Headed for Hibernation
Weighing Bears Offseason Options
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As we slowly enter the heart of winter, many NFL teams are concentrated on clinching a playoff berth or improving their playoff seed. Unfortunately, the Chicago Bears aren’t among those teams. The Bears had plenty of preseason hype surrounding them and predictions of a super bowl appearance seemed likely. Instead, the football gods had other plans in store for them.
The Bears are a dismal 5-8 and are entirely out of playoff contention. What seemed like a promising season had turned into a nightmare that could cost a number of players and coaches a spot on the team. But who’s to blame for their poor performance and who needs to go? Here’s who the majority of the blame falls on and who could be leaving the Windy City soon:
Marc Trestman, Head Coach: When Trestman was signed in 2013, he was hailed as a “quarterback whisperer” and “an offensive genius.” He was brought in to replace longtime Bears coach Lovie Smith, who was fired after a 10-6 finish, but a failure to make the playoffs. Hopes were high and he seemed like the man to work with quarterback Jay Cutler. His first season had it’s ups and downs, especially when Jay Cutler went down with injury twice during the regular season. Veteran backup Josh McCown stepped up big and entering the last game of the season, the Bears found themselves still in contention for a playoff spot. It all came down to the last game vs their archrivals, the Green Bay Packers, in a winner take all game for the division title . With Cutler healed up, Trestman decided to go back to him and bench Josh McCown who had been on fire. The Bears ultimately lost, but hopes remained high for this season. In 2014, Trestman has proved to be a sub-par coach. His decision making has been questionable, especially on critical third downs or in the red zone. Trestman has a team loaded with talent, but has consistently failed to get the team going.
Jay Cutler, Quarterback: Through the ups and downs of his career, it seemed as though Cutler has finally found a home in Chicago. Although his 2013 campaign was cut short a few games due to injury, he started the season looking as though he would have a career year. After the heart breaking loss to Green Bay, questions arose of Cutler’s future in Chicago. He was a free agent at the end of the season, and a decision needed to be made. The Bears wound up signing Cutler to a seven-year, $126.7 million contract with $54 million guaranteed. Cutler instantly became one of the highest paid players in the NFL and hopes were high for the 2014 season. The one word that describes Cutler’s 2014 season thus far is painful. While he has thrown 26 touchdowns, he’s turned the ball over a unacceptable 23 times. He can’t make key throws when he needs to and makes horrible decisions when under pressure. Cutler continues to show signs that he isn’t a franchise quarterback as once thought.
Now that the blame has been laid out, here’s some possible scenarios that could play out this offseason:
Front office and coaching staff changes, a coach with a Chicago tie is hired: With Trestman’s decision making questionable and Defensive Coordinator Mel Tucker leading the defense to one of it’s worst seasons in Bears history, the entire coaching staff could be on it’s way out. They have had two years to establish themselves, and they have done nothing. Former coach Lovie Smith and his coaching staff were better in their last season than Trestman’s crew. The Bears have taken a step back instead of forwards, so it is likely to see a coaching change. There are some intriguing coaching candidates that all have Chicago ties. The Bears could cash in on San Francisco’s possible firing of Coach Jim Harbaugh. Harbaugh led the 49ers to a Super Bowl appearance in 2012 and lead them to the NFC Championship game last season. If the 49ers go through with what many experts speculate, the Bears could jump at the chance to have a coach that actually shows some emotion on the sidelines. This hiring could also be another first for the Bears organization: The first head coach hired with head coaching experience. It seems strange, but even Mike Ditka hadn’t had any experience as a head coach in the NFL. Harbaugh was the Bears quarterback from 1987-1993 and he could possibly want to return as a head coach. Another intriguing coaching candidate could be former Super Bowl champion coach Mike Shanahan. After being fired at the end of the 2013 season, Shanahan could make another comeback to coaching. Shanahan also has Chicago ties. He was born in Oak Park, IL and attended East Leyden. He’s arguably our most famous alumni and it would be incredible to see him coaching the Bears. He won back-to-back Super Bowls with the Denver Broncos and he maybe could lead the Bears to their second in team history. Whatever the Bears do, a coaching change is highly likely at the season’s end.
Cutler traded, younger quarterback brought in: With Cutler having a disastrous season, the Bears could attempt to jump ship on what they thought would be a smart long-term investment. According to espn.com, the Bears are experiencing, “A serious case of buyer’s remorse,” with Cutler. The problem with getting rid of Cutler is who is going to take on his gigantic contract? Many sources say there is significant interest in Cutler, but what could the Bears get in return? A possible trade could be for St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford. This would be a high risk trade for the Bears seeing Bradford is coming off a torn ACL. Although this may seem unlikely, trading Cutler to Washington could be the right move. Washington has benched quarterback Robert Griffin III, the 2nd overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft who hasn’t played up to his expectations and they also have Kirk Cousins, who showed signs of greatness last season and briefly this season. Washington is starting their 3rd string quarterback and is looking for someone new for next season. Again, a trade for either Griffin or Cousins would be high risk-high reward, but the Bears could be open to bringing either of them aboard. The last scenario that could play out would be waiting to see who ends up with the first overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft and trading Cutler for the pick. I’d love to see this happen, because the Bears would most likely draft Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. The heisman candidate has lead Oregon to the number 2 ranking in the College Football Playoff and an appearance in the Rose Bowl vs Florida State. If he plays as well as he has the entire season in the Rose Bowl, Oregon could be playing for a national championship and Mariota could cement his spot as the top draft pick in 2015. Of the Bears sign a dual threat quarterback like Mariota, he could thrive in the Windy City with the depth we have at receiver.
While only time will tell what the Bears will do, look for a number of changes to occur this offseason.