NFL Wire News

Bears 2014 Analysis: Bears lacking identity


LAKE FOREST, Ill. — Chicago Bears two-time Pro Bowl guard Kyle Long has been in the NFL just two seasons, but his concept of what the team’s next coach should be like might be one the team’s decision-makers need to take into account when coming up a replacement for fired coach Marc Trestman.

“The right coach for Chicago is one that wants to instill an identity, demands a team that has an identity, and when we play, opponents should say, ‘we don’t want to play those guys.’

“There’s a handful of teams in the NFL that are like that and I feel like we have the nucleus to be able to do that. And we haven’t done that, and that’s something that we need to do.”

The 2014 Bears under the direction of Trestman had no such identity.

They set out in 2013 to become an offensive team and ranked second in the NFL in scoring. But their defense existed only in spurts and rarely did they reach a high level of physical play in the franchise’s long tradition.

As a result, the future will be dictated by a different coach than Trestman and a different general manager than Phil Emery.

“We need to re-establish our identity,” Bears chairman George McCaskey said. “People need to know that when they play the Chicago Bears, that they’ve been through hell.”

Several opposing players who came to Solider Field throughout the season commented about the Bears’ lack of physicality. On offense, it all started and stopped with the lack of a real commitment to the running game by Trestman.

The Bears finished 27th in rushing, and although they were a respectable 16th in yards per carry (4.1) and did this with the second fewest runs of 20 yards or longer, they only ran the ball 355 times — only two teams ran it less. They wasted Matt Forte’s running skills, providing him with enough dump-off passes to let him set an NFL record for catches by a back (102). However, this did nothing to establish physical dominance or wear down a defense.

Their lack of a running attack went a long way toward getting them into trouble early in games, and they fell behind to start 11 of the last 12 games.

The real root of problems for the Bears on offense, though, remains enigmatic quarterback Jay Cutler. He set personal bests with the Bears in yards (3,812) and touchdowns (28), but turned the ball over more times than anyone in the league with a league-high 18 interceptions and six lost fumbles in an offense that had 28 false start penalties a year after committing nine.

“It’s a lot of things that added up throughout this season,” Cutler said of the offensive problems. “All things that inhibited the offense; it seems like we hit on those every game.”

“It’s a long list of things that we could go down and pick and choose,” agreed tight end Martellus Bennett. “At the end of the day, we didn’t get the job done. It’s not just coaches. It’s everybody. We didn’t have a successful year as players. So the coaches didn’t have a successful year.

“I think everybody has their hand in the pot. And the gumbo doesn’t taste that great when everybody’s hand is in the pot. Then everybody is responsible for the bad taste of the gumbo.”

The defensive gumbo tasted no better.

A year after finishing last against the run, the defense improved to 16th thanks in part to offseason moves — in the draft and free agency — to plug these holes. Then again, there was another reason for the run defense being better: The pass defense was so poor that teams didn’t see the need to try to run against the Bears.

Chicago allowed opposing quarterbacks a 101.7 passer rating, better only than 32nd-ranked Washington. Only the Eagles gave up more completions of 20 yards or more (65) than the Bears.

An obvious need exists for safety help, if not another cornerback.

Although better, the pass rush had periods in games when in vanished as Jared Allen wound up with a career-low 5.5 sacks. Only a career-high sacks from defensive end Willie Young kept it from being another disaster rushing the passer.

One halftime score told the story of the Bears’ defensive failures under coordinator Mel Tucker: Green Bay Packers 42, Bears 0. The stats of the year came in their first game with Green Bay: The Packers had zero turnovers and zero punts.

“It’s been one of those down seasons for us,” cornerback Tim Jennings said. “The defense is something we didn’t expect. As a team we didn’t hit many of our goals.”

So for the seventh time in eight years the Bears missed the playoffs, and for the second time in three years they fired a head coach.

“I’m pretty sure there is going to be a lot of player change throughout the summer, as well,” Bennett said. “A lot of things are going to be different next year.”

–Some of the first names tossed around the rumor mill in the GM search are former Bears scout Chris Ballard and Giants director of college scouting Marc Ross.

Ross is understandable, since he interviewed for the job when Phil Emery got it and also because of his relationship to the Giants, the former team of Ernie Accorsi, who has been signed as a consultant to Bears CEO Ted Phillips and board chairman George McCaskey in their search for a coach and GM.

Ballard was with the Bears 12 years under Jerry Angelo as a scout and also a year under Emery — which may or may not be a plus depending on if the decision makers want a complete break from the past.

–Team president and CEO Ted Phillips has apparently escaped scrutiny after the failure of Phil Emery and Marc Trestman. He remains in his familiar spot within the Chicago decision-making hierarchy, although it’s still open to an adjustment.

“We feel that the structure we have is a good one, with the head coach reporting to the general manager, the general manager reporting to the president, and the president reporting to the chairman,” McCaskey said. “But if that needed adjustment in order to get the right person (as GM), we wouldn’t foreclose that possibility.”

–By retaining the services of Ernie Accorsi, Bears’ management thinks it has someone with an appreciation for the franchise’s history. Accorsi was a suitemate at Wake Forest of the late Brian Piccolo, a Bears running back who died of cancer and was immortalized as Gale Sayers’ friend in the movie “Brian’s Song” and the book “A Short Season.” He also was on George Halas’ payroll briefly while Halas was president of the National Football Conference.

The Bears’ decision makers also think Accorsi gives them an edge they didn’t have when they hired Emery.

“Bringing in an expert consultant like Ernie Accorsi I think is a huge difference,” Phillips said. “The prior process was a thorough search. We talked to a lot of people throughout the league both current personnel folks and coaches and ex-coaches and GMs.

“I think what we have now with Ernie coming in is someone consistent who is giving us a voice on a daily basis who’s on our side and doesn’t have any other agenda to try to push their own people. Ernie is a longtime football man. He understands the tradition, the importance of football in Chicago and I think that alone is going to be a very valuable addition.”

–Since the days of Mike Ditka Chicagoans have wanted a return to a fiery style of coach. They’ve been given Dave Wannstedt, Dick Jauron, Lovie Smith and Marc Trestman.

“I don’t think that’s a prerequisite,” McCaskey said. “We’ve seen various successful coaches who were outwardly emotional and we’ve seen various successful coaches who have had a very calm demeanor on the sideline.

“Tom Landry comes immediately to mind. You know, Mike Ditka is said to have had a fiery sideline demeanor and to me it’s unfair to attribute his success to his fiery sideline demeanor. He had a lot of other things going for him that made him a great coach.”

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