Bears' uninspiring season ends with loss to Vikings
If any Bears coaches or higher-ups were pinning their hopes for continued employment on Sunday's season finale, they were dashed in a 13-9 loss to the Vikings, the fifth straight loss for the visitors.
The 5-11 finish is the Bears' worst since they had the same mark in 2004. Minnesota finished at 7-9, leaving the Bears in the cellar of the NFC North but with the seventh overall pick in April's draft.
So much for the good news.
The assumption is that head coach Marc Trestman and his entire staff will be fired Monday, and that general manager Phil Emery could go as well. Since starting his first season with a 5-3 record, Trestman's teams have gone 8-16 in the past year-and-a-half. In two seasons, Trestman's teams are 3-9 against the NFC North.
Still, Trestman talked as if it would be business as usual Monday morning at Halas Hall, but his words were not convincing -- at least not as convincing as his team's uninspired play over the last 13 games, which included 10 losses.
"The process is that I'm getting ready (Monday) at 11 and putting a plan in place," Trestman said. "That's my focus and has been, to fix the things we need to fix, and that's how I'm approaching it.
"That's what anybody would expect me to do, and that's what I would expect of myself, is to have a plan in place. I expect to do that and make sure that I weigh my words carefully (Monday) with our team."
Bears chairman George McCaskey -- who will determine the fates of Emery, Trestman and the coaching staff -- has talked of closing the gap between the Green Bay Packers and the Bears, a gap that is wider than ever.
But Trestman said he expects to be back for another season, although he was vague when asked for reasons.
"I don't have to go into the reasons I expect to be back," he said. "I couldn't look at it any other way or with any other kind of focus.
"My plan is to continue to finalize my notes now that the season is over and make sure that (if) that opportunity arises, I'll be able to explain how we fix this thing because we have to get better."
Another inept offensive performance before 52,364 chilly fans at the University of Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium cannot help Trestman's situation. He was touted as everything from a quarterback guru to an offensive genius when hired, but the offense and quarterback Jay Cutler regressed throughout the season.
After scoring 30 or more points six times in Trestman's first season, the Bears never scored more than 28 in 2014. And it got worse as the season went on.
In the season-ending, five-game losing streak, the Bears scored more than 17 points just once. They scored more than 21 just twice in the final 10 games, eight of them losses.
"Certainly we all regressed," Trestman admitted when asked if Cutler had regressed. "I regressed. Our offense regressed dramatically for a number of reasons. I don't think any of us got better. That certainly has showed the last couple of weeks. We didn't get better."
It only got worse at Minnesota, as the Bears failed to reach the end zone. Cutler's mediocre 75.2 passer rating (23 of 36 for 172 yards) Sunday dropped him to 88.6 for the season.
The quarterback was asked if a coaching change would surprise him.
"Hypotheticals," he said, "I'm not going to get into. Whatever happens (Monday) or throughout the week, we'll deal with that when it happens."
After struggling to score on its own against the Vikings, the Bears' offense couldn't even capitalize when it was given advantageous field position by its special teams and defense.
After a 67-yard kickoff return by Marc Mariani, the Bears settled for Jay Feely's third field goal, this one from 35 yards to get them within 13-9 with 8:53 left in the game.
The defensive help came early in the third quarter. Rookie cornerback Kyle Fuller intercepted Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and returned the pick 31 yards to the Minnesota 9.
But even then, the offense, which has been a disappointment all season, couldn't close the deal, moving just two yards. The Bears settled for Feely's 25-yard field goal and a 6-3 lead.
The Bears' lead lasted 72 seconds, when Bridgewater hit Adam Thielen running all alone down the sideline behind cornerback Tim Jennings. The 44-yard touchdown pass gave the Vikings a 10-6 lead.
Now it's just a question of when and how frequently the ax will fall at Halas Hall.
Trestman seems eager for a chance to fix the broken Bears, but that's a chance that may never come.
"Nobody understands the situation better than I do," he said. "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. I don't think there's anybody in a better position to assess it other than myself and Phil (Emery)."
But assessing the damage and repairing it are different. Soon Emery, Trestman and his staff will know if they'll be part of the reclamation project.