With only their game against the Vikings at the Metrodome left on the schedule, Bears players and coaches are already preparing for next year. Unlike New Year’s Eve celebrations, it will have to be a sober deliberation for Lovie Smith and his team as they sort through the wreckage of a season lost in 2011.
Their Christmas night defeat to Green Bay, although expected, remains troubling. Not because the Bears ever really had a chance to win that game or for that matter, any recent game against the Packers, but because the ghosts of what either might have been or whatever was, will haunt them for a long time to come.
All those wasted days and wasted nights preparing Caleb Hanie and Marion Barber as replacement starters when apparently, Josh McCown and Kahlil Bell were better choices all along. Bell will return as Matt Forte’s understudy at running back next year, but there is certainly no hurry on McCown, despite his respectable performance on Sunday night where he showed a willing professionalism at quarterback, despite an arm that was just too weak.
The ease at which Aaron Rodgers picked apart the Bears’ defense should set off alarm bells throughout Halas Hall this week. Without a pass rush in evidence, the truth of how slow and aging the once formidable linebacker corps has become, suggests maybe it’s time to start planning Lance Briggs’ departure and Brian Urlacher’s eventual retirement. And the defensive secondary only served to chaperone Packers receivers around the field, but never did anything to really stop them.
For one week, at least, it was a Bears fat guy who scored a touchdown (Edwin Williams’ pick-up of a goal line fumble) as opposed to the usual TD dance by an opposing defensive lineman returning an errant pass. McCown interrupted his fledgling career as an assistant high school football coach to play catch with a couple of guys (Roy Williams and Dane Sanzenbacher), who also might best be suited for teaching skills they never really learned to master themselves on a professional level.
At least the Bears are not the Vikings, a team that saw its fading fortunes now reduced to near bankruptcy with the devastating and perhaps, career ending injury, to their one great player, running back Adrian Peterson. Minnesota head coach, Leslie Frazier, the ex-Bear who lost his own NFL career on a single play in Super Bowl XX, will doubtlessly be coaching his final game on Sunday with his firing the following Monday a mere formality.
Lovie Smith and most, if not all, of his coaching staff, will survive another season. General manager, Jerry Angelo, will probably be allowed to tinker with the roster for another year again, trying to patch up the same holes in a sinking boat that continues to spring new ones with each passing game.
Fortunately, the Bears have run out of games, at least on their current schedule. The games they will be playing in the coming months will mostly be head games, revolving around whatever hirings, firings, acquisitions and releases are deemed appropriate to distribute the blame for this year’s failings and foster the usual offseason hopes for a comeback in 2012.