I suggested last week in an article that the Bears were falling apart; but this is an issue that really deserves going very in-depth. Because—in case you somehow weren’t aware yet—the Bears have really become a dumpster fire organization. Not necessarily as bad as the 49ers or Browns, per se, but their collapse over the last few years has been quite the thing.
Although it wasn’t until 2014 that the Bears truly started falling into pathetic shambles, this tale goes back a ways, so let’s recap their recent history, shall we? Beginning with their last playoff berth in 2010, which ended with the infamous NFC Championship game in which Jay Cutler got hurt and was the subject of much scrutiny afterwards. They haven’t made the playoffs since.
The first few years, they were contenders that just missed out due to epic late-season collapses. In 2011, they started 7-3, but then Cutler got hurt again, was out for the season and finished 8-8. That could probably just be attributed to bad luck more than anything. Then in 2012, they signed Brandon Marshall—who Cutler had already thrown to for three years in Denver—and started 7-1 behind a pretty great defense. And then they fell to 10-6 and somehow missed the playoffs. Somehow. And then head coach Lovie Smith was mysteriously fired. And then Brian Urlacher, the face of the defense, retired.
Then 2013 happened; a rather strange year for them. Cutler was in and out the whole year, missing time; but it turned out to be no big deal, because Josh McCown went off throwing 13 touchdowns and 1 interception. Cutler finished the final three games and guess what happened? They went from 8-6 to 8-8 and out of the playoffs again. This in part could be attributed to lack of defense in the absence of Urlacher, especially since they gave up 54 points against the Eagles in one of those two final games.
Despite another disappointing finish, there was reason to look forward to the future. In addition to Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery had gone insane that year, giving them a very formidable WR duo, along with RB Matt Forte (who was still great then) and TE Martellus Bennett. 2014 would be different, right? Right? Wrong.
The Bears finished 5-11 in 2014, and were arguably one of the bigger disappointments of the year considering what had been expected of them. Sure, there were many injuries, but they were struggling even before then. After that, the Bears cleaned house in the front office and fired both their GM and head coach. Brandon Marshall left and went to New York. Some expected Jay Cutler to be gone as well. But that didn’t happen.
2015 actually went a little better, to a degree. They went 6-10, and offensive coordinator Adam Gase made the offense look pretty good again, which contributed to pretty much all of their six wins that year. But they still went 1-7 at home. And let’s not forget that their 1st round pick that year—Kevin White—missed the whole season due to injury. Beyond Alshon and Martellus, they didn’t really have anybody on offense. And they both got injured at some point as well. To be fair, it’s a miracle they even went 6-10.
Of course, now after five straight years of missing the playoffs one would expect that Jay Cutler had finally seen his last days in Chicago. Right? Well, who did end up leaving was Matt Forte and Martellus Bennett, only further depleting the offensive lineup.
If one thought 2014 was bad, 2016 was even worse. This past season, they went 3-13; their worst record in the 16-game NFL season era (beginning with 1978). Jay Cutler was out most of the year, and then Brian Hoyer got hurt. And then it was Matt Barkley time. I didn’t actually think he played that bad considering the situation he was forced into, but it still didn’t amount to a lot of wins. Alshon Jeffery ended up getting suspended at some point for 4 games. Kevin White only played four games before being placed on the IR—again. It was a disaster of a season, as everyone knows, and it was thus finally the end for Jay Cutler in Chicago.
And then let’s let look back on this sad offseason for the Bears yet again. In need of a QB, they signed Mike Glennon to an overpaid 3-year $43 million deal. And yet, that wasn’t enough: they traded away three total draft picks just to move up one spot to grab QB Mitchell Trubisky. That’s not a good sign of confidence in the guy you just paid a ton of money. Oh yeah, and Alshon Jeffery? He gone. He’s gonna be catching passes from Carson Wentz now. So your WR lineup now currently consists of: Kevin White, Kendall Wright, Markus Wheaton, Reuben Randle, Cameron Meredith, Josh Bellamy… shall I continue?
So basically, we’re set for a 2017 season that will probably go no better for Chicago than 2016 did. They’ve truly sunk to the bottom of the NFL food chain. How the heck did this happen? Well, on defense, Brian Urlacher retired. And everyone else (Lance Briggs, Charles Tillman) got old. And the defense has never really gotten its act together since. They’ve had a couple decent playmakers here and there (Kyle Fuller, for one) but as a unit they haven’t been good.
Offensively? Well, for starters, they held onto Jay Cutler too long. The guy wasn’t a bad quarterback talent-wise by any stretch, but his apparent apathy and “don’t-care” attitude meant that he was never going to win a championship. And many of the other stars have left over time. Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery together had opponents shaking in their boots a few years ago. Now? Both gone and on other teams. They have no #1 or really even #2 receivers right now. They have no tight ends. Jay Cutler is finally gone, but no one seems to know how to handle the QB situation properly right now. At this point, I wouldn’t be stunned if we somehow saw #3 QB Mark Sanchez (yes, he still exists) out there at some point this year if Glennon and Trubisky struggle at all out of the gate. And they don’t have a winning defense. It’s just a mess down there right now. What can all of this be eluded to? Bad ownership; bad general managing; a little bit of poor luck here and there, but the fall of the Chicago Bears has really been happening for a while. Many of us probably figured they’d be at least okay again once Cutler was gone, but we might need to get used to them being at the bottom of the NFC North; perhaps until they find another defensive (or even offensive) leader like Brian Urlacher.
But hey, at least RB Jordan Howard looks good right?