By Dan Durkin-
(CBS) As the season began to go south for the Bears in 2014, the question of where the leadership resided on the team was constantly asked of players and coaches.
It most often went unanswered. The result was a fractured locker room and a lost season that precipitated massive change in the power structure at Halas Hall.
Jay Feely joined the Bears on Dec. 3 and was part of the locker room for only a month, but as a veteran of 14 years, Feely’s been with seven different organizations and has worked for decorated coaches like Dan Reeves and Tom Coughlin. On Wednesday, Feely offered up some strong opinions on Sirius XM’s Mad Dog Radio show about former Bears coach Marc Trestman and current quarterback Jay Cutler.
“They lacked leadership in the locker room from players and also from the coaching staff,” Feely said on the show. “Trestman was a super nice guy, I really liked him. But I don’t think he held guys accountable enough, and I don’t think he had enough leadership in that locker room.”
Feely explained that Trestman’s quirky personality wasn’t limited to his interactions with the media. That’s simply who he is, which was a detriment in the locker room.
“With Marc Trestman, he was a little awkward when he spoke, so he really didn’t connect with guys,” Feely said. “You can have that as a coach if you have a strong locker room. If you have good leaders in the locker room and you have guys that (say), ‘It doesn’t matter what he says, this is us, we’re going to go win game.’ If you don’t have leaders in the locker room and you don’t have a coach who inspires, then you end up with a losing season.”
Feely went on to say that there’s “a big difference between being a smart coach and a coordinator and being a head coach.” This was clearly the case for Trestman, who compiled a paltry 13-19 overall record and a 3-9 record in the NFC North during his two seasons in charge in Chicago
Despite the team’s poor record in 2014, Feely doesn’t feel that talent is at the root of the Bears’ issues and feels coach John Fox is exactly the type of coach the team needs to correct the course.
“Talent is not an issue,” Feely said. “That team is loaded with talent. I think John Fox is the guy to go in there, he’ll bring discipline, which they need. He’ll bring accountability, which they need. He’ll get the most out of those players.”
When talking about Cutler’s role in the Bears’ demise under Trestman, Feely felt both were at fault.
“I think both,” Feely said. “As a player, whatever the coach is, whether he’s inspiring or not, whether he makes you want to come out and practice or not, your job is to go out there and play your best. The coach doesn’t matter. You go out there and you perform.
“Obviously, Jay’s got to play better for them to win. At the same time, as a head coach, your job is to inspire your team. To galvanize them. To have a message to bring them together. To have those guys believe in what you’re saying. That was the disconnect.”
As demonstrated by the teams that played in the conference championship games and Patriots-Seahawks matchup in this Sunday’s Super Bowl, the quarterback has to be in charge both on the field and in the locker room. This is an area Cutler falls short in, Feely said.
“You (quarterbacks) are the person that every guy in that locker room looks to,” Feely said. “When there’s a problem, they look to the quarterback. They want the quarterback to lead. When you have a quarterback who doesn’t like to lead, it leaves a hole in that team. Other guys can fill that role — like a Baltimore with Ray Lewis — and somebody can step up and fill it. But when a quarterback is not a leader, there’s always going to be a vacuum there. Jay Cutler can win on the field, but he would be so much better and the team would be so much better if you’re a leader off the field as well. I never saw him lead verbally. If he doesn’t want to do that, if he doesn’t want to be that person and it’s not in his DNA, then you’re always going to have that vacuum there that somebody else needs to step into and fill.”
Feely feels Cutler isn’t capable of leading a locker room.
“I don’t think so,” Feely said. “Not as a leader. That’s not who he is. You’re going to have a vacuum there. So you have to know that as a general manager and a head coach, ‘Hey, we’re not going to have that leadership from this position, so we really need other guys that are going to step up and are going to be our verbal leader.'”
Dan Durkin covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @djdurkin.