Much to the relief of Bears fans everywhere, the 2014 football season has come to an end, with an appropriately lackluster 13-9 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. The Bears end the season in last place in the NFC North. Their 5-11 record is their worst since 2004 and they will miss the playoffs for seventh time in last eight seasons.
For all of the game’s ugliness, it wasn’t complete gloom. There were bright spots, which I feel necessary to start with before we dig deeper into the wretchedness. Matt Forte set a new NFL record for catches by a running back in a season with 102, breaking the record previously held by Larry Centers since 1995. Kyle Fuller had a nice pick, which the Bears failed to capitalize on, and Christian Jones got his second sack in as many games as a starter this season.
Other than those few barely bright spots, this game summed up the season perfectly and confirmed everything we’ve learned about the Bears this season. Marc Trestman is not the coach. Jay Cutler is not the quarterback, and Phil Emery may not be the GM to rebuild this thing from scratch.
You’d think Cutler and Trestman would be fighting for their jobs in the final game of the season, but you’d never know it from watching the two of them on Sunday. The offense continues to be bland, ineffective and unproductive, earning their 11th scoreless first quarter of the season. Miscommunications continued, as the Bears suffered two pre-snap penalties and were forced to burn a time out when they were unable to get the play in on time early in the first quarter. Cutler, unshaven and groggy-eyed, looked disinterested from the start. To me it appeared like he didn’t want to be there, like he just wanted to get it over with. And who could blame him? Nobody wants him there either. What a strange landing spot as we watched him go from potentially the best quarterback in Bears history (and statistically may still be) to the biggest bust in Bears history. Fresh off signing a seven-year, $126.7 million contract, Cutler led the league this season with 27 turnovers. Not exactly getting your money’s worth…
To make matters worse for us poor souls who watched the game, the loss came against the Vikings, a team trending in the opposite direction in the division. They are sitting with their quarterback of the future, a promising first year head coach and one of the most improved defenses in the NFL. With the Packers and Lions both heading for the playoffs and the Vikings improving, the Bears are wobbling dangerously close to to edge of the cliff in their division.
This will have been Jay Cutler’s fourth offensive coordinator and fourth quarterbacks coach since he arrived in Chicago. The offensive line and wide receivers have been improved. And while I think its safe to say that the problem in that regard is Cutler, he is far from the whole problem. They can no longer be a team basing their personnel decisions on Cutler. This is a team in need of a full scale make-over.
Everyone expects the coaching staff to be let go in the next 48-72 hours. But will that be enough? Can anyone come in and do what no other coach has been able to do in Cutler’s nine year NFL career and turn him into a franchise quarterback? And the bigger question to me is, would anyone want to?
To take things a step further, assuming they do send all of the coaches packing, who will be in charge of hiring the new coach? The same guy who signed Cutler to this suffocating contract? The same guy who passed on Bruce Arians to sign a coach who had never been able to find success professionally after twenty years in and around the NFL? Is that who we even want rebuilding this team?
To me, this comes down to George McCaskey and how far he is willing to go to get his football team back on track. The fans have seen enough of the current coach/quarterback regime. If either one comes back next season, we know what to expect – another year of mediocre football and a team unwilling to show they’re serious about improving.
The Bears will have the 7th overall pick in next year’s draft, which will be here in Chicago next summer. Who will be making that pick? What will the team look like? We’re left with all questions and no answers as Black Monday approaches.