The cynic could say they’ve seen this coming since October, maybe even September. Even the most optimistic Bears supporter has had some inkling of it since the start of December.
But few could have predicted just how bad things would get in Chicago as the season continues to head south. Nobody is in charge inside of Chicago’s locker room, which has resulted in everybody doing whatever they can to save their own skin at the expense of the team. Let’s recap just how far back the jarring lack of leadership goes.
Lance Briggs, the play caller and supposed on-field leader of the defense, skipped Chicago’s first practice of the season to go open his restaurant in California. You’d think a guy coming off a 6 month offseason could have scheduled more intelligently.
Plenty of people-myself included-said this was no big deal. It was just a walkthrough, and Briggs was a seasoned player who wouldn’t miss anything. Plenty of people blamed Briggs for selfishly putting his own interests ahead of the team and not acting like a veteran leader. Plenty of people blamed head coach Marc Trestman for giving Briggs the practice off for “personal reasons” while saying he didn’t bother asking what they were.
Chicago would go on to lose their season opener at home to the heavy underdog Buffalo Bills. Briggs played a poor game and was directly responsible for some defensive miscommunications that led to big plays for the Bills. In retrospect, this would not have not been a huge deal if it was an isolated incident, but it showcased the clear lack of leadership in Chicago, from the coaches to the players.
Following a nice road win at the Atlanta Falcons that was their best game of the season to that point, Chicago came out flat at home and lost 27-14 to Miami to fall to 3-4 with two difficult road games looming. Particularly troublesome was the first half, when the Bears were held scoreless and only ran the ball twice.
There was a postgame outburst in the locker room from Brandon Marshall, one of the offensive leaders, that reportedly involved a fight with kicker Robbie Gould, the leader of the special teams. Defensive leader Lance Briggs, meanwhile, walked out of the locker room rather than getting involved and trying to calm the situation down.
In press conferences that week, head coach Marc Trestman insinuated the reason the Bears weren’t running the ball more was because Cutler was checking out of too many runs, then revealed he stripped Cutler of the ability to make such checks in the second half.
Here we have the first instance of somebody under fire deliberately shifting blame to somebody else associated with the team in an effort to save themselves. Don’t worry, it won’t be the last.
Following a Thanksgiving loss in which they called only 7 runs against 52 passes, Jay Cutler, Matt Forte, and Aaron Kromer all said the Bears need to run the ball more. In doing so, they insinuated that the blame lied on Trestman as the playcaller to establish the run and separated themselves from the embattled coach.
Once again, we see fingers being pointed, with players and coaches trying to place the blame on anybody but themselves.
Following a home loss to the Dallas Cowboys that saw him injure two ribs and go on season-ending injured reserve, Brandon Marshall goes on the radio and admits he understands why people would have buyers’ remorse with Jay Cutler’s contract. He also thanks those who visited him in the hospital, naming many names but not Cutler, leading to speculation that there is a rift in their previously close relationship.
I personally think this interview was blown out of proportion, but here again you see no clear leadership. Marshall and Cutler are supposed to be the leaders of the offense, and very possibly the team, yet they are not exactly sticking up for each other publicly or toeing the company line.
Now we come to the latest, and most egregious, incident. Aaron Kromer apologized to the offensive players, revealing that he had leaked some negative comments about Cutler to Ian Rapaport a few weeks earlier. Patrick Mannelly then said on the radio several players had told him the apology felt fake. Marshall took to Twitter to bash that players had talked to the media about the meeting, which was presumably supposed to remain private.
Yet again we see a free for all situation where every man seems to be in it for himself. Nobody is keeping any players or coaches in line. Nobody is stepping up, assuming responsibility, and making all this nonsense stop.
Who is in charge?
This leads to the obvious question: who is in charge of the Chicago Bears? Normally, you would say the head coach. So where is Trestman in all this? He has been involved in pointing fingers at others publicly. He has not done anything that we know of to promote accountability since way back in August, when he suspended Martellus Bennett for a training camp fight. Otherwise, he keeps going in front of the media and insists that everything is fine while chaos erupts all around him from players and coaches alike.
If the head coach is not the man in charge, then surely there must be some player who holds his peers accountable, right? Not in this case. The most logical candidate would be Jay Cutler, but he’s never been that guy. That guy was Brian Urlacher until he retired following the 2012 season. None of the logical candidates-Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall, Matt Forte, and Lance Briggs-have stepped up to do that.
What we’re left with now is a sinking ship with no captain. In a situation like that, everybody looks out for their own interests above all others, which will never work in a sport like football, where you have to put the team above yourself. And that is the greatest indictment of all on this coaching staff, and the biggest reason that they all need to go.