I’m a Chicago resident and the Bears are always in the news, mostly because the two baseball teams (Cubs, White Sox) are perpetually in the shitter due to both bad management and even worse scouting. The basketball team (Bulls) had a historic run for a decade over a decade and a half ago. The hockey team (Blackhawks) finally started acting like a major market franchise when the cheapskate geriatric owner died and his son took over and ipso facto, they’ve won two titles in four years.
The Chicago Bears are the Chicago team. They crammed a century’s worth of success into one season (1985) and that white hot fire has evolved into a searing hot coal of football passion ever since. How else does Ditka still have a job at ESPN after falling asleep on air? How is Dan Hampton allowed to be an analyst when he clearly has never even taken a community college public speaking class? Why did Walter Payton get a SI cover story in 2011 when he died in 1999? Because the Bears have that aura. They are the original NFL franchise, and are treated as such both locally and nationally.
The items keeping the Bears in the current news cycle is the contract extension of Jay Cutler and the defensive coaching shuffle. In my opinion, both actions the Bears took are indicators of poor management decisions, that of an organization running on gravitas and reputation rather than intellectual talent and experienced decision makers.
There is NO reason Jay Cutler needed a contract extension for $50 million in guaranteed money. Not with one playoff win anyway. Firing defensive coaches after their first season in which four starting defensive players went down with season ending injuries does nothing to make a team better. Jay Cutler needed to be rented with the franchise tag for one more season, and the defensive position coaches needed to be given a chance to coach all of their players for one full season before being given their walking papers.
The franchise tag is not a cheap option, I’m aware. In fact, it is an expensive option, that is why the concept was agreed to in collective bargaining back in the day. But Cutler DID NOT and HAS NOT earned $50 million in guaranteed money, yet. He can, I believe he can, he has shown flashes of being able to prove he can, but he is a poster of inconsistency and being injury prone. Those are not characteristics of someone you give a huge contract extension to, when you have the ability to franchise tag them and make them earn it for another year.
The Bears fans don’t want to rebuild, no Chicago fan ever wants to hear that word. But if the Bears gave Cutler a year to prove himself of the contract he has just been given, that would have been the last year for a bunch of defensive veterans to know whether they are going to contend for a title in Chicago, or latch on to a contender elsewhere. The Bears could have drafted a QB this year, made Cutler perform under the franchise tag next year, and by this time in 2015 we would know if he’s our guy or if it is rebuilding time. Instead we get more high priced instability, let’s hope this gamble pays off.
As for the coaches that got fired. Lance Briggs, Henry Melton, Charles Tillman, Kelvin Hayden, Shea McClellin, and Patrick Mannelly all were injured for part or the bulk of the season. How can you fire coaches based on that? I know the Bears finished the season as one of the worst defensive teams, but that happens when the injury bug bites. The winning franchises are pictures of stability and the Bears look unstable everywhere except at wide receiver as a team on Soldier Field and an organization at Halas Hall.
But it’s not all doom and gloom, we finished one win short of the playoffs two years in a row. A bummer yes, a sign to blow it all up and start over? No, not yet. Another year, with another coaching staff however means it’s time for the wrecking ball.