The Chicago Bears went into their bye week with plenty of question marks as they assess where they are as a team. While there hasn’t been any on-field work to address them, there is plenty of chatter going on off the gridiron.
According to a new report Sunday, Bears players are tuning out Head Coach Marc Trestman, and things in the locker room have gone from positive (with all of Trestman’s “grow the man” statements, etc.) to downright toxic:
“The Bears are in a state of crisis, according to several sources with knowledge of the locker room, with a leadership void further fueling their downward spiral. Players are tuning Coach Marc Trestman out, according to numerous sources, there has been increased in-fighting in recent weeks, and the team’s dedication has been called into question at times by players and coaches alike, sources said.”
That kind of squabbling in the locker room was evident when the team engaged in a heated shouting match following a Week 7 loss to the Miami Dolphins, and things likely didn’t improve much during their Week 8 loss to the New England Patriots. That game drove home just how lacking the Bears are in all sorts of areas, with their offense struggling to get going and their defense completely unable to stop Tom Brady and the Patriots as they torched them through the air and on the ground.
In addition to complaints about the locker room culture and the play calling in games, players have also complained about fan support (or lack thereof) this season. Kyle Long and Lamarr Houston were among the loudest on that front, with Long complaining about fans booing the team at halftime of their game against the Dolphins and Houston telling fans on Twitter to “eat dirt” earlier in the season.
With that kind of drama in mind, the question facing the Bears as they start their preparations for the second half of the season is this: What needs to be done in order to right the ship and get them back into playoff contention?
Unfortunately for Chicago, there doesn’t seem to be a lot that they can do other than simply play better. Reinforcements aren’t coming, as Phil Emery didn’t make any deals at the NFL trade deadline this week, and outside of losing Matt Slauson and Lamarr Houston for the year, the team hasn’t exactly been racked with injuries in key positions.
That is where the Bears find themselves right now. All the pieces they thought would comprise a Super Bowl contender are still there, but they aren’t pushing in the right direction. This team has the offensive weapons that they did last year when they made a huge leap forward, but whether it’s game plan or performance, they simply are lacking on that side of the football. Add to that the lack of ability to stop the passing game of opponents, and you have a recipe for disaster.
The answer to their woes then comes down to one painfully simple idea: play better. The anemic pass rush has to improve, which will be difficult to do with Houston being out and Willie Young taking over as the full-time starters. The pass defense as a whole must improve despite Kyle Fuller being a rookie and Charles Tillman being out for the season. The passing game on offense must improve, with Jay Cutler bearing the brunt of that responsibility.
The next few weeks should tell us all we need to do about the Bears. There is no savior on the horizon, and there is no one to point the finger at other than themselves. If this team is serious about playing their way back into contention, then they need to stop blaming the media and stop blaming the coaching staff and stop complaining about fan support. They need to put their focus back on where it belongs: on their performance on the field.