By Chris Emma-
CHICAGO (CBS) — Nestled to the side of a desolate Bears locker room, Matt Forte sat in despair.READ MORE: Chicago Weather: Rain Tapers Saturday Night, But More Scattered Showers Sunday
A crowded room of 53 players and dozens of reporters was all but silent. What was there to be said? The grave glare on Forte’s face spoke volumes amid the silence. It’s another lost season for the Bears.
What keeps Forte and the Bears motivated to fight when the battle is already lost?
“Love of the game,” Forte said after his team’s 41-28 loss to the Cowboys on Thursday night at Soldier Field. “That’s what it’s about.”
There’s no question, Forte’s words are genuine. The Bears’ running back seems to play every down like it’s his last. Each loss — piling up one after another — truly takes a toll on him, physically and emotionally. But the same can’t be said for Forte’s teammates, many of whom seemed to call it quits on this season weeks ago.
Chicago technically isn’t eliminated from playoff contention, not until Sunday’s slate of games, at least. But that ship sailed seven Sundays ago when the Miami Dolphins beat the Bears, and the locker room turned into hostile territory.
Leadership has been a void ever since. Coach Marc Trestman lost power through several missteps. The only voice that sounds is that of Brandon “No Noise” Marshall and his yelling, and the Bears seem ready for the offseason — at least that’s what their play suggests.
“It would be totally disrespecting our football team to think that they are not going out and competing as hard as they can,” Trestman said.
Added defensive end Jared Allen: “If you’re not self-motivated, you shouldn’t be doing this job.”
Questioning the Bears’ motives is only natural. They’re a 5-8 football team with a talented-stocked roster. In training camp, Trestman openly spoke of embracing the championship expectations. Now, he’s one more brutal loss closer to being out of a job.
If the Bears truly shared a common Super Bowl goal, it would be a team-first locker room. Marshall wouldn’t be going to New York to film Inside The NFL each Tuesday. Lance Briggs wouldn’t have missed a practice to attend his restaurant’s opening in California. Lamarr Houston wouldn’t have celebrated a sack with the Bears trailing the Patriots by 25 points.READ MORE: At Least 16 People Shot, 1 Killed In Gun Violence In Chicago This Weekend
But Chicago invested money in a quarterback with one playoff win to his name, opened the door to a problematic receiver twice exiled and failed to make an example of the many me-first egos that purged any semblance of a winning culture. The Bears’ problems are reflected in their play, growing more lifeless and undisciplined each time out.
“You can see why we’re in this position, that’s for sure,” quarterback Jay Cutler said. “It didn’t happen by accident.”
Mistakes are only part of the equation for the Bears. But the combination of colorful egos and a lack of leadership has led to a football team taking the field without fight. Because allowing more than 50 points in back-to-back losses doesn’t happen by accident. Super Bowl aspirations aren’t diminished without a flawed culture.
The Bears are allowing a powerless coach continue to stand before a group that’s without reason to strap on the pads.
What is there to keep this team motivated?
“Pride,” safety Ryan Mundy said. “The opportunity to play this game.”
Added linebacker Jon Bostic: “Pride — going out and competing.”
Some Bears have it, others don’t. They sure don’t seem to be playing for each other, they definitely aren’t playing for their coach, and they aren’t playing for a proud franchise shamed by a miserable season.
There are too many players whose intentions aren’t in the right place. A lost season is three games from its merciful end.
While Chicago’s playoff hopes were eliminated essentially eliminated Thursday, this was a long time coming. The Bears were doomed from the start.MORE NEWS: At Bond Hearing For Man Authorities Say Was With Him, Prosecutors Say 13-Year-Old Adam Toledo Had Gun In Hand When He Was Fatally Shot By Police
Follow Chris on Twitter @CEmma670.