coach Lovie Smith's crew came in to Sunday's game against St. Louis 10th in points and 22nd in yardage. They are the 21st-worst defensive team in the NFL before shutting down the Rams. They are not as good on either side of the ball as the '95 team. I'd throw more stats at you, but I don't think it's very debatable.
The funny thing is, this year's team is now 6-5 and could make the playoffs -- which they didn't do in '95. The schedule could be pretty soft down the stretch. Only Minnesota has a winning record at 6-5. The rest of the games are against Jacksonville (4-7), New Orleans (5-5), Green Bay (5-5) and Houston (4-7). (Obviously, the Packers haven''t played as I write this).
Then again, I think all those teams are capable of beating the Bears. The Packers have already beaten them badly, the Vikings hung 41 points on them in a loss and New Orleans is the only NFC South team that hasn't beaten the bears this season.
But even if the Bears do make the postseason, I still think the '95 team was better. Especially when you consider that year the Bears only two games against teams that finished worse than 7-9. (That's not an arbitrary starting point. I picked 7-9 because that should at least make you a nominal playoff contender over the last four weeks of the season.)
This year the Bears have five such patsies on the schedule on pace to finish worse than that, maybe a sixth if the Eagles (5-5) continue their recent nosedive.
And that brings me to an even larger point. It's no secret that I'm no fan of Dave Wannstedt. And I've just pointed out that his best team didn't even make the playoffs. But Wannstedt, who made the playoffs once, had a much tougher road than Smith and GM Jerry Angelo have had. Wanny had to battle against a dynastic Packers team, very good Vikings teams, the tail end of the Lions' last good run and the front end of the Buccaneers' run at success (which Smith should be very well acquainted with).
Smith and Angelo have made the playoffs twice, both times winning NFC North Divisions filled with patsies. They've also finished last twice in the same cream-puff division in which the 2007 Packers might be considered the only good team.
I think that says a lot about where the Bears are at as a franchise right now. And whether they pick it up or pack it in down the stretch this season will say a lot about how much longer Smith and Angelo should stay in power.