Monday Morning Quarterback: Week 17

December 29th, 2008 - 12:00 am

In the final edition of Monday Morning Quarterback, I will be spending just a little bit of time addressing Sunday’s loss to the Texans, but the major focus will be on the season as a whole.

A loss is a hard enough pill to swallow, but it becomes particularly bitter when it is later revealed that had the Bears won, they would have made the playoffs. And an even tougher pill to swallow is that the Bears would have faced the Vikings next week with a chance for redemption.

The Oakland Raiders somehow managed to beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Tampa, and Philadelphia later obliterated Dallas, meaning the Bears would have been the No. 6 seed in the postseason had they just won a game they should have.

The Bears jumped out to an early lead, as they had done so many times this season, but then coughed up the ball, and the lead, en route to a crushing loss. The defense could not contain one of the league’s top passing games and eventually crumbled. The offense looked good early but wound up stumbling and failed to produce an effective run game against one of the league’s worst run defenses.

The loss to the Texans was a microcosm of what became of the 2008 season. It was a game the Bears could have won — and probably should have — but could not secure. It was one in which the Bears jumped out to an early lead — something they did better in the first quarter than all but three other NFL teams — but could not finish.

Finishing. It’s a word Lovie Smith has preached to his players since he came to the Bears, yet the Bears could not do in several of their losses this season, the three most memorable of which came against NFC South opponents Carolina, Tampa Bay, and Atlanta.

The Bears are basically the same team now that they were in the beginning of the season, but execution has certainly changed. The offense was able to execute during the first half of the season, so much so that the defense’s ineptitude against the pass was largely overlooked. The 48-41 victory over Minnesota was the epitome of the offense carrying the defense early in the season.

I guess you can say the turning point came against Detroit, when Kyle Orton went down with an injury at halftime. The Bears essentially had the same record in the 7 games before Orton’s injury as they recorded in the 8 games following his injury. But the offense just wasn’t the same and could no longer cover up the defense’s shortcomings.

There’s an old adage that says you learn a lot more from losing than you do from winning. In the long run, could it be a blessing in disguise that the Bears did not sneak into the playoffs with little chance of advancing to the Super Bowl? Might Jerry Angelo, and, to some extent, Lovie Smith realize that these players and assistant coaches whom they covet so dearly may be preventing this franchise from moving forward?

For those Bears fans who side with the players over Angelo and the coaching staff, take comfort in knowing that missing the playoffs for the second straight season after a Super Bowl appearance does not look good on a resume and increases the pressure on those in charge. But also realize that Lovie and Angelo are both locked up for years to come and neither one’s job is in jeopardy.

For those Bears fans who feel that management is not at fault and the players are not pulling their weight, you can feel good that several contracts are expiring — while others become expendable — and these holes will need to be filled.

The surest way to build a winning system in the NFL is to develop young players through the draft. Free agency is often a quick fix and not the long-term solution. But, if you can’t make the right decisions in the draft — which has been a criticism of Angelo and his scouting department — than you must be active on the market.

To fix the Bears for next year, there’s a clear, yet difficult solution to their problems. Either overhaul the coaching staff and scouting department, or gut the roster and bring in new blood. These coaches cannot win with these players, and one new draft class will not fix the problem.

In the coming weeks and months ahead, I will offer my ideas as to what I feel the Bears should do to right the ship. But for now, I don’t think anybody in Chicago feels the Bears have the right mixture of personnel in place for a championship run next season.

Let’s hope Angelo feels the same.