Bears becoming a league punchline

January 26th, 2010 - 6:35 pm

In the NFL, three years is a lifetime, so it’s understandable why Bears fans are upset that their team hasn’t been to the playoffs during that span. In life, three years goes by rather quickly and it’s hard to believe that many years have past since the Bears were on the grandest stage of them all in Super Bowl XLI.

It’s confounding how a team that defeated the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Championship and then lost to the Indianapolis Colts in the Super Bowl is now sitting at home and watching those two teams playing for the championship three years later.

What’s more puzzling is how quickly the Bears have fallen from grace to becoming a national punchline. A three-year playoff drought aside, the Bears have slowly become a joke with how they have conducted their business and built their team.

Hub Arkush, publisher and editor of Pro Football Weekly and a regular guest on the Boers and Bernstein show on WSCR The Score, said Tuesday that he has sources around the NFL who have made comments about how poorly the Bears’ decision making has been regarding the talent on their football team, and it started around 2007. That was the year in which the Bears fired a defensive coordinator who took them to the Super Bowl the previous year, promoted a guy with no experience to take his place, moved a second-year defensive end to starter following an aberration rookie season, traded for a washed-up safety, and had one of their worst drafts of Jerry Angelo’s tenure, including selecting a second-round defensive end that isn’t even in the league anymore.

Fast forward to today where the Bears have a lot of holes to fill on the field, but before they do that, they have to fill the vacancies on the coaching staff. It’s been three weeks since the Bears made Ron Turner and a few of his offensive colleagues the sacrificial lambs and told the Chicago media as well as the Bears fans that they shouldn’t worry because their vacant offensive and defensive coordinator positions would attract a lot of coaching candidates.

So far, they’ve been turned down by Ken Zampese and Rob Chudzinski, they were spurned by Jeremy Bates and Hue Jackson who took jobs with other teams, they were denied permission to speak with Tom Clements, and they’ve neglected to even interview the most experienced and accomplished offensive coordinator available in Mike Martz.

And that’s just on the offensive side of the ball. One has to wonder if the Bears’ front office is regretting letting go of Turner, or even keeping Lovie Smith.

On the defensive side of the ball, it’s clear that Perry Fewell was their top choice for defensive coordinator and he elected to take the same position with the New York Giants.

What we’re witnessing here is actually quite groundbreaking. I can’t recall the last time a franchise has had this many candidates walk through the doors of its facility (or even choose not to interview) and three weeks later still not have coordinators in place. It’s discouraging. It’s puzzling. It’s embarrassing.

What’s worse is that because this process has dragged on for so long, Angelo and Smith will be staying at Halas Hall to continue their coaching search instead of being at the Senior Bowl and scouting college prospects.

I’m a proud man and I don’t like when the Bears lose. What’s even more damaging to the ego is when your team becomes the butt of jokes around the league. It wouldn’t surprise me if at some point in the near future the Bears announced the promotion of new offensive line coach Mike Tice to offensive coordinator and defensive line coach Rod Marinelli to defensive coordinator, and then try to do damage control to save face.

The writing is on the wall and current and former NFL assistant coaches can read it nice and clear. These men are not stupid; they understand how things work. And although working in a big city and market like Chicago for a tradition-rich franchise like the Bears is normally a coveted job, these coaching candidates know full well that Smith’s job security is as firm as pudding and they’d rather not risk leaving a cushy job for this. Or, for those without jobs, most would rather not uproot their families for a possible one-year gig.

I just fear the Bears will wind up settling on inexperienced or incompetent candidates, the playoff drought will extend to four seasons, and the franchise will have wasted another year of some of the veterans’ careers.