The Bears of Our Lives

Chi-Town providing some compelling drama

by Jeffrey C. Lyons | @jeffreyclyons twitter logo|

For a team that has been horrible and a pain to watch on the field, the Chicago Bears have been more than entertaining off the field. Let’s recap the 2014 season, so far:
– Predicted by most to have their record fall between 10 – 6 and 12 – 4, even possible Super Bowl contender. Currently 5 – 8
– Charles Tillman tears his triceps versus the 49ers and ends his season
– Brandon Marshall has a “blow-up” in the locker room following the Dolphins game
– Lamarr Houston tears his ACL celebrating a sack, while the Bears trail the Patriots by 25 points
– A report comes out that Marc Trestman has lost the locker room
– Bears allow 50+ points to be scored on their defense in consecutive weeks, including being down 42 – 0 at half of the Green Bay game
– Lance Briggs injures his groin and is done for the season versus Tampa Bay
– Brandon Marshall has a collapsed lung versus the Cowboys and is placed on Injury Reserve
– Report surfaces that Mel Tucker, Bears Defensive Coordinator, will be fired
– Ian Rappaport releases a report citing the Bears have “buyers’ remorse on the Jay Cutler contract”
– Brandon Marshall publically agrees with Rappaport’s story and says he can understand why people have buyers’ remorse on Cutler
– Aaron Kromer, Bears Offensive Coordinator, admits to team he is Rappaport’s source in a tearful apology, but did not trash Cutler to extent Rappaport reported. Bears players state the scene was surreal and have no idea how to digest the situation

After seeing that list above, all we need is a mystery murder and the drama would be perfect for day time TV. There is no way anyone could have imagined the 2014 Chicago Bears would turn out like this, and if they did, find that person immediately and take them to Vegas!

Where does the fault lie and how did the Bears get to this point? Let’s examine the Bears from the top down:

– Ownership – The McCaskeys, primarily George McCaskey. While George is the Chairman of the Board and runs the Bears, many are still curious as to what level of influence his mother, Virginia Halas McCaskey, has on the organization. She saved Lovie Smith from getting fired in 2011, because she felt he was a nice guy. The biggest issue with the McCaskeys is that they are viewed as cheap (some think the additional $5M payout saved Lovie’s job after the 2011 season). While they do spend on players, you never see them making expensive front office or coaching moves to bring in real talent.

– Team President and CEO – Ted Phillips. Great at making money for the Bears, bad at hiring General Managers. He should not have his hands in any football decision. Moreover, did I mention he was the lead for the Solider Field renovation? How good can this guy be at making money when the Bears have the 2nd smallest NFL stadium and no dome (so no Super Bowl)?

– General Manager – Phil Emery. When Emery took over as GM, he said the goal was to close the “talent gap” between the Packers and Bears. Many would argue that not only has that gap gotten wider, but the Lions have passed them and the Vikings are about to do the same as well. For the 2012 draft, Emery can only tout Alshon Jeffery. Only Jeffery and Shea McClellin remain on the team from that draft. The 2013 draft did bring Kyle Long, but the jury is still out on the remaining picks. Bad drafting (going all the way back to Jerry Angelo’s first draft in 2001) is what has truly killed the Bears. The draft isn’t to just find starters, but key role players as well. When you draft poorly, you have to overpay in free agency. Overpaying in free agency leads to making tough roster choices and ultimately hurting your backend more than helping your frontend. Last year, the Bears were forced to let key special teamers go (Devin Hester, Eric Weems, etc.). Good young talent can fill those roles, but very little exists for the Bears

– Head Coach – Marc Trestman. Saying Marc Trestman is in over his head is a given. Not only has he failed to lead and control the locker room, which is interesting considering he wrote a book on leadership, but his clock management and offensive play-calling has been erratic and confusing. I wouldn’t even recommend Trestman as an offensive coordinator. In fact, if you look at Trestman’s coaching history in the NFL, his offenses have always gotten worse going from year 1 to year 2

– Coaching Staff:
o Mel Tucker – This was the season for Tucker to prove that the defense struggled last year because he was forced to run Lovie Smith’s Tampa 2 system. With the Bears on pace to pass their defensive futility from last year, it turned out to not be the case
o Aaron Kromer – This is really Trestman’s offense and play-calling. He was more of a figurehead brought on to help the offensive line. The fact he admitted to being the anonymous source shows how over his head he is
o Joe DeCamillis – Have you seen the Bears Special Teams? They certainly are “special,” and not in a good way
o Bright Spots – The only coaches that ever get reported in a positive light or the players seem willing to fight for are: Paul Pasqualoni, Jon Hoke, Matt Cavanaugh and Reggie Herring

– Players – Rather than give the blow by blow details, because the list is too long. Here are just a few of the failures: Jay Cutler, Jared Allen, Jordan Mills, Various Kick Returners , Various Safeties and Brandon Marshall. I know everyone wants to blame Cutler, but he doesn’t play defense or return kicks from 8 yards deep in the end zone. Moreover, while Cutler has been average at best, he is on track to break a good deal of Bears’ single season passing records

If you are George McCaskey, the only solution to this entire mess is to fire everyone from General Manager to the coaches. But, that is easier said than done. The truth is that the Chicago Bears are so cheap, they will not give Trestman his walking papers and payout his salary for two years. Instead, I would estimate that Trestman will have to fire Kromer and Tucker, while hiring a lame duck OC and DC. However, with the lack of control Trestman has shown over his coaches, there is now some speculation that he may now get the axe.

Some would argue that Phil Emery should get a chance to stay, but he was the one who hired Trestman over Bruce Arians. In fact, Arians was ready to take the Bears job until Emery informed him that he would have to keep certain coaches on his staff. Moreover, and given his drafting track record (see above), the Bears cannot risk another draft being lost and getting another year behind the rest of the division in young talent.

Finally, as far as Jay Cutler goes, the quarterback draft class is so weak that it makes more sense to see if you can trade him or keep him on for one more year. The cap hit is not as large as originally thought and if you cut Cutler in the offseason, the Bears would have to pay him $15.5M. While Cutler is not the quarterback everyone imagined him to be, he is the best of all the options available. Maybe the pressure of being on a year to year contract, knowing the finances will not prevent the Bears from cutting him after the 2015 season, will force him to mature and be careful with the ball.
On the good news side, there is a little more than 2 weeks left to the season, and we all know more entertainment will be coming from Halas Hall!

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