Rivera, Harbaugh should be on the list

 
 
Published12/1/2009 12:03 AM

It is not difficult to imagine the search for scapegoats as the 2009 Bears season crawls toward a merciful conclusion.

If Ted Phillips, Jerry Angelo and Lovie Smith somehow keep their jobs, they will sit around and raise a toast to each other and laugh about how they got their long-term security that warms them through a cold winter like a giant McCaskey Snuggie.

 

Not a one of them earned those deals, but gifts they were and gifts they did accept.

On the other side will be the unemployed, almost certain to pay the price for the Three Stooges' ineptitude, not to mention the no-shows over the next three home games.

Someone's going to pay for the lost revenue, and if it's those three, well, we still have to see it to believe it.

If the Stooges stay, you've got to think several coaches will go, among them probably offensive coordinator Ron Turner and defensive coordinator Bob Babich.

The real defensive boss, of course, is Smith, and that's where it gets tricky.

Smith, who is often portrayed as a sweet and kind man, is also the guy who got drunk on power after lucking into an NFC title and fired a genuine defensive coordinator in Ron Rivera.

The former Bears linebacker was not only good at his job, and popular in Chicago, but he also wanted to pressure the QB more often, play less of Smith's bend-and-break style, and was viewed as Smith's replacement-in-training.

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So while you're out pondering new coaches and a legitimate scheme, why not Rivera as the next head coach?

And if it's passion you want, take a look at Stanford's Jim Harbaugh, another ex-Bear and the antithesis of Smith, who ousted Rivera and made his pal, Babich, the defensive coordinator.

Having seen that experiment wither, Smith took control this year, a dangerous move that left him weak and exposed.

So while Rivera is part of a six-game winning streak in San Diego, leading the Chargers' defense and piling up 21 sacks in the last 6 games - the Bears have 22 all season - Smith must figure out a way to spin this for 2010.

Does he demote Babich yet again, and find another DC willing to work on a one-year contract, knowing 2010 could be the end of the current regime?

That's a problem on offense as well, where most want Turner to go and there's talk of brilliant offensive minds replacing him.

But who wants a one-year job?

Besides, what's an offensive coordinator supposed to do with this squad?

Good luck implementing a wide-open scheme without an offensive line.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

I began the year thinking Turner was far too conservative, that his offensive style didn't suit Cutler's strengths, and that the Bears needed an upgrade.

Now I admire Turner for at least trying to keep Cutler from an early grave, at the expense of his own job.

Turner sees a quarterback who was supposedly invincible and possessing unmatched confidence and ability, now a beaten-down, shell of a man who forces throws and gets hit on nearly every pass play.

Turner could open up the offense and try to make the big plays everyone wants to see, but there are only a few problems with that.

First of all, the line can't block.

There's no running game to keep pass rushers honest.

There's also the matter of receivers being unable to catch, and that they don't see the same hot reads as Cutler.

To be on the same page, the receivers would first have to find that page in the playbook, and based on reactions from both Cutler and Turner, that's not happening.

Instead, Turner had Cutler throwing those short, immediate passes Sunday against Minnesota to boost his staggering confidence and to keep him alive, and still he got hit very hard at least a half dozen times, and still he threw a couple more picks.

If he had no conscience, and was more interested in his own survival, Turner could open it up, let Cutler stand there and throw bomb after bomb, and take beating after beating.

As it is, Turner is trying to manage Cutler's psyche, which Cutler admitted last week has taken as bad a beating as his body.

"With the number of interceptions that I have this year, it's definitely in the back of my mind,'' Cutler told the Minnesota media on a conference call. "To go out there and throw like I have always thrown, it's tough. I have to overcome all the interceptions and all the things that have happened offensively. It's definitely difficult.''

He sounds positively cooked.

Turner has that in mind when he tries to get the ball out of Cutler's hands quickly. Even while knowing he's probably a goner, Turner is putting Cutler's physical and emotional health above his own financial health.

If nothing else, you have to give that to the man, especially knowing he's a likely scapegoat at the end of a horribly disappointing season.

So will the McCaskeys allow the Three Stooges to again turn Lake Forest into Spin City, or will they try to fix this mess?

One has the right to dream.

brozner@dailyherald.com

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