CHICAGO — Much like losing by a combined score of 106-37 in back-to-back games against the Patriots and Packers before coming back to beat the lowly Vikings and Buccaneers, Thursday night’s 41-28 loss to the Cowboys exposed the Bears for the bad football team they really are, before a late comeback attempt sprinkled a false hint of optimism that maybe someday Marc Trestman’s Bears will realize their potential.
But to his credit, the head coach refused to relish in the garbage-time rally and instead spoke the truth about his football club:
“You can certainly see as a football team, we’re not doing the things in all three phases we need to do to win on a consistent basis in this league.”
It’s true, but it’s also indicting, considering that is his job as an NFL head coach.
Trestman was also the one who admitted the Bears “were not a good football team” after the 55-14 loss to the Packers in Week 10. He seems to have a good grasp on the reality of this team, but the more important question now is: Does general manager Phil Emery have that same grasp?
Or better yet, does Chairman George McCaskey?
It was just last week when Emery joined the team-controlled “Coaches Show” on WBBM 780 and lauded the “teaching skills and ability from our (coaching) staff” just after declaring: “We have a mentally tough group. You can’t understate that.”
That, of course, came after the back-to-back victories against the Vikings and Buccaneers and before the back-to-reality losses to the Lions and Cowboys.
But here’s the thing about those comments: If the Bears are actually well-coached and mentally tough, then that means they don’t have enough talent to win, which of course falls on the general manager who drafted, signed or re-signed all but two players (Chris Conte and Stephen Paea) on the Bears’ roster.
The talent, of course, is a problem, but it’s far from the only problem. The offense has plenty of talent, but not nearly enough production, and that falls on the head coach who was hired to get the most out of Jay Cutler and produce one of the league’s top units.
Meanwhile, discipline is a major issue both on and off the field. Nine penalties Thursday night against the Cowboys is a big problem, but so is Martellus Bennett slamming a teammate to the ground in training camp, Lance Briggs skipping practice to open up a restaurant, Brandon Marshall holding a domestic violence court session in the Halas Hall media room, Lamarr Houston telling his own fans to “eat dirt” and Marshall challenging a Detroit Lions fan to a boxing match for $25,000.
Yes, it’s amazing that all of that could happen in one season, but then again it’s no surprise this team is just 5-8 with all that going on.
So why does all this nonsense keep happening?
Because no one is stopping it.
In all but one of those incidents, the Bears organization issued no public discipline. Only Bennett was fined and suspended for slamming rookie first-round draft pick Kyle Fuller to the ground in training camp, and in that case, the discipline worked. The on-field fighting that had become too common in training camp stopped and Bennett has since purported himself with class all season, not to mention been one of the Bears’ best players.
So why wasn’t that approach used in any of the other cases of questionable decision-making? Instead, the Bears have sent the message: That kind of behavior is acceptable.
And that, of course, goes a long way in explaining why the Bears are so undisciplined on the field too.
“We’re in the no excuse business,” Trestman said Thursday when asked about all the self-inflicted wounds. “It’s a question I understand that is being asked. We’re making too many mistakes, too many penalties in all three phases, certainly tonight, which debilitated us.”
But this is bigger than just penalties and turnovers within football games. The lack of discipline has been evident on and off the field all season and there’s been little accountability shown to help curb the behavior.
Take Marshall challenging a fan to a fight, for example. The day after that incident occurred on Twitter, Emery reminded Marshall that boxing would be a violation of his contract. And what was Marshall’s response?
“Phil Emery came up to me today in the hallway and said, ‘Read your contract,’” Marshall said. “And then he said, ‘I think boxers have to have callouses.’ And I showed him my knuckles. You see that? There’s one right there. One right there. One right there. One right there. That quieted him up pretty good.”
That quieted him up pretty good? A player really said that about his general manager just one day after challenging a fan to a fight? And that player was actually active two days later against the Minnesota Vikings?
“I think that the No. 1 thing is that it will be addressed,” Trestman said about the incident the Friday before that game.
And was it addressed? Maybe. Who knows? Trestman refused to answer that question the following Monday.
So here are two more questions: Who is in charge here? And, why?
The “why” is an especially relevant question given the latest clunker against a playoff-caliber team. The Bears hung around for a half Thursday against the Cowboys before Dallas built a 35-7 lead by the time the third quarter was over.
If we’re strictly talking football, here’s reality: The Bears have one win over a team above .500 (the 7-5 49ers) and their last four losses have come by an average score of 45-21.
So with that in mind, is Marc Trestman concerned about his job security?
“The only thing I’m concerned about is the health of my football team right now and some of the players on it, and bringing them in tomorrow and coaching them up to do a better job than they’ve done,” Trestman said. ‘That’s exactly my only focus and will be my only focus.”
Fair enough. His players indeed need to do a better job in the Bears’ final three games. If not, they might just be Trestman’s final three games in Chicago.
Adam Hoge covers the Bears for 87.7 The Game and TheGameChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.