by Jay Cohen
CHICAGO — Thanks to an old friend, the Chicago Bears are on the clock for the NFL draft.
Chicago will pick No. 1 for the first time since 1947 after it lost 29-13 to the Minnesota Vikings in its season finale on Sunday. It was the 10th straight loss for the Bears (3-14), extending a franchise record, and the 14 losses overall also marked the most in team history.
Even with all that misery, the Bears were headed for the No. 2 selection before Lovie Smith coached Houston to a wild 32-31 victory at Indianapolis. Davis Mills passed for three touchdowns as the Texans (3-13-1) rallied for their second win in three games.
“We wanted to leave the season with a good taste in our mouth and to do it that way where you have to scratch and claw, we’ve lost a few games right at the end, overtime and all of that,” Smith said. “So it was good to see those guys kind of finish this one.”
The 64-year-old Smith coached the Bears from 2004-12, going 81-63 and making the playoffs three times, including a loss in the Super Bowl. It was Smith’s first stint as a head coach in the NFL.
Smith and Houston lost 23-20 at Chicago on Sept. 25. That was the Bears’ last home win of the season.
“You get down to the last game, of course, and I understand the outside things that were out there as far as our football team,” Smith said. “You practice hard this week to win and as you see, it’s one thing to give it lip service.”
Chicago’s No. 1 overall selection should make for an intriguing runup to the first round of the draft on April 27.
“That’s something we’ll talk about in the future,” Bears coach Matt Eberflus said. “I don’t really have a reaction one way or the other right now. Just that I’m focused on our guys and doing the exit interviews for tomorrow.”
Quarterbacks Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud and Will Levis are among the top prospects, but the Bears traded up to take Justin Fields at No. 11 overall in 2021. Fields made great strides in his second season, throwing for 2,242 yards and 17 touchdowns and rushing for 1,143 yards and eight more TDs. But Fields’ passing ability remains a concern.
Alabama linebacker Will Anderson Jr. and Georgia defensive lineman Jalen Carter also could be in the mix for the defensively challenged Bears if they stay at No. 1.
“You really don’t want to be on the side of having the No. 1 pick,” said Bears safety Jaquan Brisker, a second-round selection in last year’s draft. “But since we’re here, it’s time to make the organization better, to make the team better and really just turn it around.”