Like every Chicago Bears fan, I was done with the Marc Trestman era.
I was skeptical with the Trestman hire, especially because I wanted Bruce Arians to get the job. Last year, Trestman’s offense and aggressive decisions caused me to buy into his system. But I started to doubt him again when he kept defensive coordinator Mel Tucker after a historically awful season.
Then there was this year’s slow start, with delusions that nothing was wrong, followed by major locker room dissention. When offensive Aaron Kromer threw Jay Cutler under the bus and Trestman responded the next week by making the quarterback the scapegoat and benching him, there was no doubt a change was needed.
Emery did more good than bad
I was quite glad to see Trestman shown the door on Monday. However, I was a little disappointed to see general manager Phil Emery follow him.
In my mind, Emery was left with a mess when he took over in 2012. The team had an aging defense, a hideous offensive line, and no wide receivers.
Emery couldn’t fix everything in one season, but he definitely made the aggressive moves former GM Jerry Angelo wouldn’t. In his first offseason, he traded for Brandon Marshall. His second involved signing and drafting four new starters on the offensive line, which made it the most solid the Bears had since the Super Bowl run in 2006.
Yes, the defense got horrible in a hurry. But even this offseason, he signed three defensive lineman (Lamarr Houston, Jared Allen and Willie Young) and drafted four potential starters with his first picks in the draft.
Ultimately, Emery was done in by three moves – drafting Shea McCllelin, hiring Marc Trestman, and giving Cutler a huge contract.
McCllelin was Emery’s first draft pick with the Bears and was awful from the get go. His only claim to fame as a Bear was breaking Aaron Rodgers’ collarbone last season.
That said, outside of McCllelin, Emery did draft a lot of studs in his three drafts (Alshon Jeffrey, Kyle Long and Corey Fuller). And honestly, other than Chandler Jones, there were a lot of disappointing players selected after McCllelin in the 2012 draft.
I don’t feel like firing Lovie Smith was a bad move for Emery. Lovie had a lot of faults, namely being unable to have any semblance of a decent offense. However, the risk with Trestman turned out to be a colossal disaster. Trestman’s coaching staff also was one of the most incompetent in the league.
As for Cutler’s contract, yes it looks awful, but the Bears were in a tough spot. Franchising him could have made him a lot more expensive if he had a stellar 2014 season, as many experts predicted. Letting him hit free agency also would have jacked up the price, due to a big need for quarterbacks around the league. If Chicago wouldn’t pay Cutler the big bucks, you better believe another team would have.
So the Bears made Cutler the highest paid player in the league. Well, for this year anyway. The contract was structured to give the Bears a kind of yearly “out” after season three, which was a smart move.
Hindsight is 20/20, but I think at the time, Emery made the right decision with Cutler.
I understand why Emery was let go, but I would have liked to see him get another shot to try and fix Chicago’s problems. The owners decided to make sweeping changes, though, so now it’s time to look to the future.
Finding new leadership
So what’s next for the Bears? Well, it’s imperative they move fast.
Unless Chicago plans on making someone the GM and HC (a terrible idea), they have to get the general manager in place quick to make a coaching decision. The longer it takes to hire a GM, the less chance their top coaching candidate there will be.
I would love to see Rex Ryan as the next Bears coach, but that’s probably a pipe dream. A new GM probably won’t want such a strong personality as his first hire, plus it would probably take the Bears at least two seasons to get the proper personnel to run Ryan’s 3-4 defense.
I know for certain I don’t want either of the Shanahans or Gary Kubiak to be in the mix. Those would be pretty awful fits.
After Ryan, my next choice would be Arizona defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. If they don’t like him, maybe they try and make a big splash and go the college route. Could Urban Meyer or Gus Malzahn be interested in making a jump to the NFL? It would be a bold move, but it might be worth the risk.
Future of Cutler, defense
Roster wise, I’d still like to see Cutler stay with the team another year. Getting rid of him would mean eating a ton of salary cap space and finding a replacement. Last time I checked, there aren’t a lot of franchise quarterbacks on the market these days.
The offense has the talent to be strong, it just needs to get healthy. The defense is another matter.
Fuller and Young are two players they can build around. They are in desperate need of linebackers and safety help, though. I’m not sure Chicago will have the resources to be active in free agency this year, so the draft will be absolutely key to turning things around.
In the draft, I feel like the ideal player for Chicago would be Alabama safety Landon Collins. This isn’t me being a homer – it’s a great fit for the Bears.
Collins can be a strong run defender and a great leader. His coverage skills could use improvement, but those have gotten better this season.
From there, focusing on linebackers, as well as potentially finding a quarterback as soon as the second round, would become the priorities.
Chicago does not have the talent defensively to win the NFC North or make it to the Super Bowl. But with a strong draft and an impactful coaching staff, the Bears can absolutely be a playoff team.
The next two weeks will go a long way in possibly determining Chicago’s success over the next decade. It can’t afford to mess this up again.
• If ever there was a year for co-MVPs, it is this year. Aaron Rodgers and J.J. Watt both deserve the award. You could argue that their teams would be four or five win squads without them (a major compliment considering Watt is a defensive lineman). Rodgers will probably win MVP, but I guarantee Watt will make it close.
•The Texans enter their second straight offseason with a major question – where will they find a franchise quarterback? Unless they are willing to pay a steep, steep price to move up, it’s doubtful Houston will get find a star signal caller in the draft. They may take a chance on UCLA’s Brett Hundley or Baylor’s Bryce Petty, but those are anything but sure things.
Believe it or not, I actually think Ryan Mallett can be the answer. He’s a free agent, but he’d probably be willing to sign a one-year “prove it” deal with Houston. As long as the price tag isn’t too high, I think it is a fairly low risk to give Mallett one more shot.
• As usual, my preseason NFL predictions were all kinds of awful. I predicted Chicago, Washington, New Orleans, San Francisco and the New York Jets to all make the playoffs. I also had New Orleans making the Super Bowl. Yuck!
So here are my awful NFL playoff predictions:
Wild card: Carolina over Arizona, Dallas over Detroit, Pittsburgh over Baltimore, Cincinnati over Indianapolis
Divisional: Seattle over Carolina, Dallas over Green Bay, Pittsburgh over Denver, New England over Cincinnati
Conference championship: Seattle over Dallas, New England over Pittsburgh
Super Bowl: Seattle over New England
As for my predictions there, I’m taking Alabama over Florida State in the championship game.
• If they stay healthy (and that’s a big fucking ‘if’), then the Chicago Bulls should win the Eastern Conference. Cleveland will get better by the playoffs, and you can’t sleep on Washington and Toronto. However, I think the Bulls are too deep of a team to be knocked off in the East.
• I still think the L.A. Clippers will win the west, but don’t sleep on the Houston Rockets. I know a lot of people think the Josh Smith signing was a mistake for the Rockets, but I happen to think it was a great move.
• Yes, I am quite excited for the moves the Chicago Cubs have made this offseason. I’m not ready to proclaim they are a playoff team yet (way too many young guys will be counted on this year), but they could be very dangerous come 2016.
• While not spectacular, 2014 was a solid year at the movies (especially with the comic book genre). I’ll have a post later once I see a couple of the ones I missed earlier this year.
• Four years ago, I was laid off from the Galveston Co. Daily News. Now, I’m part of a team that has helped set attendance records at Moody Gardens. Funny how things work out in the end.
Bear Down and Keep the Faith!