Matt Trowbridge: Time for Bears to take drastic measures
Here’s hoping the McCaskeys listen to Packer fans.
A year ago, when the Packers had the same 5-9 record the Bears have now, the Rockford Register Star asked local Packer fans how to fix the team. Linda Fry of Cherry Valley said “75 percent of the blame” belongs to the coaches. “They have a lot of potential, but the coach holds them back.”
Jim Fosse of Machesney Park singled out the defensive coaches. “The defense has so much talent, but the coaching stinks.”
It seems redundant to write the Bears should fire Lovie Smith and most of his assistants. We’ve written this many times before. And every Bears fan knows this.
But last year’s Packer fans demonstrate how much difference an obvious answer can make. A year ago, Green Bay’s No. 20-rated defense was a virtual clone of Chicago’s No. 21-rated unit; Chicago allowed six more yards than the Packers in 16 games (5,355 yards to 5,349). This year’s gap is 549 yards — and counting — as Green Bay has risen to No. 2 in the league and No. 1 in turnover margin after hiring Dom Capers as its new defensive coordinator.
Just don’t expect new coaches to make Chicago a Super Bowl contender the way Capers has done that for the Packers in Green Bay.
The Bears problems start above Lovie Smith, with the man who hired him. No wonder general manager Jerry Angelo said no decision has been made yet on Smith, who has two years and $11 million left on the contract extension Angelo gave him after the 2006 Super Bowl. Angelo might be gone before Smith.
If so, it will be for three reasons:
_Angelo’s first-round draft record. Angelo has drafted, in order, Marc Colombo, Michael Haynes, Rex Grossman, Tommie Harris, Cedric Benson, Greg Olsen and Chris Williams. In Angelo’s eight drafts, only Harris and Olsen among first-round picks have been even average NFL starters for the Bears.
_Trading down. Angelo loves to trade down and get extra picks, but those picks have turned out to be Dollar Store castoffs: Roosevelt Williams, Bobby Gray, Adrian Peterson, Michael Haynes, Rex Grossman, Ian Scott, Justin Gage, Joe Odom, Leon Joe, Claude Harriott, Danieal Manning, Dusty Dvoracek, Tyler Reed, Dan Bazuin, Garrett Wolfe, Kevin Payne, Trumaine McBride, Earl Bennett, Marcus Harrison, Craig Steltz, Zack Bowman, Kellen Davis, Ervin Baldwin, Jarron Gilbert and Henry Melton.
_Misplaced loyalty. From his first contract extension (Dick Jauron) to his last (Jay Cutler), Angelo has thrown bad money after good on players and coaches who had a full year, and often much more, on their existing contracts.
Lovie Smith is 21-25 after his extension with zero playoff berths in three years. Dick Jauron was 11-21 after his extension.
Angelo’s re-upped players have done even worse. He gave Jay Cutler, with three years left on his rookie contract, a two-year, $30 million extension in October when he had an 86.9 passer rating. Since then, Cutler has nine TD passes, 18 interceptions and a 62.4 passer rating.
If Angelo had waited until now, he could have extended Cutler for $37 and a one-year pass to Great America. Cutler’s current 71.1 passer rating is lower than Kyle Orton last year. And Brian Griese in 2007. And Rex Grossman in 2006. Heck, it’s even lower than Chad Hutchinson in 2004 (73.6).
And Cutler is far from alone. Angelo once made Brian Robinson one of the five highest-paid defensive ends in the NFL. He later gave extensions to R.W. McQuarters, Jerry Azumah and Qasim Mitchell. Before the 2008 season, Angelo extended Devin Hester, Brian Urlacher, Tommie Harris, Robbie Gould, Alex Brown, Desmond Clark, Rex Grossman, Kyle Orton and Rashied Davis.
All those players were once good for the Bears, or at least OK. But instead of letting players walk after their useful days are through, as Kenny Williams and the White Sox are doing with Scott Podsednik, Angelo has kept scores of Bears on the downside of their careers. And given them raises.
Chicago needs new players. And new coaches to coach them. And a new GM to pick them.
Rockford Register Star assistant sports editor Matt Trowbridge can be reached at (815) 987-1383 email@example.com.