September 22, 2014

A Restless Hibernation

The 17-13 season-ending victory by the Chicago Bears over the Vikings in Minnesota was enough to give the Bears a more respectable looking 8-8 final record and screw them into a lower draft pick – (The Bears are slated to pick 19th, worst of the NFL’s seven 8-8 teams.  If Chicago had lost its final game it would be drafting 11th) – but the win was not enough to save the jobs of general manager Jerry Angelo, offensive coordinator Mike Martz, and quarterbacks coach Shane Day.  All those fellas have gotten the ax while head coach Lovie Smith, the rest of his staff and Caleb Hanie are still employed.

It has been a strange scene at Halas Hall the past few days as the Bears pick up the pieces from a 2011 season that smelled like roses in November only to taste like a cursed fruitcake by New Year’s.  After missing the playoffs for the fourth time in five years and with a future about as bright as Michelle Bachmann’s the Bears brass realized a change was needed.  But what’s so strange is who seems to be making the changes.  Bears fans had been led to believe that George McCaskey, the son of Bears owner Virginia McCaskey, was the one now calling the shots for the Missteps of the Midway, but during Tuesday’s news conference it was team president Ted Phillips who did all the talking with George lingering in the background like a younger son who realizes right before the family photo that his fly is not only open, it’s broken.

It was a lot like the meeting of the five families in “The Godfather” when Don Corleone realizes that Don Barzini is doing the talking, not Philip Tattaglia.  If you want to catch a crook, follow the money.  If you want to find the leader, follow the talker.  At least, at a news conference that is.

Sticking with my mafia analogy (because, really, isn’t pro football a lot like murderous bands of gangsters, thugs and assorted fedora wearers?) Lovie Smith must be the McCaskey family’s Clemenza: the loyal henchman who will take a bullet and dish a few out in defense of the family.  How many coaches who have never won a Super Bowl are allowed to keep their post despite only two playoff appearances since Twitter was invented?

Ted Philips says the only stipulation that will be put on the new GM is that Lovie is the coach for 2012 so that either means that Lovie will almost certainly be gone this time next year unless he’s in the middle of a deep and solemn playoff run, or it means, as has also been implied from the Bears’ den, that whoever takes the football reins will have to work around Lovie which sparks the fear that the Bears will end up with someone who wants the job so badly they’ll be willing to keep the bald son no matter how badly the Bears are in 2012.

Hmmm.

It probably doesn’t matter because, thanks in part to the now departed Mr. Angelo, the Bears seem doomed for 2012 and so Lovie will be canned and whoever’s in charge can bring in whomever they want (Mike Holmgren?  Bill Cowher?  Jeff Fisher?  Tony Dungy?  Rick Vice?)

Here are some of the guys Angelo has drafted over the last few years: Gabe Carimi, Stephen Paea, James Thomas, Harvey Unga, Corey Wootton, Dan LeFevour, J’marcus Webb, Jarron Gilbert, Juaquin Iglesias, Henry Melton, Marcus Freeman, Chris Williams, Al Afalava, Derek Kinder, Marcus Harrison, Ervin Baldwin, Chester Adams, Joey LaRocque, Kirk Barton, Marcus Monk, Dan Bazuin, Michael Okwo, Josh Beekman, Kevin Payne, Trumaine McBride and Aaron Brant.

Angelo also deserves credit for drafting Matt Forte, Earl Bennett, Craig Steltz, Chris Conte, Major Wright, Johnny Knox, Greg Olsen, Danielle Manning, Devin Hester, Kyle Orton, Tommie Harris, Tank Johnson, Nathan Vasher, Charles Tillman and Lance Briggs and for trading for Jay Cutler and signing Julius Peppers.

Which of the two preceding paragraphs is longer?

The Bears defense is good but looks a lot like Tom Cruise’ face in “Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol” – engaging but about to crumble.  It needs to get younger in a hurry.  The Bears need to hire a GM who knows talent and detests losing.  Does Jerry West like football?

Ted Philips says he’s been meeting with executives from the Blackhawks, Bulls, Cubs and White Sox about how to put together a winner which means he’s being told what to do by the first two and what not to do by the second two.  Maybe Philips should meet with another famous Chicago institution, Playboy.  Who but Hugh Hefner knows how to make an aging organization young and pretty?  Alas, after nearly 60 years Playboy is leaving Chicago and will permanently move its headquarters to Los Angeles which doesn’t even have a pro football team – besides USC.

Why the hell didn’t the Bears team up with Playboy decades ago and have Playmates as Bears cheerleaders?  That’s right, the Bears got rid of the Honey Bears after they won Super Bowl XX.  See what sexual oppression does to you?

The Bears are reportedly interested in Baltimore Ravens personnel director Eric DeCosta.  I know nothing about the gentleman but if he has spent a lot of time around Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome he must be OK.  The Ravens are an excellent organization and Ozzie deserves much of the credit.  Since taking over in 2004 Ozzie’s Ravens have won, in the regular season, 9 games, 11 games, 13 games, 5 games, 11 games, 9 games, 12 games and, this year, 12 games.  The Ravens are in the playoffs for the fourth straight year.  They know how to draft, they know how to hire coaches and they’ve kept Ray Lewis out of jail.  Be like the Ravens.

There are other names being bantered about including Bill Polian who just got sacked by the Colts but the Bears have already missed out on Reggie McKenzie, the player personnel director of the Green Bay Packers who never make a bad pick, who is bolting to the Oakland Raiders who only make bad picks.

What are the Bears?  Are they the team that nearly reached the Super Bowl last season and was 7-3 this year before losing starting quarterback Jay Cutler and Pro Bowl running back Matt Forte?  Or, are they the team that acted slowly when Cutler went down and had no plan B and couldn’t squeak out wins against the Broncos and Chiefs?  It’s a sad question for Angelo and Martz.  If not for a fluke Hail Mary pass by the Chiefs and several Marion Barber blunders against the Broncos the Bears would be 10-6 and in the playoffs with Cutler and Forte possibly ready to return and Angelo and Martz would still have jobs.

It’s the way it should have been but now it’s the way it isn’t.  Someone has to pay for failure and while the Bears have the wallet for success it’s already a cumbersome path.  Does Lovie hire the new offensive coordinator?  Or does the new GM?  Does a decent offensive coordinator want the job knowing Lovie might be gone after next season? Or do you hire someone who hopes he does well enough to get the head job himself in 2013?  And does Jay Cutler really want to play for yet another offensive coordinator who will be his third in four years with the team?  And does any of it matter when you have an offensive line that blocks about as well as Clemson plays defense and a defense that checks its age through carbon dating?

Questions, questions, calamities.

It has been a warm, placid winter so far in Chicago and the Bears are spending it watching the Packers, Lions, Saints, Falcons, Giants and 49ers play the postseason games that should have gone through Chicago.  The snow will certainly fall at some point here and the temperature will drop.  It will be cold, lonely and weird.

And the future, frighteningly, is starting to feel a lot like the past.

 

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