Despite having nothing left to play for, the Chicago Bears go into this weekends game against the Detroit Lions with a lot of questions that can be answered.
For Starters, a great game by Jay Cutler will not erase the pain from the 2009 season, but it will go a long way to helping build the fans confidence in him for 2010. Does it matter to Cutler if the fans have confidence in him? Not really, since Cutler has made it clear that he plays for the team and not the fans. But we still follow the team and going into 2009 we had high hopes for the season despite the lack of talent at the receiver position. The season proved that position is due for an upgrade in 2010.
A bad game for Cutler against the lowly Lions might also seal the fate of Bears GM Jerry Angelo, along with coach Lovie Smith. Angelo might be on the firing line for investing in Cutler without the much needed pieces around him. This doesn't mean the deal for Cutler was a bust. it does mean, however, that making this deal with a lack of talent on the offensive side of the ball would be a waste of draft picks, especially considering that the Cutler trade will now give the Denver Broncos a pick in the top 15 or possibly top 10. Couple that with the horrible Gaines Adams trade from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and now the Bears have zero picks till the 3rd round. Granted, Angelo has had a lackluster track record in the early rounds since coming to the Bears, but losing a high pick for a bust isn't a great sign.
As for Lovie, Bears fan have gotten tired of the poor decisions made by him, not only in game management, but in also his choice of coaches. Firing Ron Rivera after making it all the way to the Super Bowl in 2006 was the beginning of his bad mismanagement. Promoting Bob Babich to the position of Defensive Coordinator only to take it back this season and running the defense himself instead. Lovie was a great D coach in both Tampa under Dungy and St. Louis under Mike Martz, but being a head coach and D coach this season has proved to be too much for him to handle. Hiring Rod Marinelli to be the defensive line coach hasn't panned out yet since the pass rush and run defense hasn't improved yet, but with only a year of teaching, I don't know if you can properly grade him. Ron Turner is a non-factor for 2010 since he will undoubtedly be fired after the 09 season, but he's proven that his play-calling leaves a lot to be desired, especially since at this point in the season the fans know we don't have a top flight wideout and yet he insists on calling plays that rely on someone to make a play. Not to mention calling running plays that have proven time and time again to not work with the bad offensive line in front of Matt Forte.
What to look forward to in 2010? If it turns out to be an uncapped year because of a lack of Collective Bargaining Agreement, there might be a lot of changes on the Bears roster. An uncapped year would allow the Bears to cut ties with Nathan Vasher, who's contract extension has proved to be useless. Whether from injuries or getting older, Vasher has proven that he's not even as suitable for a Nickel back spot on this roster, let alone the #1 DB like he's being paid. Olin Kreutz might be another casualty of an uncapped year, though his days as a Bear might be over regardless. Kruetz hasn't handled a higher octane offense this season, mishandling shotgun snaps routinely. He's also forced bad exchanges with Cutler, proving that not all the fumbled snaps were Rex Grossman's fault while in town. Could Devin Hester be included? He got a contract extension before the 2008 season, with the belief that he will still be the best return man in football and grow to be the #1 WR on this team. Unfortunately, he's grow into neither. In fact, he's no longer dangerous on punt returns, averaging less than 10 yards a return and not meshing with Cutler on offense.
What's out there? Well, the most intriguing name might be Brandon Marshall, Jay Cutler's former #1 target in Denver. Unfortunately, he's going to cost a lot. Dante Stallworth might get released from the Cleveland Browns this offseason, but he's not exactly the most reliable of characters and he might still get suspended for a portion of the 2010 season, once he gets out of jail. But the Bears biggest needs are on the O-Line. And without high draft picks, the Bears will have to rebuild through free agency, which is always tougher to do. And sadly, none of the options out there will knock your socks off and the ones that would be good fits will most certainly be resigned by their teams.