By Greg Gabriel-
(CBS) I can’t sit here and tell you that there were positives for the Bears in a 55-14 loss to the Packers on Sunday night. I have been involved in NFL football in some capacity since August of 1981, and I can honestly say I have never seen anything quite like this Bears team.
I have seen teams that I have been around get beat badly, but they have almost always bounced back with a competitive performance the following game. The Bears looked awful two weeks ago in a humiliating 51-23 loss to the New England Patriots. With a bye week to get healthy and prepared, we expected much more Sunday. What we saw Sunday night in Green Bay made the New England performance look good.
There was a total breakdown in all three phases of the game: offense, defense and special teams. It literally started with the opening kickoff. On that play, the Bears were penalized for an illegal block and had a drive start at their own 6-yard line. Six plays later, the Bears were punting, and the Packers were starting a drive on their own 29-yard line.
As it turns out, the Packers’ ensuing 12-play touchdown march was the toughest drive Green Bay had all night. Its other five scoring drives took up a total of 22 plays — 22 plays! In the second quarter, the Bears gave up scoring plays of 73, 56, 40 and 18 yards. This is the NFL; teams aren’t supposed to give up big scoring plays like that. Teams can’t score that easy in practice, so how does it happen in a game?
It has become obvious this Bears team has no confidence. Is it no confidence in themselves or no confidence in the coaching staff? Or is it a combination of the two? When I was working in Halas Hall, I could have easily answered that question. But being on the outside now, I have to rely on what I hear from different sources.
There have been rumblings that the players — or at least some of them — don’t buy into the current coaching staff. When I say that, I mean both Marc Trestman as a head coach and Mel Tucker as the defensive coordinator.
We all know that the defense struggled a year ago. Tucker was given a pass because he was basically coaching Lovie Smith’s scheme. When that didn’t work, some new assistant coaches were brought in, and changes were made in how the scheme was played. The result has been that the defense this year is worse than a year ago, when it set franchise records for futility.
Trestman was hired because of his offensive prowess and his ability to work with quarterbacks. It was thought that he could fix the problems that quarterback Jay Cutler had under Smith. From a statistical point of view, both the offense and Cutler were much better in Trestman’s first year.
With 2014 being the second year in the scheme, improvement was expected, but there hasn’t been any. The offense has regressed. The Bears aren’t moving the ball as well and aren’t scoring as many points.
With the offense supposedly in good shape going into this year, much was done to fix the defense. As I stated above, there were changes implemented in the scheme and also players brought in to improve the talent level.
Even amid this disaster of a season, I can’t argue with any of the free-agent signings on defense. I did tape work on these players last year, and all were viable NFL players. On paper, Chicago has the talent to contend for a division title.
With the talent in place, the next question to be asked is if the talent is there, is it the coaching? That can be answered in a number of ways, but I will say that if the players don’t buy into the coaches or the scheme, then coaching is part of the problem. It’s still not the entire problem. I say that because a player under contract has an obligation to the team, the fans and to himself to play hard and compete on every play. There are a number of players on the Bears who are basically going through the motions.
I don’t care if the players don’t buy into the offensive or defensive schemes, they must compete. If they don’t, it shows a lack of integrity on their part. Part of that comes down to a lack of leadership on the team. There’s no leadership from the coaching staff, and there’s no leadership among the players.
It became apparent that the Bears lacked discipline and leadership after a loss to the Dolphins on on Oct. 19 when Brandon Marshall had his locker room tirade. While that rant made headlines and leadership was discussed, not a single player has stepped forward to try and lead.
When we look at this debacle of a season, it’s easy for the fans to point fingers at people. The fans can and will call for the heads of general manager Phil Emery and Trestman.
But is getting rid of Trestman and Emery the answer? Right now, based on how this team has performed and underachieved, Trestman has failed. This team doesn’t respond to his leadership or lack thereof. I’m not ready to say that about Emery.
Yes, it was Emery who hired Trestman. He had an opportunity to hire Bruce Arians and chose Trestman instead. Arians led Arizona to a 10-6 record in 2013, and the Cardinals are currently tops in the NFL with an 8-1 record, so in hindsight it appears to be a mistake in not hiring Arians.
Still, if the Bears’ hierarchy decides both Trestman and Emery must go, then in essence, the Bears will be starting over again in 2015. History has shown that teams that keep making changes never rise to the top. There has to be some kind of continuity.
Emery has most likely made a mistake in his hiring of Trestman, but I do believe that he should be given the chance to fix his mistake. After all, Emery has also done a lot of good things. He brought in Marshall and Martellus Bennett and drafted Alshon Jeffery and Kyle Long. Regardless of how poor the Bears look this year, the 2014 draft class looks strong.
This team has talent. It just needs the right person to mold that talent and put a winning product on the field. Having known Emery for 14 years and having worked closely with him for four years, I feel confident he can get this mess turned around.
If the Bears ownership does decide to get rid of Trestman and Emery, than why stop there? There’s another person in Halas Hall who is responsible for everything that goes on in the building. If Emery faltered with his hiring of Trestman and gets fired for that mistake, then shouldn’t the guy who hired Emery also get the axe?
The man ultimately responsible for the hiring of former general manager Jerry Angelo and Emery is also the man ultimately responsible for the big contract that Cutler received. That man is CEO Ted Phillips. Nothing happens in Halas Hall without his approval. He signs off on every decision made and dollar spent.
If Emery and Trestman have to go, than so should Phillips. It’s only fair.
Greg Gabriel is a former NFL talent evaluator who has been an on-air contributor for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @greggabe.