Bears can be fixed — with smart decisions

Bears can be fixed — with smart decisions

Mama Bear brought the hammer down during last week’s Black Monday. Virginia McCaskey was “fed up with mediocrity” and called for her son and Chicago Bears chairman George McCaskey to fire general manager Phil Emery and head coach Marc Trestman, to the relief of Bears fans. We asked one of them, staff writer SCOTT RICHEY, how he would fix the mess that was Chicago football this season:

Find a competent general manager

How to explain Chicago’s woeful front- office mismanagement  for the past 15 seasons? Dumpster fire? Jerry Angelo and Emery did an awful lot of swinging and missing where it matters most — the draft — in the last decade-plus.

That duo’s list of first-round picks is cringe-worthy: David Terrell, Marc Colombo, Michael Haynes, Rex Grossman, Tommie Harris, Cedric Benson, Greg Olsen, Chris Williams, Gabe Carimi, Shea McClellin, Kyle Long, Kyle Fuller. Or, in other words: bust, bust, bust, Super Bowl loser-turned-journeyman, flash in the pan, boating DUI, traded for what eventually became Brandon Marshall, bust, bust, bust, Pro Bowler, too soon to tell.

Yikes.

Eighteen players on the current roster were selected by Chicago in the last four drafts, with 14 of them from the previous two draft classes. The four drafts before that? Only Matt Forte remains on the Bears’ roster.

Free agent signings and trades can help build a roster, but if the draft is a complete wash after rookie contracts have expired, your team is going nowhere. The new GM has to understand that.

 

Don’t blow the coaching hire

The news that came out this week after Trestman’s firing hurt just about as much as watching the Bears the last two seasons. Imagine if Emery would have hired Bruce Arians after he led the Indianapolis Colts to a 9-3 record as the interim head coach in 2012.

That run got Arians an interview in Chicago but ultimately the head coaching gig in Arizona, where he’s led the Cardinals to a 21-11 record and a playoff spot this year compared with the 13-19 mark that got Trestman the boot.

And Arians did that all while playing Carson Palmer, Drew Stanton, Logan Thomas and Ryan Lindley at quarterback. Think he could have done something more with Jay Cutler and the weapons the Bears have on offense?

The new Bears’ GM — whomever that might be — won’t have the luxury of whiffing quite so hard on the coaching hire. The precedent is set. Their fates will be intertwined much like those of Emery and Trestman. 

Chicago needs more than a change in coach, though. The Bears need a change in personality — one that more matches the fan base and apparently the McCaskey family’s desire to quit messing around and win more football games. The Bears’ last Super Bowl win came with a fiery Mike Ditka at the helm. The trio of Trestman, Lovie Smith and Dick Jauron combined doesn’t move the needle.

Why not bring a little bit of that 1985 fire back to Chicago? One of Buddy Ryan’s kids is available and is about the polar opposite of staid and stoic. And he had his successes as a head coach when he wasn’t dealing with butt fumbles, Tebow-mania and a growing lack of NFL talent in the green and white half of the Meadowlands.

 

Stand pat on offense

The Cutler haters aren’t going to like this, but what else can Chicago do? His contract is so onerous — much like his play and general demeanor — that he’d be difficult to trade and a serious cap hit if he was cut.

Clearly Trestman’s scheme was a failure, but the Bears have the skill players to be successful in Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Forte and Martellus Bennett. Maybe a new coach (and an offensive coordinator who wouldn’t throw him under the bus) could rein in Cutler’s worst tendency — the thought he can make any pass no matter the coverage or situation — and put him and the Bears in position to succeed offensively.

It’s ridiculous that Chicago finished in the bottom third of the NFL in scoring, close to the same in total offense (21st) and with the sixth-worst rushing offense in the league.

 

Blow up the defense

So much for Monsters of the Midway. Chicago finished the regular season with the third-worst pass defense in the league and right in the middle of the pack in stopping the run (16th). All together, the Bears were the third-worst defense in the NFL — saved by only the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints from finishing dead last.

Chicago’s big moves on defense heading into this season were to sign an aging Jared Allen, who’s clearly lost a step, and Lamarr Houston to bolster the defensive line and load up on young defenders in the draft (four of the first five picks).

The Bears better hope the young guys pan out with a new coordinator because this is a defense without a leader. Lance Briggs has likely played his last game in a Chicago uniform, and there’s no obvious successor. 

 

Make this draft count

This won’t be a “sexy” draft for Chicago. Big names like Marcus Mariota, Amari Cooper and Jameis Winston will be gone by the time the Bears pick at No. 7. But that’s OK. This draft needs to be about defense.

Early mock drafts are split about who Chicago selects with the seventh pick. Some have Missouri linebacker/defensive end/pass-rushing monster Shane Ray. The Bears last spent a first-round pick on a “pass rusher” in 2012 with McClellin, who has 71/2 sacks in 40 games. Anything from Ray would be better.

The other possible pick at No. 7 is Alabama safety Landon Collins. That’s a good move. The revolt from the Bears faithful if the perpetually concussed Chris Conte starts another game could be brutal.

Chicago then has to double down in the second round, filling whatever hole (defensive back, pass rusher/linebacker) that didn’t get addressed in the first.

The rest of the draft would be about depth — on offense and defense — with an eye for help at linebacker, in the secondary, on the offensive line and for a third receiver who would be better than the Josh Morgan/Santonio Holmes/Marquess Wilson combo.

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