NFC North: Marc Trestman

Veteran NFL kicker Jay Feely thinks “Jay Cutler can win on the field,” but questioned the quarterback’s ability to assume a true leadership role for the Chicago Bears.

Feely
Cutler
Feely signed with the Bears back in December as a replacement for starter Robbie Gould, who suffered a season-ending right quadriceps injury. Feely was asked during Mad Dog Sports Radio on Wednesday whether he believes Cutler is capable of developing into the club’s answer at the position.

“Not as a leader, no,” Feely said. “That’s not who he is. You’re going to have a vacuum there. So you have to know that as a general manager or a head coach, ‘Hey, we’re not going to have that leadership from this position, so we’ve really got to have other guys that are going to step up and are going to be our verbal leaders.”

Cutler didn’t serve in such a capacity during the 2014 season, according to Feely, who mentioned the quarterback and former head coach Marc Trestman lacked leadership. Cutler set the franchise’s single-season record for completions (370), and hit career highs in completion percentage (66) and passing touchdowns (28) last season. However, Cutler also tied Philip Rivers for throwing the most interceptions in the NFL with 18. Cutler also lost six fumbles to lead the league in turnovers.

Trestman benched Cutler for a Dec. 21 loss to the Detroit Lions in favor of Jimmy Clausen.

“I think with Marc Trestman, he was a little awkward when he spoke,” Feely said. “So, he really didn’t connect with guys. You can have that as a coach if you have a strong locker room. If you don’t have leaders in the locker room, [and] you don’t have a coach who really inspires, then you end up having a losing season.”

The same could be said for lacking leadership at the quarterback position, according to Feely. Cutler passed for 3,212 yards in 2014, which ranked as the most in his six years with the Bears and second best of his career. But the Bears need more than solid statistics at the position.

“Here’s my thing with quarterbacks in general,” Feely said. You are the person that every guy in that locker room looks to. When there’s a problem, they look to the quarterback. They want the quarterback to lead. When you have a quarterback who doesn’t like to lead, it leaves a hole in the team. When a quarterback is not a leader, there’s always going to be a vacuum there. Jay Cutler can win on the field, but he would be so much better and the team would be so much better if you’re a leader off the field as well. And I never saw him lead verbally. If he doesn’t want to do that, he doesn’t want to be that person, it’s not in his DNA, then you’re always going to have a vacuum there that somebody else needs to step into and fill.”
By the time the team sent out a two-sentence news release at 10:03 a.m. ET Monday, "Bears Make Change At General Manager And Head Coach Positions," millions of printed words and countless hours of talk perhaps had already determined that the most thorough one-day house-cleaning in Chicago Bears' history was a foregone conclusion.

[+] EnlargeGeorge McCaskey
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesBears owner George McCaskey didn't waste any time firing GM Phil Emery and coach Marc Trestman after a disappointing season.
If so, it would be unprecedented.

According to team chairman George McCaskey Monday, his mother and Bears matriarch Virginia McCaskey was "pissed off" at the state of the team. It seems to safe to infer that her anger and disappointment stemmed in part from the crush of public/media reaction which, in the end, neither she nor George could ignore.

That's not to imply Monday's decision to fire Emery and Trestman was solely reactionary instead of reasonable. From the inconsistent and clumsy handling of such team issues as the suspension of Martellus Bennett in training camp, the inaction over Lance Briggs missing practice to open his restaurant and the hands-off treatment of Brandon Marshall, Trestman's leadership abilities are easy to pick apart.

And from the management's missteps of hiring Trestman, drafting Shea McClellin with the first pick, giving Cutler a $126 million contract and allowing the quarterback to start in Week 17, ditto on Emery.

Throw in the epic blowout defeats; the league-leading pre-snap penalties and the ever-increasing impression that if the inmates were not running the asylum, they were at least running amok, and the decision Monday was a rather elementary one.

A decade or so ago, critical columns in the local newspapers and chitchat on local radio certainly were given no heed when it came to the fates of Dave Wannstedt, Dick Jauron and Jerry Angelo. It took two 4-12 campaigns for the Bears to fire Wannstedt, four losing seasons to say goodbye to Jauron and much hemming and hawing to pull the plug after 11 years on Angelo, while forcing new GM Emery to begin his campaign with a lame-duck coach in Lovie Smith (whose firing Emery could justify when Smith's team missed the playoffs for the fifth time in six seasons).

But never before have the people spoken at the volume they did through all means possible this season, so much so that a full-page ad in the Chicago Tribune the day before the firings practically begged for fans' forgiveness, saying, "We Won't Make Excuses. We Will Thank You For Your Support."

Trestman is the first Bears coach to be fired after only two seasons as the previous tendency to avoid paying coaches for unused years on their contracts did not apply here. Nor did it matter that both Emery and Trestman are nice, respectable men (see: Wannstedt and Jauron).

Even under the most ferocious criticism the past few weeks, there was still the question of whether the team would keep Emery while firing Trestman because it was simply hard to imagine the Bears would make such a decisive, sweeping change. The fact that they did may be testimony to a new decisiveness within the Bears' organization. Or it may be that indeed, Virginia McCaskey had heard enough because it was simply impossible not to hear.

The people spoke. And this time, maybe made the Bears' decision an easy one.

Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery spoke confidently Sunday during a pregame interview on WBBM, as if business would continue as usual at Halas Hall in the wake of the team's season-ending 13-9 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.

"Obviously, it's at the end of the season," Emery said. "So on Monday, we'll have a team meeting. Our coaches will hold that meeting. After that, they'll start evaluating players. We've already done that from a personnel perspective, and we'll move forward."

Perhaps Emery knows what the coaches don't at this point, which is unlikely, as multiple staffers believe they'll be fired as soon as Monday, according to sources. But regardless of whether Emery or the coaching staff is retained, several key issues need to be addressed, and it's unclear whether it can all be accomplished in one short offseason.

The new league year and the start of free agency fall on March 10. Then on April 30, the 2015 NFL draft kicks off in Chicago. A few months later, in July, the Bears begin training camp at Olivet Nazarene University.

Somewhere between now and July, the Bears need to make decisions and moves that push the franchise in the right direction. Coach Marc Trestman believes he has the answers and plans to present them soon at Halas Hall.

"I expect to be back. I couldn't look at it any other way," Trestman told reporters after the finale in Minneapolis. "My plan is to continue to finalize my notes now that this season is over and make sure that [when] the opportunity arises, I'll be able to explain how we fix this thing. All I know right now is we've got a meeting tomorrow at 11 o'clock with the team, and we're moving forward from there. Nobody understands the situation better than I do. I've lived it every day for the last two years and certainly the last six months. So I think I have some expertise in that area. In putting my thoughts down, I don't think there's anybody in a better position to assess it other than myself and Phil [Emery]."

In stumbling to a 5-11 record and five consecutive losses to close the season, the Bears fielded a roster in 2014 featuring an NFL-high 17 rookies, which would be a positive heading into the offseason, if the majority of the young players were promising. Some are, no doubt, but for the majority that's not the case.

Regardless of whether the organization drops the general manager or the coaching staff, once the preliminary decisions are made in the coming days, the Bears need to upgrade the personnel on both sides of the ball.

Offensively, the Bears possess several talented weapons at the skill positions and adequate blockers in the middle. But the club needs to add a legitimate deep threat in the slot to take some of the pressure off Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery on the outside, in addition to acquiring some depth at the position.

[+] EnlargeMarc Trestman
AP Photo/David GoldmanDespite a five-game losing streak to end the 2014 season, Bears coach Marc Trestman expects to return to the organization for 2015.
Most importantly on that side of the ball, the Bears need to figure out what to do with enigmatic quarterback Jay Cutler, who finished Sunday's game with a passer rating of 75.2 on 23-of-36 passes for 172 yards and no touchdowns. Cutler's 2015 salary of $15.5 million is already fully guaranteed, and if he remains on the roster on the third day of the new league year, a $10 million guarantee on his 2016 salary kicks in. Given the team's decision to bench Cutler after a horrid performance during a 31-15 loss to New Orleans on Dec. 15, his future appears to be murky, and there's no guarantee a new coaching staff or general manager would be on board with the quarterback leading the 2015 Bears.

Trestman said Sunday he believes Cutler can be part of the team's plans in 2015, but that's not set in stone, either. Given Cutler's immense arm talent, there's no doubt a market will exist for the quarterback's services this offseason. But the Bears need to make a move on that front sooner rather than later.

Cutler said he hasn't considered the possibility of having to play for a fifth offensive coordinator since 2009 if the team fires the current coaching staff.

"I don't think anyone knows what's going to happen," Cutler told reporters. "No one knows what direction we're going. I'm pretty confident we'll know soon. I don't think it's going to be something that's going to drag out. We won't consider anything until decisions are made, then we'll take it from there."

On defense, Chicago needs a severe talent makeover, mainly in the secondary at both safety positions, as Ryan Mundy was basically a career backup before joining the Bears, while Chris Conte isn't likely to be brought back, as his deal is set to expire. The Bears could also help themselves by acquiring at least one cornerback to pair with promising rookie Kyle Fuller, as veteran Tim Jennings has underperformed since signing a four-year deal last January worth $24 million. Perhaps he's better suited, at this point, to play nickel. Charles Tillman isn't likely to return either, considering he's finished on the injured reserve in each of the past two seasons, due to tearing the same triceps muscle, and the club also needs to upgrade at linebacker, as franchise stalwart Lance Briggs isn't expected back.

"It's an absolute necessity this offseason. You don't just sit around and talk about what happened last year," defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff told WBBM just hours before Sunday's game. "Get up and do something about it every day; weight room, running. Everyone individually knows what they need to get ready for next year. So don't dream about it. Go do it."

Same goes for this franchise's ownership.

Matt Forte eyes milestones

December, 24, 2014
12/24/14
5:15
PM ET
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Matt Forte remained upbeat Wednesday despite missing out on being named to his third Pro Bowl as the running back eyes a couple of significant milestones Sunday when the Chicago Bears face the Minnesota Vikings.

With 94 receptions through 15 games, Forte needs just eight more to break the NFL single-season record for receptions by a running back, set in 1995 by Larry Centers (101 receptions). In addition, if Forte gains 13 yards rushing against the Vikings and catches six passes, he’ll join LaDainian Tomlinson as just the second player in NFL history to finish a season with 1,000 rushing yards and 100 catches.

[+] EnlargeMatt Forte
Brian Kersey/Getty ImagesMatt Forte is just eight receptions from setting the NFL record for running backs in a single season.
“It’s important, but not the most important thing to me,” Forte said of the single-season record for receptions by a running back. “I’m not going to go out looking to get eight catches. I’m really just going out there to run the ball, catch the ball, block, and do what I’ve got to do for us to be successful on offense and help us win the game.”

Pro Bowl guard Kyle Long, however, wants to make the record reality for Forte.

“I was gonna butt in there when he was talking about how it’s not important to him,” Long joked. “We’re in the National Football League, and I’m sitting next to a guy who has an opportunity to catch the single most passes in NFL history for a running back in a season. I know I’m gonna be yelling at our quarterback to throw him the ball. Are you kidding me? What a tremendous honor to get to play with a guy like Matt and have an opportunity to be a part of something like that that will stand for a really long time.”

Bears coach Marc Trestman doesn’t plan to alter the game plan to make sure Forte reaches his milestones. With nothing left to play for, it would be easy for the team to turn its attention to such matters.

“Last games, oftentimes there’s those types of things that are up on the table,” Trestman said. “But I think the primary focus is to do what we have to do on each and every play to win the game, and those things will usually take care of themselves.”

That’s fine by Forte.

“I’m just looking forward to this weekend. I’ve got a chance to do something special this week,” Forte said. “Obviously I’m focused on winning the game first. But on this offense, we’ve obviously this year underachieved, but there’s still room to go out there and improve and finish strong in the last game. It’s not just, ‘Oh, it’s the last game of the season.’ You’ve got to go out there and prove that you deserve to be in the league. We’ve got another chance to go out and play well.”
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker hears criticism from the fans regarding the Bears' struggling defense, but it's not anything worse than what he hears at home, considering his wife Jo-Ellyn and her family all hail from Chicago.

"You know, they want to win, too," Tucker said. "My wife is from Chicago. She's from the South side and so her mom, her whole family is here. They're all Bears fans. There's a little bit of, ‘You spend all that time over there and that's the best you can do?' type of thing."

With Chicago mired in a four-game losing streak, the club's defense in Sunday's loss to the Detroit Lions, held an opponent to fewer than 31 points for the first time since Nov. 23, when the Bears limited Tampa Bay to 13 points during a 21-13 win. The season-finale at Minnesota could be the coaching staff's last game together, as it's expected Bears coach Marc Trestman and the staff will be let go at the conclusion of the season. Still, nobody is concerned about what might take place next week, as the staff is focused on prepping for the Minnesota Vikings.

[+] EnlargeTrestman
AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast"When you're sitting here with the record that we have, everybody's got something to say about it," Marc Trestman said.
"No one is happy at this time about where we are," Tucker said. "You can't sugarcoat it and think everyone is just on Cloud 9 right now. But we have to be mature about it. You have to handle it. You're going to have some moments, and we'll just work through it. We still have one more game to play, and so that's where our focus is. That's why it's difficult for me to reflect right now because we're not in reflect mode. We're in preparation mode for our last game. There will be plenty of time to reflect and look back. Right now, we've got a really big game ahead of us."

Trestman empathized with Tucker. After all, the team's high-priced offense underachieved in 2014 perhaps more than the embattled defense with Trestman presiding over it all. The team has endured plenty of off-the-field drama, too, with issues regarding trust between players and coaches in the locker room, and the benching of Jay Cutler just to name a couple.

"We're all getting earfuls, believe me, and certainly Mel's getting his share," Trestman said. "We all are, as we said. When you're sitting here with the record that we have, everybody's got something to say about it. That's part of the job we have right now, and we've had, is to deal with it and move forward and get our guys ready to play. That's where our responsibility lies, is the day-to-day process of doing our best as coaches to get our guys ready to play. That's our job."

That doesn't make it any easier for the staff to deal with, especially considering the high expectations entering the 2014 season. The Bears were coming off a promising 8-8 campaign in Trestman's first season at the helm. Like other teams around the league, the Bears have dealt with their fair share of injuries. But Trestman, Tucker and special-teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis all refused Tuesday to make excuses.

On offense, seven players with three years or fewer of experience have started at least one game. In fact, the Bears lined up on offense against the Lions with their eighth combination of starters along the offensive line. Defensively, the Bears have lined up with 11 combinations of starters in addition to losing five players, including four starters, to season-ending injuries.

Asked if he dreaded what's known around the NFL as Black Monday -- the day many coaching staffs are fired -- DeCamillis said, "No," as he's dealt with similar situations during nearly 30 years as a coach in the league.

"You're going to say, ‘He's not telling the truth,' but you deal with this," DeCamillis said. "I've been on staffs that it's an issue. I'm just trying to roll through this thing and try to get ready for Minnesota. You have quiet times where you think about that stuff. But this isn't a quiet time right now. I've got to go back upstairs and figure out a way to cover these guys this week because they're definitely explosive. I'll worry about that stuff whenever it happens I guess. What did you say, Monday?"
Chicago Bears coach Marc Trestman remained noncommittal on Monday about keeping Jimmy Clausen in the starting lineup, coming off the quarterback’s performance Sunday during a 20-14 loss to the Detroit Lions.

“We’ll talk about it today,” Trestman said Monday on WBBM Newsradio 780. “I thought he had a good performance. He needed some help, he didn’t get it; had a few drops along the way, had a couple of missed assignments up front in the running game that we could have had a little bit more yardage in the run game.”

Clausen
With Jay Cutler, the NFL’s highest-paid offensive player, backing him up, Clausen passed for two touchdowns and an interception in the loss to Detroit, generating a passer rating of 77.0. Clausen passed for just 181 yards on the day against a Lions defense that entered the contest ranked No. 1 in the NFL in points allowed (17.0) and second in total yards (300.3-yard average).

The quarterback was able to do that with little prep time and without starting left guard Kyle Long, who was a last-minute scratch due to a hip injury.

“I thought he handled himself, for two practices, and having not played for four years, certainly a good performance,” Trestman said.

When Trestman first announced the decision to bench Cutler in favor of Clausen, the coach paused for nearly five seconds when asked whether general manager Phil Emery was on board with the move. Trestman declined to revisit the decision when asked whether benching Cutler was the right move.

“Well, you never look back in this business. You can’t do that,” Trestman said. “You can only move forward, and you have to live with the decisions that you’ve made.”

Obviously, a major component of that is whether Trestman will keep his job as head coach given the decision to bench Cutler, along with myriad other factors such as the team’s disappointing record with so many offensive weapons after a promising 2013 campaign, not to mention serious concerns expressed inside the locker room regarding what players view as a lack of accountability for some and uneven discipline levied by the coach.

Trestman indicated ownership has not yet hinted at his fate.

“As I said to the media during the last couple of weeks, when you’re a 5-10 coach, everything is on the table,” Trestman said. “All I can say is inside everybody has been very supportive.”
CHICAGO -- The body-language police likely focused a critical eye on Jay Cutler during Chicago’s 20-14 loss Sunday to the Detroit Lions, but behind the scenes, the benched quarterback spent extra time at Halas Hall preparing Jimmy Clausen for his first start since his rookie season with the Carolina Panthers in 2010.

Cutler
“He was involved during the week in the meetings, actively and vocally involved,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said of Cutler. “Today, he did what you would expect him to do. He was with Jimmy and [quarterbacks coach] Matt [Cavanaugh] between series and was part of the dialogue.”

Clausen threw two touchdown passes and an interception, with a passer rating of 77.0. But with just two days of prep time, Clausen said Cutler and rookie David Fales stayed with him until nearly 9 p.m. those nights at the team’s facilities.

When Clausen signed with the team in June, Cutler immediately took the backup quarterback under his wing.

“We only had two days to prepare for this game, so we stayed pretty much until 8:30 p.m. every single night, trying to watch as much tape as possible, get all the calls down,” Clausen said. “Get everything down to make sure we were prepared for this game. But Jay was great. David Fales was great in helping me to go through all the calls, watching the film. Staying real late, they helped me out a lot.”
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears coach Marc Trestman detailed Thursday what sounded like a meticulous approach in making the decision to bench quarterback Jay Cutler, but most of the players found out about the move through social media instead of from the man in charge.

“We’d like for everything to come from in-house first, but at the end of the day, it didn’t work out like that,” said left tackle Jermon Bushrod, who added the team held a meeting Thursday “to cover up what got out yesterday.”

Cutler
Clausen
Trestman described a process in which he met with Cutler and backup Jimmy Clausen “to tell them my intentions and walk them through the process of how this was gonna be handled,” before sitting down later in the day with general manager Phil Emery to “talk to him about my decision, and finalize it on our staff meeting” Wednesday night. Before Trestman informed the team, however, ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter posted a tweet breaking news of the coach’s decision to bench Cutler in favor of Clausen.

Trestman was asked Thursday whether he was concerned about news of the decision to bench Cutler leaking through social media before he actually informed the team.

“The normal course of events is I wanted to make sure the quarterbacks knew my intent. The biggest part of this, I wanted the team to know, hear from me first,” Trestman said. “And we all know that in this day and age it's very difficult to keep some of those things [quiet]. I mean, it was assumed that eventually it could get out during the course of the day, but my thoughts were to respect my team. I wanted them to hear it from me first. I wanted them to know I spoke with the quarterbacks. They knew about it. And ultimately I wanted them to know they knew about it before it got out, which was critically important.”

Obviously, that’s not what took place.

“I found out on Twitter; not ideal,” left guard Kyle Long said.

Cornerback Charles Tillman on “Mike & Mike” on ESPN radio said he found out about the news on Twitter, too.

“Didn’t really matter to me,” said tight end Martellus Bennett when asked if he would rather have heard about Cutler’s benching from Trestman. “Half the s--- I read, I don’t believe anyway. So it doesn’t matter to me.”

Bears tight ends coach Andy Bischoff sent a text message to Bennett informing him of the news.

“It was surprising at first to hear the news, obviously,” Long said. “But we have the utmost confidence in the people upstairs. You get torn between a decision involving one of your good friends and your quarterback. But you have to put emotions and opinions to the side when you’re doing something like this because the bottom line is, I know [Detroit defensive tackle Ndamukong] Suh's still going to be lined up in the three-technique on Sunday, and that won’t change. Not much changes in terms of what we have to do.”
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- One major component swaying the Chicago Bears' decision to hire Marc Trestman was his ability to coax the best from quarterbacks, but the coach admitted Wednesday he hasn’t been able to accomplish that endeavor with Jay Cutler.

“I think that’s evident I haven’t up to this point,” Trestman said. “Am I working at it? Yes. We’ve seen moments, but we haven’t done it on a consistent basis. I can’t hide from that.”

Cutler won’t let him.

[+] EnlargeMarc Trestman
AP Photo/David Goldman"I haven't been able [to coax the best from Jay Cutler] and we haven't been able to do the things that we want to get done," Marc Trestman said.
During a nationally televised loss Monday night to the New Orleans Saints, Cutler tossed three interceptions and produced a season-low passer rating of 55.8. Cutler also generated a total QBR of 6.8 against the Saints, which registered as his second-worst performance of the season in that category (6.0 QBR in Week 10).

The highest-paid offensive player in the NFL this season, Cutler currently leads the league in turnovers (24). On a per-play basis, Cutler has averaged a turnover every 33.3 snaps this season, which ranks as third-worst among all qualified players in the NFL, according to ESPN Stats & Information. What’s more is Cutler’s turnover rate is nearly twice as high as the average qualified NFL quarterback this season (the average is a turnover every 65.3 snaps).

“I haven’t been able [to coax the best from Cutler] and we haven’t been able to do the things that we want to get done,” Trestman said. “We’re working towards that. But the answer to that is obvious. I’m trying to give you the most truthful answer and that is, we’ve seen moments of it, but it’s not where we need to go. It’s not where we need to be. But it’s not all about Jay. It’s about our entire offense, working together to get it done.”

ESPN’s Jon Gruden hired Trestman back in 2001 to serve as a senior assistant with the Oakland Raiders, and during the broadcast said the Bears coach should consider benching Cutler and taking a look at backup Jimmy Clausen. Trestman indicated Wednesday he’s not quite ready to sit Cutler.

“Jon certainly has a right to his opinion, and each and every week we go through our evaluations all the way around,” Trestman said. “As I said, Jon’s got a right to his opinion.”

For the better part of the season, Trestman has talked extensively about the team’s great weeks of preparation, and admitted after a Nov. 10 blowout loss at Green Bay, to being “confounded” by the team’s inability to transfer the groundwork laid in practice to the games.

Against the Saints, the Bears converted just 2 of 12 third downs, which led to the club’s defense being on the field for 33 minutes and 31 seconds as Drew Brees ripped Chicago for 375 yards passing and three touchdowns.

Asked whether he was still confounded by Chicago’s preparation not transferring to games, Trestman acknowledged the club still hasn’t found answers, which for the organization, should be troubling considering just two outings remain in the 2014 season. At this point, it’s unclear whether a thorough offseason examination would adequately reveal all that ails Chicago’s offense.

“We haven’t been able to answer that question. We have to be honest with that,” Trestman said. “I’m being honest with you, we haven’t seen that. We haven’t been able to unlock that, and that’s the reason we’re 5-9.”
Every now and then, rivals back one another, and that’s precisely what took place Tuesday when Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers ripped Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer for criticizing Jay Cutler as an anonymous source in an NFL Network report.

Rodgers told the NFL Network he was “baffled” by the situation, and criticized Kromer’s behavior while expressing empathy for what Cutler endured in the week leading up to Chicago’s loss to the New Orleans Saints on "Monday Night Football."

“I would have a major problem if somebody said something like that,” Rodgers said. “I think anybody that plays the position, you can’t help but empathize with Jay for that situation. You talk all the time about being connected, being a unit, believing in each other. But if you have unnamed sources, people out there cutting you down, and then you find out it’s the person calling the plays… that would be really hard to deal with, to look at him the same way.”

[+] EnlargeCutler
Matt Marton/USA TODAY SportsBears quarterback Jay Cutler was sacked seven times against New Orleans and threw three interceptions.
Kromer admitted to the team during a meeting he’d been the anonymous source in an NFL Network report in which he criticized Cutler’s game-management skills, specifically his refusal to check out of bad run plays.

During that meeting, Kromer apologized to Cutler, who said he “wasn’t angry” with the offensive coordinator.

But the entire situation resonated profoundly throughout the organization, with Bears general manager Phil Emery chiming in Monday night during the WBBM pregame show to vent his feelings.

"I’ve had to step back this week and let the emotions of those events quell down a little bit so that I was in position to listen and work through the processes and the structure we have to arrive at a conclusion that was in the best interest of the team,” Emery said. “I was very angry, to be honest with you, with what happened. Disappointed, upset, like many of our fans and like many of our players, which was obvious because that’s how the information got out, in terms of Aaron’s apology to the team.”

Rodgers told the NFL Network he “felt for Jay that he was having to deal with that.” Cutler, meanwhile, told WBBM after Monday’s game the entire situation “didn’t affect me preparing for the game” in which he threw three interceptions, was sacked seven times and produced a season-low passer rating of 55.8.

“I was surprised that the coach came out and admitted that it was him. I think, in general, unnamed sources are pretty gutless,” Rodgers said. “But then he comes out and admits it was him. I don't think he deserves any credit for that, but it was interesting that he did."

Rodgers pointed out the differences in work environments in Green Bay and Chicago, and credited coach Mike McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson for creating an atmosphere in which communication rules and minimizes the prospects for such situations as what took place with the Bears from occurring.

"I would have a major problem with that, if [Green Bay offensive coordinator] Tom Clements was saying stuff like that about me -- which he never would, because Tom and I are so close, and I think we have good communication," Rodgers said. "I think there's a way of doing things when you have issues, and it's keeping it in-house.”

Cutler felt the same way, saying he learned early on in his career that it was better to operate that way.

“When I first got in the NFL [with the Denver Broncos], Mike Shanahan made a huge emphasis that things get kept in house. Throughout my nine years I’ve tried to abide by that policy and keep things in-house,” Cutler said. “Some years I’m better than other years. When [Bears coach Marc Trestman] got here, he was of the same method: Let’s try to keep things in house. And I think we’ve done a heck of a job throughout almost two years, haven’t had a lot of leaks, haven’t had a lot of things happen inside the building that have gotten out. Obviously we had something this time get out. It’s not a bad thing. It’s going to happen, and we’re not the first team it’s going to happen to and we won’t be the last team.”
As Chicago stumbles toward its first sub-.500 season since 2009, second-guessing the franchise’s decision to part ways with Lovie Smith after a 10-6 campaign in 2012 has become common, with former NFL coach Tony Dungy saying the organization took Smith for granted.

Dungy was asked in an interview with The Sporting News whether the firing of his longtime friend and opponent in Super Bowl XLI was fair.

Smith
“No, it wasn’t,” said Dungy, who now serves as an NFL analyst on NBC. “But it’s human nature. It’s not necessarily doing what’s best for the organization, it’s hearing a lot from the outside and hearing about disappointment and expectations not being met, and being convinced that a change has to be made.”

The Bears fired Smith on Dec. 31, 2012, a day after the club closed the season with a 26-24 triumph at Detroit to improve to 10-6. Chicago missed the playoffs for the fifth time in six seasons, and the organization believed it was time to head a different direction. So ownership brought aboard Marc Trestman.

Since making the change, the team -- which openly discussed the desire to close in on the Green Bay Packers -- has deteriorated under Trestman’s watch, finishing 8-8 in 2013, and well on the way now to a record worse than that in 2014.

Smith produced at least 10 victories in two of his final three seasons. Having worked for Indianapolis and Tampa Bay as a head coach, Dungy understood the win-now mindset that led to Smith’s ouster.

“Sometimes you can get spoiled by success,” Dungy said. “Nine-, 10-, 11-win seasons, but you didn’t get to the Super Bowl, so that’s unacceptable. You have to strive for more.”

Dungy declined to criticize Trestman, but mentioned Chicago’s front office hasn’t provided the coach enough talent to field a consistently competitive team.

"From the talent part, they’re really a ways away," Dungy said. "You take away some of the guys that Lovie had, [Charles] Tillman, [Julius] Peppers, Brian Urlacher, and you’re gonna be a ways away."

CHICAGO -- A black Vanderbilt cap pulled low over his brow, Jay Cutler plopped down at the podium, took three questions and bailed before the entire media corps had even descended from the locker room to where the Chicago Bears hold press conferences.

Too bad Cutler wasn't as successful escaping the New Orleans Saints in Monday night's 31-15 shellacking in which he tossed three interceptions, suffered seven sacks and finished with a season-low passer rating of 55.8. For a man receiving $22.5 million in 2014 as part of a seven-year contract worth $126.7 million, the production isn't matching up to the salary.

"Just trying to get better for these next two games," Cutler said. "Just going out and trying to get a good performance offensively."

Cutler failed in that endeavor against New Orleans' 31st-ranked defense, a group that forced the quarterback to extend his NFL lead for turnovers (24) as he tossed two of his three interceptions during a first half in which he generated a passer rating of 14.9.

[+] EnlargeCutler
Matt Marton/USA TODAY SportsThe Saints sacked Bears quarterback Jay Cutler seven times on Monday night.
Both Cutler and Bears coach Marc Trestman downplayed the possibility that the quarterback's performance was negatively impacted by the drama permeating the team during the week of preparation. Offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer, during a team meeting last Monday, reportedly tearfully apologized to Cutler and the offense for criticizing the quarterback to an NFL Network reporter after a Dec. 4 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. Kromer revealed he was the anonymous source in the NFL Network report, which stated the organization was feeling buyer's remorse regarding its high-priced quarterback. While Kromer admitted to criticizing Cutler, he denied any other involvement in the report.

"No, I don't think so," Cutler said when asked if the distractions at Halas Hall during the week had a negative impact. "Just have to look at the film. I have to play better. We'll take a look tomorrow and see exactly what slowed us down."

Trestman said the activity at Halas Hall had no impact on the team during the week. "Excellent work during the week, energy, meetings were good," he said. "Absolutely none."

So what happened, then?

The Bears brought aboard Trestman in January 2013 because of his ability to coax the best from quarterbacks. He'd gained a reputation for helping signal-callers such as Steve Young and Rich Gannon improve. In nearly two complete seasons under Trestman, Cutler owns a 10-15 record.

What's worse is that the promise Cutler flashed during his first year working with Trestman sparked general manager Phil Emery to lock up the quarterback with a long-term deal that more and more is appearing to look like an albatross. On top of his NFL-high salary this year, Cutler is scheduled to receive $15.5 million fully guaranteed in 2015.

Such monstrous figures limit Chicago's ability to add more quality players, which wouldn't be as significant an issue if the quarterback were performing at the level of his salary.

As of Dec. 10, five teams around the NFL had at least 14 percent of their salary caps allocated to the quarterback position, with the Pittsburgh Steelers leading the way at 16 percent, followed by the New York Giants (15.9), St. Louis Rams (15.1), Chicago (14.4) and New Orleans (14.4). Obviously, three of those teams have quarterbacks with Super Bowl rings. Even Denver and Green Bay -- teams with Super Bowl-winning signal-callers -- have smaller percentages of their overall caps allocated to the quarterback position than Chicago.

Like Cutler and Trestman, players in the locker room Monday night downplayed the impact of Kromer's confession and apology -- for an act that constitutes a breach of trust -- on the offense's performance against the Saints. The Bears were just 2-of-12 on third-down attempts and lost the total yardage battle 443-278.

"Not at all," right tackle Jordan Mills said when asked about the Kromer situation impacting the offense. "People make mistakes. We're not perfect. That had nothing to do with our focus this week. [Kromer] apologized for it, and we moved on from it. He was sincere about it. But Coach Kromer cares about all of us and he knows we're not perfect, that he's not perfect. None of that affected us. We just need to be more consistent."

Tight end Martellus Bennett likened the offense's struggles to walking through a dark room, arms outstretched, fingers trailing the walls in search of a light switch.

"You can put anything on paper, but when you show up, the game is played on grass," Bennett said. "I think there are some positions on the team that need to step up the leadership and things like that. Overall, I just feel like we need passion to come from certain places, and I don't think the passion is always there. Overall, it just hasn't been there."

So, who's missing the passion?

"Several people," Bennett said. "But I don't really get into the name thing. They know who they are."
CHICAGO -- Former NFL receiver Tim Brown said he was shocked back in January 2013 when the Chicago Bears first hired Marc Trestman.

So watching Trestman's struggles thus far through the 2014 season hasn't been a surprise for the nine-time Pro Bowl receiver, who once said, "I just never saw Trestman as being a head coach."

Forte
Trestman
"It's just another coordinator who failed at a head coaching job," Brown said Saturday during the "Jeff Dickerson and Ari Temkin Show" on ESPN radio. "It doesn't mean he won't be a great coordinator for years to come because I believe he will. But sometimes you have to stay in your lane and play the game the way it's supposed to be played. It's like me going into the league and deciding I want to be a running back. Yeah, I probably could have done it. But I don't know how long or how good I would've been at it."

Brown had posted nine consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons with the Oakland Raiders entering 2002, the year Trestman took over as the team's offensive coordinator. That season, Jerry Rice emerged as the team's leading receiver and Brown finished with 930 yards.

With the Bears mired in a 5-8 record set to host the New Orleans Saints in the rain at Soldier Field, Brown said the only surprising aspect of Chicago's 2014 campaign is the fact it has underachieved with so many talented players on offense.

"You look at the offensive guys here, the Marshalls, the Jefferys, and Forte and even Bennett has been a guy who has played great football for them, and Jay Cutler being a pretty good quarterback in his own right, I think from that standpoint it's surprising that they are where they are. Trestman was a great offensive coordinator. That doesn't necessarily mean you're going to be a great head coach. You look at what's happened with Dennis Allen with the Raiders. He's a great defensive coordinator. But all of the sudden, when you have to manage a whole team, it becomes a different thing, a tougher thing to have happen. So I'm not shocked from that standpoint, man."
CHICAGO -- Former NFL receiver Tim Brown said he was shocked back in January 2013 when the Chicago Bears first hired Marc Trestman.

So watching Trestman's struggles thus far through the 2014 season hasn't been a surprise for the nine-time Pro Bowl receiver, who once said, "I just never saw Trestman as being a head coach."

Forte
Trestman
"It's just another coordinator who failed at a head coaching job," Brown said Saturday during the "Jeff Dickerson and Ari Temkin Show" on ESPN radio. "It doesn't mean he won't be a great coordinator for years to come because I believe he will. But sometimes you have to stay in your lane and play the game the way it's supposed to be played. It's like me going into the league and deciding I want to be a running back. Yeah, I probably could have done it. But I don't know how long or how good I would've been at it."

Brown had posted nine consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons with the Oakland Raiders entering 2002, the year Trestman took over as the team's offensive coordinator. That season, Jerry Rice emerged as the team's leading receiver and Brown finished with 930 yards.

With the Bears mired in a 5-8 record set to host the New Orleans Saints in the rain at Soldier Field, Brown said the only surprising aspect of Chicago's 2014 campaign is the fact it has underachieved with so many talented players on offense.

"You look at the offensive guys here, the Marshalls, the Jefferys, and Forte and even Bennett has been a guy who has played great football for them, and Jay Cutler being a pretty good quarterback in his own right, I think from that standpoint it's surprising that they are where they are. Trestman was a great offensive coordinator. That doesn't necessarily mean you're going to be a great head coach. You look at what's happened with Dennis Allen with the Raiders. He's a great defensive coordinator. But all of the sudden, when you have to manage a whole team, it becomes a different thing, a tougher thing to have happen. So I'm not shocked from that standpoint, man."
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Aaron Kromer broke locker room code and breached the trust of quarterback Jay Cutler, but in the wake of this latest demonstration of dysfunction at Halas Hall, it’s worth pondering what the Chicago Bears brass would actually accomplish now by firing the offensive coordinator. Not that it's been discussed.

While Kromer likely brought about at least a small amount of distrust within the locker room by criticizing Cutler on background to an NFL Network reporter last week, on the flip side, there are players in that locker room who believe the offensive coordinator simply said what needed to be said. According to the Chicago Tribune, Kromer, during a meeting on Monday, made a tearful apology for criticizing Cutler, which led to a report by the network Sunday that the organization is feeling “buyer’s remorse” after signing the signal-caller to a seven-year, $126.7 million contract.

[+] EnlargeAaron Kromer
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsFiring Aaron Kromer for his criticism of QB Jay Cutler wouldn't solve the problems that continue to plague the Bears.
Kromer apologized again during a news conference Friday and Cutler said he respected that and the relationship is good.

Kromer's sentiment shouldn’t come as a surprise. If you buy a Ferrari and it handles like a bobsled, wouldn’t you have buyer’s remorse, too?

“It doesn’t always fall on (Cutler),” Bears receiver Brandon Marshall said Monday during “The Brandon Marshall Show” on ESPN 1000. “I guess that's why those guys are the highest paid players out there because when you win and everything is going good, they get all the glory. When it's bad, they take more than what they should take. But I can understand that. As far as a businessman, I would have buyer's remorse, too."

That’s only natural for a team coming into the season with high hopes hinging on a quarterback the organization believed had finally turned the corner and was poised to finally live up to the promise of his immense physical gifts.

The Bears acquired Cutler from the Denver Broncos in a 2009 trade, and since the quarterback's arrival in Chicago, the team has advanced to the postseason only once (2010). In five-plus seasons with the Bears, Cutler has played in four offensive systems for four coordinators, and it seemed possible the latest revelation could result in the club bringing in No. 5.

But what would that accomplish at this point?

After all, Kromer doesn’t call plays or make important personnel decisions. That’s all on head coach Marc Trestman. Kromer is this team’s offensive coordinator in title only.

Cutler, 31, leads the league in turnovers (a league-high 15 interceptions and six fumbles), but currently owns the highest passer rating (91.7) of his nine-year NFL career.

Trestman on Monday remained committed to Cutler as the club's starting quarterback.

Perhaps he should, considering Cutler was actually involved in the interview process that brought Trestman to Chicago. Let’s also remember the Bears chose Trestman over current Arizona head coach Bruce Arians.

Was it because Cutler preferred the subdued Trestman over the demonstrative, take-charge Arians?

Regardless of what the answer to that question is, the fact is Cutler has been coddled for way too long in Chicago. Some players in the locker room know that. They also probably know that firing Kromer won’t change anything as the man who calls the plays, makes the decisions, and seems to struggle to hold Cutler accountable will still be in place.

Make no mistake, what Kromer said wasn’t wrong. It was just the manner in which he did it.

Ultimately though, while firing Kromer now might restore a little of the trust in the locker room, the truth is such a move would only do what the organization has done all along, and that’s to bend over backwards for a quarterback who isn’t providing real return on investment.

SPONSORED HEADLINES