The Detroit Lions gouged the Bears' defense on Monday night. The offensive line seemed like a turnstile for Lions pass rushers. And the safety position remains a mess due to injury and ineffective play.
So who gets the blame here, the man who put all the pieces together (general manager Jerry Angelo), or the head coach who utilizes them (Lovie Smith)?
Our Four Downs panel weighs in on that and more:
Fact or Fiction: Jerry Angelo is more to blame for the Bears’ start than Lovie Smith.
Jeff Dickerson: Fiction. These two need to share equal blame. For whatever reason, Smith didn't have his team ready to play in Detroit. That's on the head coach. All these defensive breakdowns ultimately rests with the man in charge of the defense; the head coach. On the flip side, you can also make an argument the guy in charge of supplying the talent is also doing a poor job. Angelo's refusal to spend money to upgrade the offensive line, wide receiver and defensive end is clearly costing the Bears dearly. But to blame one more than the other is wrong. Angelo and Smith are in this together whether they like it or not.
Michael C. Wright: Fact. It’s Angelo’s job to evaluate and acquire talent. It’s Smith’s job to coach them up. It’s that simple. Like every other general manager in the league, Angelo faced extenuating circumstances because of the lack of an offseason caused by the NFL lockout. But Angelo didn’t handle the situation as well as everyone else, and this team is suffering as a result of that. But before we place all the blame on Angelo, I’d be remiss to not mention that a GM can do only what ownership allows. If ownership doesn’t open the pocket book and allow the GM to spend, he’s going to be hamstrung in the talent acquisition department. I think that’s been one part of the problem with this team.
Melissa Isaacson: Fact. This is a tough one because Smith is not exactly a top candidate for Coach of the Year at this point with sloppy game management and players performing with little to no discipline. But the Bears’ biggest problem is that they simply don’t have good enough players on the offensive line, at tight end, wide receiver or in the secondary, and lack depth all over. And that’s on Angelo.
Jon Greenberg: Fact, fact, fact. The Bears need a change of philosophy up top. It's time. Drafting Gabe Carimi was a great move, but Angelo has neglected to bring in immediate impact players on the line and at receiver. Safety continues to be a revolving door. When you trade your draft assets to bring in a big-time quarterback, don’t you keep spending money to give him weapons? Maybe he didn’t have the resources to do so, but it’s safe to say that in three seasons, Angelo hasn’t done right by his investment. Angelo should be commended for trying to improve the pass rush the past two years, and of course, drafting Matt Forte and Devin Hester, two impressive weapons. But the problems this season don’t lie with Lovie.
Fact or Fiction: Jay Cutler is as much to blame for the offensive line’s struggles as the OL.
Jeff Dickerson: Fiction. Cutler has made his share of mistakes in the first five weeks, but he cannot be held responsible for the problems up front. Because the Bears failed to upgrade the line outside of drafting Carimi in the first round, you've got a right guard playing center, a right tackle playing left tackle, another first-round tackle playing left guard, a center playing right guard, a right guard playing right tackle because Carimi is hurt ... do I need to go on?
Michael C. Wright: Fiction. My answer to this question doesn’t take anything away from Cutler’s outstanding performance against the Lions. But several sources have definitively stated that Cutler -- because of lack of trust in the protection and his receivers which causes him to hold the ball too long -- shares some of the blame for what’s gone on with the offense. The offensive line’s struggles, however, can’t be put on Cutler. In fact, the protection’s inconsistency has been a major reason for Cutler -- as one source said -- “seeing ghosts” and “losing confidence.” Ultimately, though, Cutler, the protection and the receivers share a symbiotic relationship in which all depend upon one another for success.
Melissa Isaacson: Fiction. Not against the Lions, he wasn’t. Cutler was getting rid of the ball a lot quicker, even left-handed when he had to, and once he even physically placed Kellen Davis in the right place. But Cutler can’t prevent the false starts, and he can’t kick a field goal when his coach curiously elects to go for it on a fourth and 1 in the first quarter. Even in his most resourceful moments, Cutler is certainly not looking any more comfortable and can’t possibly work on erasing bad habits when he is running for his life.
Jon Greenberg: Fiction. Cutler carries blame, but not equal to the line. In the Lions’ loss, Cutler was decisive and improvisational. In past losses, he was not. Cutler has a slew of problems in his game, and he should be held responsible for them, not coddled by a fanbase which looks past his faults. But this line, and this receiving corps, is subpar at best.
Fact or Fiction: Brandon Meriweather is not the player the Bears thought they were getting.
Jeff Dickerson: Fact: Meriweather is out of control on the field, the exact reason he was cut by New England. Instead of accumulating interceptions, Meriweather has been accumulating fines, a trend that is likely to continue as long as the defensive back continues to lead with his head. But all that being said, Meriweather is still probably one of the top two safeties on the roster. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing.
Michael C. Wright: Fact. He’s not, and interestingly, Meriweather is costing this team more than it offered former Bear Danieal Manning prior to the end of last year. Part of the reason for Meriweather’s struggles is simple lack of familiarity with what the Bears are doing on the back end. It takes time for a guy to go from one system to another, and the Bears definitely put Meriweather in a tough spot by asking him to take on such a major role so early. But let’s not lose sight of the fact Meriweather was available in the first place. The fact is coaches don’t let go of good players still under contract. So there’s a reason Patriots coach Bill Belichick deemed it necessary to send Meriweather on his way.
Melissa Isaacson: Fiction. The Bears knew exactly what they were getting. They were just in denial. When a team with the track record of the Patriots discards a former No. 1 draft pick, there’s a reason. Meriweather had problems on and off the field. The Bears wanted a hard-nosed safety. What they got was a player with little to no discipline who is arguably a headhunter to boot.
Jon Greenberg: Fiction. Then again, who knows what the Bears think when they bring these safeties? I’m not sure they scout them at all, or have any idea how guys will fit in their system. Meriweather is a missile-launching safety who freelanced a lot in New England. What’s new? The Pro Bowl designation is largely meaningless. He was an alternate, and voting for that game is so fractured it takes away the importance of being selected.
Fact or Fiction: Frank Omiyale should not play another down for the Bears.
Jeff Dickerson: Fact. Omiyale is a good guy, who works hard and is well-liked by his teammates. But he's simply become a liability on the field. Mike Tice needs to roll the dice with Lance Louis at right tackle and either Chris Spencer or Edwin Williams at right guard until Carimi returns from a knee injury.
Michael C. Wright: Fiction. As bad a performance as Omiyale produced against the Lions, you have to ask yourself: What are the backup alternatives along the offensive line? While Omiyale shouldn’t be in the starting lineup unless absolutely necessary, backup alternatives aren’t necessarily teeming on this team. Ultimately, it’s up to Tice to shuffle the parts along the offensive line to give Cutler the best five up front for protection. If injury forces Omiyale to be one of those guys, so be it. It’s likely this season will be Omiyale’s last in a Bears uniform. But to suggest he should never play a down for this team isn’t wise unless better backup alternatives have magically fallen out of the sky into the team’s locker room.
Melissa Isaacson Fiction. No question, Omiyale has hurt the team when he is on the field. But he wasn’t the only one Monday night and the Bears’ have bigger problems on the offensive line. Carimi will be back at right tackle soon to replace Omiyale, but J’Marcus Webb is the chosen starter at left tackle and was nearly as bad against the Lions. Especially on the offensive line, you can’t just move new bodies in and out and expect a significant improvement. The time to address their personnel woes was and is during the off-season.
Jon Greenberg: Fact. He’s the nicest guy in the room, but he probably shouldn’t be playing professional football anymore. He’s a liability at tackle. He’s only playing out of necessity, but it shows how poorly Angelo and Co. protect their multi-million quarterback investment.