Commentary

Blaming Angelo won't help Bears now

There will be time to hold GM accountable, but burden falls on coaches to right season

Updated: October 11, 2011, 4:22 PM ET
By Jon Greenberg | ESPNChicago.com

The next time reporters approach him at a game, Jerry Angelo should just point and yell, "Hey, isn't that Theo Epstein in line for beer?" and book it.

Nowadays the Chicago Bears general manager typically only talks through the team website, but he had one of his irregular road mini-press conferences before Monday's 24-13 loss in Detroit. It couldn't have been a worse time for him to defend his general mismanaging. No wonder he refuses to let cameras tape those things. I wouldn't want it on film either.

[+] EnlargeJerry Angelo
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesFive weeks into the season, general manager Jerry Angelo's Bears are reduced to playing for the second NFC wild-card spot.

Under Angelo's watch, the 2011 Bears have the worst offensive line (tight ends included) and the worst group of safeties in the NFL, and maybe the CFL, and arguably a bottom-five group of receivers -- though aside from a drop or two, you can't pin the Lions loss on them.

So there's no protection for Jay Cutler and no defense against big plays. It's a recipe for a 6-10 season and record numbers of angry sports talk radio callers.

Through Columbus Day, the Bears look like a team that got lost on the way to Conference USA and wound up in the NFL.

Heck, maybe Roger Goodell should order the team to stay in London in a couple weeks. At this point, even the hardcore Chicago "Grabowskis" would rather watch Manchester United at Soldier Field the rest of the season.

After Cutler got thumped for four quarters and the safeties got burned like a 2-year-old at the stove, Angelo is the perfect patsy for a loss that dropped the Bears to 2-3 with essentially no chance of catching the Packers or Lions in the NFC North.

After all, Angelo is the guy who told his team's website, "We did everything you could possibly do to that [offensive line] position. Nobody did more than the Chicago Bears."

If that's true, shame on the rest of the NFL. But really, Angelo should be judged by whichever McCaskey is in charge (I think it's the guy who looks like an older Ned Flanders) on his inability to add competent linemen and receivers over the past three seasons.

It's easy to pin blame on Angelo, and kind of fun too, but that's for down the road. Firing him now isn't going to solve the problems that plague the team. All those former head coaches, and the one current one, need to figure out how to win with what the Bears have. It's not too late yet. It might seem like the season is over after five games, but it's not quite true. The second wild-card spot is up for grabs.

That's pretty sad that's the lone positive goal left and we're not even through October, but it's the reality.

If you've watched some of the other teams hovering around 3-2 and 2-3, you know it's not an impossible mission. But at the same time, if you watched the Bears, you know this team looks like it would be an underdog in the Little Caesars Bowl. After beating the Falcons, the Bears have now been shredded by the Packers, Saints and Lions. Still, there's reason to watch and reason to care about the Bears fixing their myriad problems. What else are you going to do, watch hockey?

The defense is unusually bad, but the team's biggest problem, and maybe you've heard this before, is the weak offensive line, the one that Angelo threw everything he had at fixing, and failed. Frank Omiyale is a nice guy, but he should be applying for my open babysitter gig, not protecting Cutler's right side.

I'm no provincial defender of Cutler, but he really didn't have a chance Monday night, and he still gave the Bears a shot, especially in the first half.

The offensive line, if you include tight end Kellen Davis' two, accounted for seven of the team's nine false starts. The Lions brought four or less rushers on 90.5 percent of Cutler's dropbacks, according to ESPN Stats & Information. He was sacked three times and hit six times and was "under duress" on 42.5 percent of his dropbacks (16 of 38), the highest percentage in the NFL this season.

Cutler still looked sharp on the run. He threw tight spirals and played aggressive. Still, in the second half, he didn't look like he had a chance. In some ways, this game was a testament to the fact that he can play under stress. He'll need to keep improving next week against the Vikings, and Matt Forte, the undisputed best player on the team, needs to keep making his own breaks.

We're used to ripping the offense in Chicago. I just finished Jeff Pearlman's Walter Payton opus and the same problems we're familiar with now were beguiling "Sweetness" early in his career. The past is prologue and all that.

But now the defense is failing in alarming fashion. The Lovie Smith defense (See how that works?) is 29th in yards allowed, 28th in rushing yards per game and 27th in passing yards. It is tied for 17th in points allowed. The Bears' defense has been penalized 43 times, the second-most in the NFL. Football Outsiders' advanced metrics are a little more forgiving, but not much.

While the Bears' style of play is sometimes described as "bend, but don't break," that's not the case this season. Chicago's defense has given up big plays all season. In Detroit, Calvin Johnson had a 73-yard touchdown catch on a bomb, and Jahvid Best all but closed it out with an 88-yard TD run in the third quarter.

The return of hobbled safety Chris Harris did nothing to improve the poor play in the defensive backfield of the past three weeks. In fact, he might have made things worse -- if that's possible. The defensive line, hyped as deep and dangerous in the truncated run-up to the season, hasn't performed. The Bears have just nine sacks, tied for 21st in the NFL.

I'm not sure you can blame Angelo for the defense's collapse, though and he and Smith's choices for safety continue to baffle. I'll give Harris a pass for his first game back after a few weeks off, but the rest of the crew just isn't good enough. The $3 million Brandon Meriweather investment isn't paying off. Nice investment for a team that refuses to extend the deal of its best player, Forte, who had another dominant game in Detroit.

It looks like the window is closing for this group. But that's just a gut feeling. It's early still. As ugly as the Bears have played, there is time to fix the problems. But on the flip side, watching this group play 11 more games doesn't sound like the most healthy way to spend the next few months.

The New Year's finale in Minnesota can't come soon enough.

Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.

Jon Greenberg

Columnist, ESPNChicago.com
Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com. He has lived and worked in Chicago since 2003, and is a graduate of Ohio University and the University of Chicago.

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