It seems like Groundhog Day all over again. Where is Bill Murray?
After playing poorly for the fourth straight week with Caleb Hanie at the helm in place of the injured Jay Cutler, the Bears gave away a game they could have — and probably should have — won. For the fourth straight game, the Bears teased fans by letting them think they were headed for a win before doing something, or a string of baffling things.
A team once clicking in all three phases of the game that was 7-3 and in prime position to make the playoffs as one of the best 3 or 4 teams in the NFC, dropped another heartbreaking game on Sunday, a 38-14 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
The Bears have one big goal remaining for the season that probably will not be obtainable, and no, it’s not grasping a playoff berth. That idea was picked off and returned the other way by a fat defensive linemen in yesterday’s debacle.
The goal will be trying to beat the Green Bay Packers next week on Christmas Day, an idea so laughable it makes this fan want to leave the TV off and spend quality time with the family instead. There’s just one problem with that idea: my family is a glutton for punishment and I’ll be joined by extended family members as we crowd around the television and watch yet another disaster unfold.
I guess if we’ve learned anything about the NFL in the past few seasons it’s that anything can happen, such as the Chiefs knocking off the Packers on Sunday, ending the Cheeseheads’ bid for an undefeated season. Thank goodness they did that because the Packers are not a perfect team and don’t deserve to have an unblemished season. But they are one of, if not the best team in the league and they’ll deliver a thorough beating to the Bears next week.
There’s no point in giving a complete recap of the Bears’ ugly game yesterday, so I’ll give it a once-over before we move on and try to figure out where the Bears go from here.
We have to give the Bears defense credit for its first-half performance but that praise ends at halftime. Early in the first quarter, the defense was instantly put into peril after Johnny Knox fumbled away a first down and the Seahawks recovered to set its offense up with good field position. On the first pass after the change of possession, Seahawks quarterback Tarvaris Jackson found the soft spot in the Bears’ zone for a 21-yard completion to Cameron Morrah, setting up Seattle with first and goal at the one-yard line.
That’s when the Bears’ tenacious run defense stepped up and stuffed Leon Washington for a two-yard loss and then Marshawn Lynch for a four-yard loss. After a failed third-down attempt, the Seahawks had to settle for a field goal.
But wait, it didn’t end there. Corey Graham was flagged for using leverage to attempt to block the field goal and the Seahawks were awarded a new set of downs. Lynch scored on a two-yard touchdown run the next play.
After a good punt by Adam Podlesh the following possession, the Seahawks set up shop at their own four-yard line. On second down, the Bears benefited from the poor Soldier Field sod when Lynch slipped in the end zone and Jackson couldn’t hand him the ball, losing four yards on the play. On third down from the one-yard line, Julius Peppers stripped Jackson of the ball deep in the end zone and Israel Idonije fell on the fumble to record the Bears’ first touchdown of the game.
The defense remained steady for the rest of the first half, but after the offense caved in to start the second half, the defense went with it.
I guess I could say a few good things about Hanie, that he was able to make some plays with his feet and that he looked progressively more comfortable in the pocket and even made a nice play by rolling out of the pocket and hitting a wide-open Kahlil Bell for a 25-yard touchdown late in the first half.
But he’s bad. He’s been bad and he always will be bad. And he’s the biggest reason the Bears won’t be going to the playoffs this year.
It’s hard to blame Hanie, though. Sure, he’s a little delusional for thinking he’s got the capability to be a starter in this league. But it’s not his fault he was second on the depth chart and had to fill in for the Bears’ injured starting quarterback.
Who was responsible for having Hanie second on the depth chart? That would be perhaps the worst general manager currently in Chicago sports, Jerry Angelo. If Cutler did nothing else, this much we know for sure after seeing the offensive product on the field in his absence: he completely masked the ineptitude of the players around him. Angelo’s inability to self-scout has left the Bears in shambles because he couldn’t put together enough talent to beat bad teams such as the Raiders, Chiefs, Broncos and Seahawks without Cutler.
I don’t care if the Bears were without their two best offensive players in Cutler and Matt Forte. Good teams would have been able to win two of those four games, or, at the very least, one of them.
Say what you want about offensive coordinator Mike Martz — and I will — but at least he had the foresight from the moment he came to Chicago at the beginning of last season to acknowledge that Hanie was not, and is not a good backup quarterback. Martz may be as stubborn as a mule for not adapting his offense to the talent around him, but what he asked for, Angelo did not give him. Trying to run a system without the right personnel is like going into a knife fight armed with pushpins.
How is it that most of the media — both local and national — as well as Bears fans and Martz — the man calling the offensive plays himself — knew that Hanie was bad but Angelo did not? How is it that when Donovan McNabb became available, Angelo refused to even bring him in for a look, claiming (and I quote):
“I’m not saying that McNabb can’t play. He’s just not as familiar with our offense and we don’t have the time to be grooming a backup given our situation. I’m not even factoring Brett Favre into the equation because he hasn’t played or even practiced from the preseason on.” (From ChicagoBears.com interview)
Jerry, if you’re not saying McNabb can’t play, why didn’t you at least allow him to try out? Because I have news for you. The backup that you did bring in, Josh McCown, looked like crap in his spot duty against the Seahawks and threw an interception. And speaking of McCown, I’m not saying I wanted Brett Favre, because I didn’t, but you claim that he hasn’t played or even practiced from the preseason on …
… well, what the hell do you think McCown was doing? He wasn’t practicing or playing this year, either. He was coaching high school football when you signed him off the scrapheap. And you did so because he knew the offense? So what? Hanie knows the offense, too, and he’s a pile of garbage. How about bringing in a quarterback who knows the game more than the offense? One who doesn’t piddle down his leg in the face of pressure.
I’m tired of Angelo. I’m not one who picks up a pitchfork and a flaming stick and calls for heads to roll. I have a little more patience and fortitude and I don’t shoot from the hip. But we’ve had ten years of Angelo rule and the bad draft picks piling up year after year and the poor personnel decisions is enough to call for an end to his reign.
We don’t need to see a total housecleaning to right the ship, so to speak. I know that’s the popular sentiment by Bears fans. There are just a few moves that need to be made on the field for the Bears to make one final run at a Super Bowl as presently constructed. And there are only a few moves off the field to ensure they can rebuild and make more runs at a championship within the next few years.
First and foremost, if Angelo does not retire gracefully at the end of the year — as has been rumored for the past two years now — then he needs to be fired. Give me a few examples of good things Angelo has done.
Trade for Cutler? That was orchestrated by former personnel director, Bobby DePaul. Sign Peppers? That was a move out of desperation after defensive end Gaines Adams passed away and the Bears were extremely thin at the position — due, of course, to Angelo’s poor choices.
About the best thing Angelo has done for this organization was drafting Charles Tillman and Lance Briggs eight years ago. And he was forced to sign veteran offensive linemen during the Super Bowl window because he didn’t know how to draft competent ones. Good job, Jerry. Job security.
If after this year we never have to see Angelo, Tim Ruskell — Angelo’s hand-picked successor who needs to be fired with him — Martz or Hanie ever again, the franchise will be better off for it.
Lovie Smith can stay, because what he’s done over his tenure as Bears head coach with the collection of stiffs given to him has been nothing short of brilliant. Smith called this year’s team one of the most talented he’s ever had here in Chicago, and he’s right. The talent on defense is strong and Cutler and Forte were having Pro Bowl seasons before they suffered injuries. Cutler, in fact, was said to be in the mix for MVP consideration, according to many pundits in the national media, including respected NFL mind, Michael Lombardi of the NFL Network.
It’s the depth on this team that is the problem and has been exposed in the past four games. It can only be corrected by bringing in new personnel evaluators. If the Bears don’t make the move in the front office soon, they’ll have to start from ground zero without any talent as the foundation of their team.