Bears move forward without Emery, Trestman
The dysfunction at Halas Hall that led to Monday's firings began before the regular season even started, when seven-time Pro Bowl linebacker Lance Briggs skipped the Monday practice before Game 1 to be at the opening of his barbecue restaurant in California.
That and a litany of other malfunctions, combined with a losing record, led to the firing of head coach Marc Trestman and general manager Phil Emery on Monday. Most, if not all, of Trestman's staff is also expected to be fired.
The end for Emery and Trestman came a day after the Bears completed a 5-11 season, the franchise's worst record in 10 years. In his two seasons, Trestman's teams compiled a 13-19 record, including a five-game losing streak to end this season.
Bears chairman George McCaskey and president and CEO (for now) Ted Phillips will hold a news conference at 4 p.m. today at Halas Hall. Earlier, the team issued a statement announcing that McCaskey and Phillips had informed Emery and Trestman on Monday morning they would not be returning for the 2015 season.
The McCaskeys have not been known to make quick changes when things went badly, but they parted with Emery after three seasons and with Trestman after just two.
Trestman issued this brief statement: "I want to thank Virginia, George and the McCaskey family, Phil Emery and Ted Phillips for giving me the opportunity to be the head coach of the Chicago Bears. I also want to thank all the coaches and players who gave us everything we asked over the past two years.
"I have tremendous respect for this organization. Chicago is a special city with great fans. I appreciate the warm support my family and I received. "
The search for successors will begin immediately and popular names such as Chicago-area native Mike Shanahan and fired New York Jets coach Rex Ryan (a Stevenson High School grad) have been mentioned prominently. It should be a major rebuilding project for the Bears, who have made the playoffs just once in the last eight seasons and had only one player voted to the Pro Bowl this season.
The first step is expected to be the hiring of Emery's replacement, or possibly a head of football operations to oversee the entire football operation, a position that has been missing from the franchise hierarchy.
While Shanahan could also be considered for a GM job or higher, former Bears scout Chris Ballard and Baltimore Ravens assistant GM Eric DeCosta are possible candidates. Ballard is the Kansas City Chiefs' director of player personnel.
Emery addressed the media after his dismissal but made a relatively short statement and did not take questions.
"This job was an opportunity of a lifetime," Emery said. "My only regret is that we didn't win enough games for that opportunity to continue. Thank you to all the Bears fans that have reached out to me the last three years, who have stopped to say hello, who have extended their hand in friendship, and I've had an opportunity to have a conversation with. Your kindness does a lot more for the soul than people can imagine."
Among Emery's missteps was the seven-year, $126.7 million contract extension he gave quarterback Jay Cutler in January. That now looks like a colossal waste of money after Cutler led the NFL in turnovers this season and had a another roller-coaster-like season. Just as damaging was Emery's selection of Trestman over reigning coach of the year Bruce Arians two years ago. While the Bears have sunk to 5-11, Arians has the 11-5 Cardinals in the playoffs despite using four quarterbacks because of injuries.
Going back to his first year, Emery's inaugural draft pick in 2012 was Shea McClellin, who has never come close to playing up to his first-round draft status.
It was more than just the subpar product on the field, however, that derailed Trestman and Emery.
Because of injuries, Briggs played in only eight games this season, and even in those he started he played like someone who had one foot out the door and was mailing it in. It didn't stop him from being critical of what he considered a lack of discipline on the team.
A couple weeks before Briggs chose ribs over reps, tight end Martellus Bennett body-slammed cornerback Kyle Fuller during training camp after the rookie had the temerity to try to yank the ball out of the tight end's hands after a reception.
Emery, who spent most of the season in hiding, made a rare appearance before the media to announce Bennett's suspension, which lasted three days. Bennett did not help his case when he was asked, minutes after the altercation and within earshot of Emery, about a possible fine and said, "I can afford it."
Brandon Marshall, as has been his custom in past NFL stops in Denver and Miami, was an off-and-on distraction throughout the season and a disruptive presence at times in the locker room. It started with his weekly show on Showtime's "Inside the NFL," and included his defiance of an assistant coach during an early-season practice, along with his plummeting production and multiple injuries.
There also were plenty of failures on the field to justify the firings. Coming off a humiliating 51-23 loss to the New England Patriots, the Bears had a bye week, giving the coaching staff two weeks to prepare for the rival Green Bay Packers, and that was the beginning of the end for this dysfunctional team.
The 55-14 loss to the Packers in Week 10 was worse than the lopsided score indicated. The Packers raced to a 42-0 lead at halftime as Aaron Rodgers threw TD passes on each of the Packers' first five possessions. The 42-point halftime deficit was the largest in Bears history, the second straight game in which they established a record for defensive futility. They trailed the Patriots 38-7 at halftime in their previous game.
Over a three-game stretch that concluded with the Green Bay massacre, the Bears were outscored 94-7 in the first half.
Then there was quarterback Jay Cutler being tossed under the bus by offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer, who bemoaned the quarterback's game-management skills to an NFL Network reporter after the Bears' Week 14 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
The criticisms were completely valid, but the breaking of trust between Kromer and players was irreparable.
For whatever reason, Kromer outed himself as the anonymous source of a story that said team officials had "buyer's remorse" since completing Cutler's contract.
Kromer apologized to Cutler and the offense, tearfully, according to reports, and both parties claimed they could continue to work together.
Marshall made a bad situation worse when he said that he, too, would have buyer's remorse over Cutler's deal.
Emery also fired Lovie Smith after a 10-6 season in 2012. But the Emery-Trestman tandem turned that team into an 8-8 squad in 2013, their first year together, and the rapid descent continued this year with a 5-11 mark that left the Bears in the cellar of the NFC North.
Just before he vanished from the podium out a back door at Halas Hall, Emery waxed philosophical.
"To borrow a lyric or a line from Carrie Newcomer," he said: "We stand breathless on the clean edge of change. So it's time to change and to move forward. Go Bears! Thanks for your time."
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Bears head coachesThe next Bears head coach will be the 15th in team history. Here's a glance at the head coaching records since the start of franchise in 1920 as the Decatur Staleys:
Marc Trestman (2013--2014): 13-19-0 (.406)
Lovie Smith (2004--2012): 81-63-0 (.563)
Dick Jauron (1999--2003): 35-45-0 (.438)
Dave Wannstedt (1993--1998): 40-56-0 (.417)
Mike Ditka (1982--1992): 106-62-0 (.631)
Neill Armstrong (1978--1981): 30-34-0 (.469)
Jack Pardee (1975--1977): 20-22-0 (.476)
Abe Gibron (1972--1974): 11-30-1 (.268)
Jim Dooley (1968--1971): 20-36-0 (.357)
George Halas (1958--1967): 75-53-6 (.588)
Paddy Driscoll (1956--1957): 14-9-1 (.609)
George Halas (1946--1955): 75-42-2 (.641)
Luke Johnsos and Hunk Anderson (1942--1945): 23-11-2 (.676)
George Halas (1933--1942): 84-22-4 (.799)
Ralph Jones (1930--1932): 24-10-7 (.706)
George Halas (1920--1929): 84-31-17 (.744)