Monday, November 10, 2014

This is Officially Rock Bottom for the Bears

I'll admit it, I was wrong. After the 51-23 destruction of the Bears by the Patriots two weeks ago, I had officially marked that as rock bottom for the season. After watching the team unravel (but really, don't you have to have it together first to unravel in the first place) against a franchise superior in every single fashion, I thought that the Bears had finally bottomed out. Boy, was I wrong. The Bears, after having a week to regroup and determine how they were going to finish this season, went into Green Bay, the home of their biggest rival, and were absolutely destroyed last night on national television 55-14. This wasn't even the noon start time on a regional broadcast against the Patriots. No, this was a prime time, national television broadcast where a charter member of the NFL was humiliated by their biggest rivals on a massive stage. I've seen a lot of bad Bears football in my time, but I have never seen anything at this level. Even Cris Collinsworth and Al Michaels, the NBC commentators who have been around the block, almost felt bad for the Bears, with Collinsworth openly and rhetorically asking how this was even possible.

Well Cris, let me tell you. When you have a franchise like the Bears, who have refused for decades to instill a real football culture with accountability and respect, up against a "rival" (calling this a rivalry would assume that there is competition on both sides, which there is not) who is in every single fashion on the complete opposite end of the spectrum of how a franchise should be run, it becomes quite clear. The micro issues for this team, to be sure, are obvious. The defense is the worst defense I have ever seen. There is literally zero adjustments or legitimate game planning conducted to put these players in a position to succeed. Mel Tucker has reached a level of ineptitude rarely seen for a coach who somehow still has his job. The defensive players aren't any better, obviously. The talent disparity on defense is abhorrent. Guys that Phil Emery has either drafted or signed have bombed. Shea McClellin? Bust. Jared Allen? Bust. Jon Bostic? Bust. I could keep on going. Lamarr Houston? The Bears are disappointed "for" him. Emery went into this off-season knowing he had to shore up the back end of his defense. What does he do? He signs a special teamer, a career backup, and drafts a safety in the third round. Great job, Phil.

I was willing to give the defense a pass this year, because the offense was supposed to be one of the best in the league. We hoped the defense would be a little better, which clearly they are not. Surrendering back to back 50 point games? Only team to do that in NFL history (a history that has included the Chicago Bears in every single season) besides a defunct team from Rochester who operated during the Warren Harding administration. This defense has surrendered three 50 point games in its last 11 games, something the Bears only did three other times in its previous 759 games. Still, though, we all knew after last year the defense would be bad again. This was a team, much like our far superior NFC neighbors to the north, who was supposed to be built around its offense. Look at the Packers. They have the 32nd ranked run defense and the 20th ranked defense overall. And yet, there they are, 6-3, with a great chance of making the playoffs again because of its offense. This was supposed to be a Bears' offense that could win games by itself. Instead, what we have is a complete horror show.

What positives are there so far from the so-called greatest offense the Bears have ever had? It is clear at this point (and this is coming from a former Jay Cutler apologist) that this team will never, ever win with him at quarterback. Emery gambled 3 years and a guaranteed $54 million on Jay and lost. Continuing to go back to Jay reminds me of that scene in Vegas Vacation, where Clark is being beat so badly at the casino that the dealer offers to take half his money and just go out back and let him beat him up. But that's this Bears' regime. They coddle him, and don't force him to have any accountability. That's bad for two reasons. First, it means the leadership of Trestman and Emery is non existent, and second, it means they feel there is a need in the first place to coddle him because of Jay's immaturity. Both of those reasons are horrible.

Jay's demeanor, something I gave him a pass for in the past, is clearly indicative of his overall inability to lead football players. He has always had that physical talent, the stuff you see in workouts and in highlight tapes that makes scouts and GM's drool. But what he's missing are the things that made Tom Brady and Joe Montana, two guys without that elite physical skill set, first ballot Hall of Famers with 7 Super Bowl victories between them. Those are the intangibles, the winner traits that Jay doesn't have. Moreover, Jay cannot, and presumably will not, work on cutting down his turnovers. He's a guy who seems to average multiple turnovers a game, and especially in big moments. They showed a graphic during the game last night comparing his head to head match-ups with Aaron Rodgers. The numbers were embarrassing. Cutler of course has a negative turnover margin, and is now 1-10 as a Bears QB against Green Bay. One Win, Ten Losses.

When you turn the ball over as frequently as he does, and have unbelievably little ability to lead your team when their backs are against the wall, it becomes clear that he will never change, and the Bears made an enormous mistake giving him the mega deal. Like I said, I was a Cutler apologist for his entire time here. I blamed the offensive line, the coaching staff upheavals, and everything else. Now, though, he got his deal, he has the weapons, and his supposed QB whisperer Marc Trestman. The result? More of the same garbage, selfish, nonsense football. Jay Cutler is not a winner, he is not a leader, he obviously does not care about damn near anything, and does not take one ounce of accountability for his actions. I'm done with him.

Even notwithstanding the Jay Cutler dumpster fire, you have Marc Trestman. Trestman is so far in over his head as an NFL head coach that its startling. How many more "great weeks of practice" won't translate to game day? His players don't respect him, they have no discipline, there is zero accountability, and they for all intents and purposes quit on him yesterday. This isn't a coach that even when times are tough will get his players to play for him. Nope, if there ever was a time when his players listened to him, they stopped. That's the biggest red flag you can have. I mean, how is this team so woefully outmatched every single game? How are they not prepared? How do they come out flat? The person who, after all the failures in execution on the field, is responsible for that is Trestman.

When he was hired, I was excited because he had a great offensive reputation. I'll admit that it blinded me to serious red flags. Why, if he was this QB guru who could engineer an offense that could make even Jay Cutler a star, had he never been hired as a head coach before? Why had he continuously bounced around the league as an assistant, never staying in once place long? And why, after he left the league and headed to Canada, didn't anyone else reach out to him? The flags there are alarming, especially when you consider the guys the Bears chose him over, Bruce Arians and Mike McCoy. Arians has the Cardinals at 8-1 after a 10-6 season last year, and McCoy has the Chargers at 5-4 after a playoff appearance and first round win last year. But hey, thank god we finally have an intelligent offensive coach who will give us real answers at a press conference, right? Oh, wait.

That leads us perfectly to Phil Emery. Like Trestman, when he came aboard I was also excited. He seemed like a great blend of old and new school, and his commitment to bringing the Bears into the modern era of the NFL sounded enticing. He did some great things in bringing in Brandon Marshall, drafting Kyle Long, drafting Alshon Jeffery, and drafting Kyle Fuller. But look at everything else. He brought in Marc Trestman, and as anyone who can think logically can see, he is clearly not an NFL head coach. He tried to revamp the defense thus far and nearly every single move he made on that side of the ball, outside of maybe Jay Ratliff and Willie Young, has bombed. The linebackers he drafted? Garbage. The safety position? A complete joke. Ultimately, as the General Manager, it is Phil's job to put a team on the field for the coaching staff to get the most out of. He hasn't done that at all.

Moreover, he made the decision to give Jay Cutler that enormous contract. Granted, it is essentially only a three year deal for $54 million guaranteed, but what did Jay ever show you to deserve that? I gave Jay a chance because I wanted to believe that he could get the job done. That's me, from a fan's perspective, with a healthy dose of optimism (which people who know me will tell you is rare on my end) combined with a fan's natural naivety. But Phil? He gets paid to make these decisions! He has sat down with Cutler, watched hours upon hours of his film, presumably spoken to tons of people who know Cutler closely, and been a part of this team for a few years now. How in the world did he think that decision would work? Its disgraceful, and what has happened to this organization under his watch is insulting to the fans, the city of Chicago, and the legacy of a proud franchise.

But that's just the thing. The Bears, from Chairman George McCaskey to President Ted Phillips, do not have a winning culture. There has been nothing done to instill or realize this. I had thought the Bears were exiting an era of incompetence and bottom-line oriented decision making, but clearly the stink of incompetence has not worn off. It has only gotten worse. In the past two games, the Bears have faced off against, and been obliterated by, two franchises who operate by that winning model. Those organizations, like a few others around the league, make every decision within the organization with winning football games in mind. It seems like a simple concept, yes, but when your organization has not done it for decades, it becomes something that you don't even know how to achieve. The Bears, a team with as rich a history as any in the league, a flagship franchise who helped start the league, belong more in a conversation with the Jaguars, Buccaneers, and Raiders than the Patriots, Packers, or Steelers.

That, in and of itself, is the problem. You can have a general manager who cannot put together a football team, a head coach who likes to talk smart but coach dumb, a quarterback who appears disinterested in playing the game most of the time, or a defense that is quite possibly one of the worst in NFL history. Those things, to be sure, matter. But at the end of the day, the top of the organization is responsible for them. And if they don't hold them accountable, and make a statement that this is unacceptable for the Chicago Bears, well, then you have your answer right there. The Cubs, a team known nationally and historically for losing, got the right owner, who brought in the right executives, who have made no qualms about doing everything within his power to help the Cubs win. Think that Theo Epstein would hesitate for a minute to clean house with this putrid Bears organization? No, but that's the difference. Executives like him, and the people who run the consistent franchises across the NFL, either make the right hires to begin with or don't hesitate to fix the situation when they don't. The Bears, though, will not handle this situation the way a winning team should (which means firing Trestman and Tucker TODAY). Just watch.

This is an organizational issue. Its time for George McCaskey to stop allowing this team to embarrass the proud franchise created by his grandfather. He needs to make a statement right now: that accountability and winning reign supreme at Halas Hall above all else, and nothing beneath it will be tolerated. Only when he does that, and finds a way to develop a consistent and sustainable culture within the franchise, will this team ever live up to the its flagship standards. As it stands right now, the only standard for this franchise is as a doormat, an annual disappointment that lets a city and fan base down every year.