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"Maybe Next Year"

A week after the Bears loss in the NFC championship the team is surrounded by questions, doubts and unknowns. Their General Manager is prematurely set to offer Lovie Smith a contract extension based on the seasons “success” and the teams quarterback and supposed franchise player, Jay Cutler, has displayed decision making and an attitude that is questionable at best. Going along with all of this, the core talent of the team (specifically the defensive unit) is aging.

Throughout this season Lovie Smith has shown that his greatest asset as a head coach is his ability to manage strong, sometimes strange or abrasive personalities, and getting the most out of each player on his team, regardless of talent or attitude. That being said, the management has proven to be so inept at judging talent in the draft that Smith’s squad is aging, and has little to no young first round talent preparing to take the pressure off the older or less talented players already playing above their skill level on the team.

The undervaluation of talent has been a theme throughout Jerry Angelo’s tenure as general manager of the team. Other than Brian Urlacher and maybe two years of Tommie Harris’ career the first round draft picks of the past ten years for this organization have been awful. Angelo seems to scheme his talent evaluation on draft day based on what kind of bargain he can get on the player and not how they will affect the team.

Chris Williams is a perfect example. On draft day every team in the league knew that he would miss most if not all of his first season, and that physically he was not an ideal NFL caliber left tackle, which was the greatest team need and Angelo still drafted him. Now a couple of years into his career Williams looks to be a near complete bust, one of the weakest links in the already sub-par offensive line.

Smith’s biggest mistake was seemingly refusing to step in and ground “the mad genius” Mike Martz (who is stubborn and reckless with his play calling), specifically in regards to Todd &$%#’ing Collins. Why was he higher on the depth chart than Hanie, or even on the roster?. How long do you need to be a coach in the league to realize that Todd Collins did not even belong in the broadcast booth, let alone on the field at this point of his career? As if the game weren’t already embarrassing enough at that point for the average Chicago fan.

The quarterback rotation was Mike Martz’s responsibility, and he insisted on keeping Collins above Hanie after spring training ended. This speaks for itself, surely there was a surplus of moments in practices where Collin's ineptness was made clear, along with instances of Hanie’s potential.

This coaching mentality goes right along with Martz’s tendency to try and pass downfield, getting away from the run during important games and in key situations. The Giant’s game was a good example; the offense had some limited success with the run in the few games leading up to the matchup, and once it became clear that the offensive line could not handle the pass pressure, Martz refused to change his strategy, risking his quarterback’s health and unit’s dignity in the process.

This kind of approach led Martz to make bewildering play calls throughout the NFC Championship (see Earl Bennet end around on third and two on the teams final possession) and served as a reminder why no other teams were killing themselves to make him a coaching offer during the previous off-season.

The lightning rod for criticism during and after the game has obviously been Jay Cutler. After this past season his physical toughness should never be questioned, but the NFC championship game proved that he lacks in mental toughness, more so than had already been presumed. Immediately after the game it was disgusting to hear players and commentators throughout the league questioning his dedication and toughness.

His behavior following the game helped justify some of these views, further damaging his reputation.

Days after the game while mindlessly working with the television droning on in the background Jay Cutler’s name could be heard being uttered, but not by anyone on ESPN or any other legitimate news organization, but by TMZ. Pictured was Jay getting dragged around (without a limp) by his pseudo-famous girlfriend in some outdoor mall in California. Immediately it became clear that the NFC championship had not meant much of anything to the Bear’s quarterback.

Chicago fans hate this kind of behavior. He should have known this. He should have laid low. He should have been thinking of next year. He should have been a professional. Instead he was on TMZ.

In that one trip to the mall Cutler managed to discredit himself and hurt the entire organization. A team cannot win with a quarterback that takes himself out of big games, seemingly because of nerves. The Chicago public will now always doubt their quarterback, and certainly so will his team. The rest of the league knew where his priorities stood which would explain why so many people were lying in wait to insult his credibility.

It certainly is hard to be optimistic about an organization who's coaches positive affects are undermined by poor talent evaluation, aging stars, and led by a quarterback who may have hit a talent plateau way below expectations. This past season the Bears were very lucky to stay healthy and their defense played at an elevated level. Healthy seasons in the NFL are like lightning, they never strike twice in the same place, and the defense has aged itself to the dark side of the mountain, slowly in decline. Even so, the Cubs fan I grew up as whispers, “maybe next year”. –J. R.Gierty-

1 comment:

  1. I know I am still upset about the game but we clearly don't have a winning formula going forward to beat the cheese heads next year the year after and? An actual plan needs to be made and quick as to how to rebuild. Peppers was a great add Cutler was a bold move but we need to figure out how to add two impact guys a year and I don't know how else to do that than getting better with the draft. Also does this coaching staff make players improve, from here they don't and thats a big problem.