The Bears' final regular season loss came Sunday, and before it even finished -- before Week 17 even started -- the typical speculation surrounding the Bears' 2009 offseason began. What will become of Kyle Orton? Will Bob Babich stick around? Will the Bears draft some talent to replace their aging defensive veterans? For the love of God, will they sign a good wideout? You get the point. There are plenty of questions to go around here, plenty of answers Bears fans will be anxiously waiting to hear.
A day after that season-ending loss, general manager Jerry Angelo spoke out. He was his usual vague self, but between the lines things don't look so good for the Bears' quarterback and defensive coordinator:
On Kyle Orton:
"I'm not convinced 100 percent obviously. I believe in Kyle, but until he puts a good year together we can't say for sure. I saw some really good things out of Kyle, particuarly early on in the season. He didn't have the second half that he had in the first half. Is that part of growing pains that come along with the position? I can't answer that right now. We really buy into Kyle the person. He showed an exemplary work ethic. Leadership to be voted captain by your peers is a good thing. But he's still a work in progress. We have time and going to take our time and will have to wait and see.
"I think we have to have competition at that position. We have to keep an eye on that position, more than any. We have to get that position right. I know there's going to be a lot of talk about a No. 1 receiver, but it starts with the quarterback. It's all about the quarterback."
That's not a vote of confidence. That's not even an endorsement. That's Kyle Orton's Bears contract slipping through the second half of his season, and that's our metaphor that doesn't really make any sense. One factor to watch is how much of this is pure honesty, and how much is a negotiating stance by the Bears front office, a preemptive shot across Orton's bow before the talks begin in earnest.
Anyway, to Babich:
"When you're not playing consistent football, you're job is not good enough. You have to be consistent in this league. If you're going to win you have to be consistent. We weren't consistent. Those are things we'll get into. I don't want to go further than that because we haven't talked about anything. [...] I can't say all the things I feel to you today. We'll be very honest. We see what you see. We'll be very objective. And things that need to be changed will be changed."
Yikes. That might be worse than Angelo's Orton diagnosis. There's plenty of other stuff there, but the major verdict seems to be in: Jerry Angelo doesn't have much confidence in his quarterback, or his defensive coordinator, and one or both could be gone from the Bears in 2009.