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Sunday, January 4, 2015

7 Days Later: An Honest Discussion About The Chicago Bears Firings and Jay Cutler

Irwin Weiner, a frequent Cover 3 contributor, and myself are huge Chicago Bears fans. With what has happened to this organization over the recent days and weeks, we felt we needed to discuss the topic. However, there are so many talking points and things to discuss, we couldn't just write one blog post or have just one podcast. Instead, we needed to have lengthy email chains over the course of several days. This is our discussion about everything from former head coach Marc Trestman and former GM Phil Emery to our thoughts on Jay Cutler and his contract.

IRWIN: Today on Monday December 29th, 2014 the Chicago Bears were one of a few teams to take part in the day known as "Black Monday" in the NFL.  The day after the regular season ends is known as "Black Monday" because that's the day that many teams will fire their coach after disappointing seasons.

This was not a surprise to you or me.  We both have discussed this for weeks and knew changes were coming at Halas Hall.  It was about time that George McCaskey, current Chairman of the Chicago Bears made a change.  We were hoping for smaller changes to come weeks ago in the likes of coordinator changes such as firing Mel Tucker, Aaron Kromer, and Joe Decamillis.  That never came, but today we got which was one of the worse kept secrets in Chicago, Marc Trestman was fired.  Everyone knew he was fired weeks.  This was reported weeks ago by multiple news outlets, and the way the team has been playing it was about time.  You just wonder if they ever thought about doing it before the season ended?

The one thing we didn't know was who else was going to be fired today.  It turned out General Manager Phil Emery (the man who hired Marc Trestman) was also shown the door, and offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer.  There is a lot on these three men and there performance in their respected time as a Chicago Bear.

Before we dive into each specific firing what do you think about the Chicago Bears cleaning house today and saying their tandem wasn't working? 

ADAM: Everyone knew Marc Trestman was getting canned and I think of I were to assign blame to anyone for why the Bears were so bad I think Trestman would be the largest chunk of my hypothetical pie chart.

Not did he absolutely lose control of this locker room pretty early on in the season. I don't think he was the offensive mastermind he was made out to be. As much or as little as you think of Jay Cutler, an offense with this many weapons should at least be half way decent.

On just a random note, how many times did you see the Bears run a slant route? I can't remember a single time this season. I remember ten million bubble screens to Alshon Jeffrey like Trestman was pulling a page out of the Lovie Smith playbook, but god forbid the Bears ran an uptempo offense similar to what the Packers or Patriots run.

What are your thoughts on Trestman and what are your thoughts on the Bears coaching situation going forward?

IRWIN: Trestman was the Head Coach and the product on the field was not very good.  This is evident by the Bears 5-11 record this season. Being the Head Coach, the Buck stops at him. I think Trestman was at fault for a lot of the Bears woes this season.  I don't think we can only blame him though.

Personally I think the issues of the team started with the lack of defensive talent.  I don't think the Bears had enough star talent and depth on the defensive side.  It's another story if a better defensive coordinator could have coached them up.  If the General Manager, Phil Emery had more talent and had more resources devoted to defense the team might have been better.  Phil Emory spent a lot of money on the offensive side of the ball, but he didn't spend a lot on the defensive side or devote many high draft picks on defense that made an impact expect for Kyle Fuller.  

I feel like the defense put the Bears into so many holes early on into games, that it made it hard for Marc Trestman's offense led by Jay Cutler.  That the offense felt they had to put up so many points they just couldn't keep up.  They always felt they had to exchange TD if the Bears defense never stopped anyone, so they just gave up....

This leads me to Jay Cutler.  We know Jay Cutler can't handle pressure, fix his mistake, or limit his turnovers.  The same held true this year.  I am sure we will get more into Cutler later, but Trestman couldn't get through to Cutler.  That was one of Trestman's biggest problem's, is that he couldn't turn around and have the teams (and the highest paid offensive player in the league this year) buy into his offensive game plan.  With Cutler never buying in, Trestman wasn't able to fix Cutler, run a good offense, a balanced offense, or one that flowed and had rhythm to it.  Last year's offense had a rhythm to it, which is why the Bears had one of the best last year.  They had no resemblance to this year. 

The Bears offense was very static this year.  At times, it would be unbalanced as you mentioned.  They would go very pass heavy.  It did not look the same as last year.  I think this was because the defense put them in a hole and took the momentum out of the game.  After the game, Trestman made it seem like he wasn't sure why, but he called the plays...This made it hard and challenging for Trestman, but he is the head coach and needs to keep his players focus.  His players gave up, had no respect for Trestman as a coach, and showed his different leadership style was not effective in the NFL.  Trestman prided himself on being a different type of coach and treating players different, this was reflected in his interviews and press conferences.  When everything is good, you can get away who his leadership style, but for the longterm his leadership style is not a good fit in the NFL.

As you see I think Trestman wasn't the right fit in the NFL.  That's why he was coaching in the CFL.

ADAM: You mentioned a lot there, so let's just focus on Trestman which is a natural lead in to Cutler which will progress into his contract and then will lead into a discussion of Phil Emery. But for now Trestman and Cutler.

I think head coaches are either good or they aren't, and I don't care what their record says. Recent examples of this are Gary Kubiak in Houston, Andy Reid in Philly, and Rex Ryan in New York. Gary Kubiak was never a good head coach and I still felt that way after Houston made back to back playoff appearances. Andy Reid has always been an above average coach, but his failings (most notably clock management) still holds true no matter what team he's coaching. His Philly and KC teams have always been good and competitive, but his coaching style gets in the teams way which is why those Philly teams only went to one Super Bowl (which they lost) and why Kansas City didn't make the playoffs this year. Rex Ryan is just a good coach and I really, really, really wish he comes to Chicago to replace Trestman (although we'll get into future replacements in a later email chain)

This is a verbose and roundabout way of saying that Marc Treatman is not a very good coach and he never was. This team was only 8-8 last year and bad coaching decisions (most notably a decision in Minnesota last year to go for a long FG as opposed to trying for a TD which cost the Bears a win and a playoff birth) cost the Bears games. I don't care what the Bears record was, Trestman was never a good coach and his failings really shone through in 2014. I feel like a coach's main job is to control his locker room and he lost control early on in his tenure.

I do disagree with your analysis on Trestman as it relates to Cutler when he say Trestman couldn't "fix" him. I think Bears fans need to realize, and the vast majority have, that Jay Cutler is what he is. He's not an elite QB and he's going to be a turnover machine and there's nobody that can "fix" that. Here's an interesting stat from Grantland's Bill Barnwell, Cutler's interception rate of 3.8% this year fell right along with his career average, the only difference is that he's stayed healthy this year which explains why he's had a career year (or close to it) in terms of turnovers.

However, if Trestman had run a better spread-style offense, you could have played to Cutler strengths and limited his weakness. Again, Trestman tricked us last year by having us think he was an offensive guru, but he really runs a very vanilla offense that teams just so happened to realize this year that they didn't last year.

Jay Cutler is what he is and we needed a coach to realize that and build around that. Let me know what you think of this analysis on Cutler. I think he's deserves to be a starting QB in this league and I think he's an above average QB, but he's not elite. Here's the list of QBs that are no brainers better than Cutler:

Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, Russell Wilson, Tony Romo and a healthy Cam Newton. I think normally Drew Brees is in that category as well but there's a chance he lost his stuff after the way he played this year.

I think in this next group is full of guys who are starters but are shaky which includes Cutler along with Colin Kaepernick, Andy Dalton, and Matthew Stafford.

In my next tier I have Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco. I know a lot of people will disagree with me on this, but I think very, very low of these players. Ryan Tannenhill is probably here too, but we'll see if he develops.

In my next group, I have guys who deserve to be starters, but only because they're a stop gap fill in which includes Alex Smith, Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Philly guys, Carson Palmer and Kyle Orton.

Lastly you have rookies and/or guys who are down right bad which includes anyone on Tennessee, Jacksonville, Washington, St Louis, Cleveland, the Jets, Oakland, Tampa Bay, Teddy Bridgewater, and Eli Manning.

There's a lot of teams and players on that list that I think Cutler is better than and I think very highly of him while also realizing his true upside.

I want to say one last thing about Cutler before you say what you want to say and before we get into his contract: The Bears offensive line was really bad this year and his receivers refused to get open. I really hate making these excuses because these were the same ones we made for Rex Grossman, but you know it's true.

Brandon Marshall was clearly not healthy all season long, and after his break out year last year, Alshon Jeffrey refused to get any sort of separation all year long. If the yards the team got during pass interference plays counted towards your fantasy stats, then Jeffrey would have been the #1 wide out. I don't understand why he couldn't exploits gaps in coverage the way Jordy Nelson did when he played the Bears. Even in single coverage, Jeffrey never got free all year long.

And after an amazing 2013 where Roberto Garza, Matt Slauson, Jordan Mills, Jermon Bushrod, and Kyle Long played together all year long which helped propel the unit to be one of the best in the league, Slauson and Garza got hurt early in the year and Mills took a step back which caused the line in front of Cutler to crumble on a consistent basis.

Now I know those excuses shouldn't mask the fact that Cutler and this offense should have played a shit ton better than he actually did, but it didn't help him any either.

What say you about Cutler's performance in 2014 and talk about his contract and what the Bears should do going forward.

IRWIN: I did mention a lot, because there is so much on where I think the blame deserves to be thrown around.  There is enough blame to be thrown around everywhere, but I wanted to make it clear on where I think the problems started with this team.  I don’t think Trestman is a good coach because of his lack of leadership and control, but the issues with the talent and why the team started to unravel before he could refocus them was not his fault.  This started to happen to the New York Giants, and we saw them at least play hard and competitive this season under a good coach in Tom Coughlin.

At the end of the day I think you have to evaluate a coach on a few things.  One of those things is the team record.  Obviously, if you’re the Jaguars it’s harder to evaluate a coach on the record because everyone knows the talent level, the QB, and the overall expectations are a little different. For this Bears team, when you have playoff aspirations at the very least, and to come up short in two consecutive years, that has to be factored in.  Now, you obviously don’t fire him just because he misses the playoffs two consecutive years, if Tom Coughlin still has his job and I think he should.  The second big factor that you mentioned is leadership and controlling the locker room.  You said he lost it early on in his tenure, do you think he ever had it? 

When Trestman was brought in it was as the “QB Guru” and that’s why he had the nickname as the “QB Whisperer”.  He got this reputation for being able to work breakthroughs with quarterbacks in the past and some of them having breakthrough and career years under him.  He got his reputation for turning guys around and some of them actually having MVP seasons in their mid 30’s.  Rich Gannon is the most talked about case.  Under Trestman, Gannon at the ages of 36 and 37 had the best years of his career.  This included winning a MVP at 37 years old. 

I agree with you that Cutler is who he is now.  We have seen enough of Jay to know he is not changing.  That is why I am done with Jay Cutler.  That is another conversation though.  I still think he is a starting QB though, but will never take it to the next level.  He will always be this inconsistent.  When Emory hired Trestman as his Head Coach, I don’t know if he looked at his ability to be a Head Coach and all of those leadership tangibles we talked about.  I think he looked at his past record as a Quarterbacks Coach, Offensive Coordinator, and his reputation around the league.  Two years ago when Trestman was hired he had one job to do, and that was to try and “fix” Jay Cutler.  It was to work on his mechanics, simply the offense, and straighten him out.  That is what they talked about last year when Trestman was hired and when Cutler was injured that it cut into the learning period. 

Now I agree with you.  Two years later we know that Trestman couldn’t “fix” Cutler.  He was supposed to, but couldn’t get through to him. Cutler isn’t open to change, learning, and adjusting his game style.  Cutler is who he is, and no one, not even the “Quarterback Whisperer” can get through to him.

I think the Bears offense looked terrible this year.  It had no balance to it, looked stale, and had no rhyme to it.  I agree with you it did look vanilla, but I wonder if it just looked so bad because they could never get it going.  Did Trestman never call any more plays because he was worried the offense couldn’t handle it?  That Jay Culter couldn’t handle it?  Or was Cutler making that many audibles?  We know he did change the plays a lot or was forced to throw to different players like Forte with that dump off pass when the actual play broke down. 

I agree with you Jay Cutler is a starting QB in the NFL.  I am not sure if I would say he is above average at this point, but would say average.  I agree with your elite level QB analysis and would still have Drew Brees ranked there for now. In your second category of “Shaky Starters”, to me all of those QBs are average QBs.  They are good average QBs that may not be great, but good enough.  I think Cutler does deserve to be grouped there for now.  If he has another bad year like he did in 2014, then I would put him with Ryan and Flacco.

I will agree with your additional comment that the Bears offensive line wasn’t as good as it was last year.  Now, I don’t know if it was as bad as it was for those many years when it was one of the worse in the league.  I don’t think it was close to being that bad, or the line we had for Grossman.  It did take a step back from last year which is a good point, but it’s not as bad as it was.  Bushrod on the left side has been a stabilizing factor.  You are also right the Bears two top receivers in Jeffrey and Marshall did seem to have trouble getting open this year.  Last year, because we had both of them, one of them always seem to be able to escape and be open for Cutler.

That being said, Jay Cutler’s performance in 2014 was terrible.  Yes, he threw for a lot of yards, but that is all he did and it’s quality over quantity.  If he wasn’t benched for the one game, he would have set a Bears single season record for passing yards.  The Bears were also always coming from behind so he had to play catch up!

Jay Cutler’s contract was worth 7 years and 126 million.  This also included a whopping 54 million guaranteed.  That is a lot of money for a player that has never done it before at this level.  Cutler has never shown he is elite or a top QB.  Let alone a top player and this year in 2014 he was the highest offensive player in the NFL.  He was being paid more then Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, and even Tom Brady!  I understand the demand for the position and the way the salary keeps going up.  The only thing is, I don’t think he deserves to be grouped with those guys getting paid like that, because he has never shown anything close to that performance. 

Cutler is going to be an average QB at BEST.  If you can trade him to a team that will eat all of his contract I will do it in a heartbeat.  I would also want something else in return such as a high draft pick.  In a pipe dream a first round draft pick, but his stock is falling fast.  So I would see what the market is.  

ADAM: It's Cutler contract discussion time!

I'd love to talk about Cutler's contract because it's been a huge point of contention among Bears fans and probably the reason GM Phil Emery got fired. Chicago great Brian Urlacher said this past season that the only thing elite about Cutler is his contract.

Last offseason, Phil Emery gave Jay Cutler seven years, $126.7 million dollars. That number alone looks massive, but I'd like to get into the nuance of this deal, because really, it's a super team friendly contract.

For starters, per USA Today, this really is a three year, $54 million contract because if the Bears (or anyone else) outright cuts Cutler after the 2016 season, there is absolutely no salary cap repercussions and no bonuses to prorate.

Now let's go on to Cutler's so called "elite" contract. It's true that Jay Cutler made a butt load of money in 2014, even in terms of NFL players money. Last year, Cutler had a base salary of $22.5 million. According to, that's by far and away the most money given to any player in 2014 as well as in 2015.

But with that being said, Cutler's contract doesn't all go towards the cap (NOTE: the stats going forward are all thanks to In 2014, Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger's contract have bigger cap hits than Cutler and in 2015, Tony Romo, Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, and the Manning brothers will have far greater cap hits than what the Bears have in Cutler now and all those QBs cap hits are not even close to being proportional to their base salary.

Next, let's look at Cutler's base salaries for the next few years. Like I said earlier, Cutler made $22.5 million last year. However, that number nose dives to $15.5 million in 2015 and $16 million in 2016. If the Bears (or any team) still decide to keep him, they only have to pay him $12.5 million in 2017 and $13 million in 2018.

In 2015, Cutler's cap hit is only the 11th highest base salary and in 2016 it's only the 9th highest (assuming all contract stay like they are now, which we know won't be true). 


So basically, Jay Cutler's contract was front loaded, and to an extreme measure during his first year of the contract. Cutler's deal hamstrung the Bears in 2014 (especially as evidenced by the few free agents the Bears were able to sign) but the way the team was built, even with the lack of talent, there's no reason this team shouldn't have been competitive. Going further, the Bears will have at least $10 million dollars in cap room to play with that the team didn't have in 2014 thanks to Cutler's contract alone.

If you look at Cutler's deal as a whole, Cutler is getting paid like the 7th best QB in the league as Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, and Colin Kaepernick all get paid more per year than Cutler. However, the difference between's Cutler's contract and that of Tony Romo, Matthew Stafford, Carson Palmer, Eli Manning, and Alex Smith is only a couple million per year. Plus, there are guys like Cam Newton and Andrew Luck who are still on their rookie deals. Further, Philip Rivers and Big Ben's contract expire in 2016, and I'd imagine they will soon make just as much or more per year than Cutler.

I mentioned in my last email to you about how I honestly felt Cutler stacked up compared to the other QBs in the league and I do feel that he's a legitimate starter. And guess what, Cutler is being paid like a legitimate starter. It's a shame that he plays a position that demands such high numbers, but that's the reality of the situation.

If the Bears do decide to move on from Cutler, then I want Bears fans to realize what a drop out it will be from a production stand point. As Bears fans, we've had to live through the dregs at the QB position with guys like Erik Kramer, Rex Grossman, Brian Griese, and Kordell Stewart. Personally, I'm fine with Cutler's performance and the contract he received. Would I like him to be better? Of course, but I also feel like I'm realistic to how I evaluate him.

Lastly, I absolutely abhore any argument against Cutler based upon his personality. I've seen Bears fans comment on my Facebook statuses claiming they don't like Cutler because he's moody and apathetic. That's fucking stupid and he needs to be evaluated on objective factors and not how he handles a press conference. Although it is sad that if Cutler had the personality of Aaron Rodgers that far fewer people would be calling for his head.

What say you about Jay Cutler's contract and start a discussion about former GM Phil Emery?

IRWIN: There is so much to cover with the Cutler contract!  You covered the numbers and details of the contract in great detail that I don’t have too much to add in that way.

You are right on the money (pun intended) about the Cutler's contract being a big topic of controversy in Chicago.  Everyone from the fans to the local and national media has picked that contract apart this season.  It’s easy to be critical of that contract because of the Bears record, this season and the last two seasons, but also of Cutler’s performance and not the caliber of QB worthy of that contract to lead your team.  This is why the contract, and the man who gave the contract, Phil Emery, was under a lot of fire this season.

You mentioned a lot of the details and numbers of the contract which is great.  Jay Cutler's contract is seven years and worth $126.7 million dollars.  That is a lot of money locked into Cutler’s arm of interceptions.  Only $54 million dollars of that is guaranteed, so as you said, it really does become like a three year deal.  Seven years seems like a lot for the now 31 year old QB, but if you think of it as a 3-year contract, that you can then cut him at any time, then it’s not as bad money wise.  This is for the salary structure Phil Emery put in place. 

In regards to the "elite" contract Cutler is making a ton of money at $22.5 million.  That is the most of any offensive player in the NFL.  It is more then better players in the NFL, let alone better Quarterbacks.  I understand some of the players you mentioned may have more counting against the cap and that is a factor, but Cutler is still making more. 

Cutler’s contract was very front loaded as mentioned.  A lot of money was given up front so it doesn’t hamstring the team in the future.  That was one good thing Emory did!  It is just the perception that he is the highest paid QB now and this year.  If we know he isn’t that good.  You mentioned that he was the 7th highest paid QB.  Do you think he is the 7th best QB?  Obviously I know salary doesn’t always translate to how well your performance is directly, but if your not that good or in that tier, should he be paid like it?

We both agree that Cutler is a starter in the league.  He is being paid like a starter in the league.  He may just be paid a few million more then he should, and the contract being front loaded, does change perception.

The problem with why there is so much outrage on Cutler’s contract is his performance.  If Cutler performed better and played up to the contract he received, would there be this much controversy around it?  I don’t think there would be.  I know Cutler is a starting QB, and performing about his career norms, but does that mean he deserves this contract?  I am not sure it does for such an inconsistent QB.  I propose this question to you on who has been better the last two years; to rank these three QB’s: Matt Ryan, Matthew Stafford, and Jay Cutler.  I also mention that with Matt Ryan’s team the Falcons have not been doing well either the last two years, but him performing better and not being as much as the problem like in Cutler’s case. 

Even though Cutler probably deserved a nice size payday, was this big of a payday well earned with all of the interceptions we could talk about?

You are right that if the Bears moved on from Cutler there would be a big drop in production to whomever they replaced him with.  They wouldn’t find as good of a “talent” to replace him with, especially right away.  It would be a temporary stopgap.  If the Bears did that, it would be more of a sign at rebuilding then playing for now which is what they're doing.  If they found another guy, and moved on from Cutler, it would be a move they are looking for the future and to reload, which is a whole other discussion if they should go that route.  Maybe that is something else we should add to the docket to talk about?

Cutler is very inconsistent, and was not teachable. As we talked about, after all of these years in the league this is who he is.  He will not change, and put in the time and effort he needs to in order to get better.  No one can get through to him to make him better, work on his mechanics, and improve his flaws.  If they signed a FA of a mediocre QB like a Jimmy Clausen, Josh McCowen, Mark Sanchez, they may be more teachable under the right system and coach.  I am not saying they are as good as Culter, have the same talent, but a offensive guru, and someone like the Bears last head coach night have been able to get more out of those guys or someone on that level because they are teachable.  Well Cutler is stuck in his ways. 

It is hard for fans to like Cutler because of his personality, but if he was better and had the results on the field, no one would care.  It’s all about performing at the end of the day, and Cutler needs to be consistent and Bears fans would like him, not Jekyll and Hyde.

That’s what I think about Mr. Jay Cutler.  The Bears starting quarterback for now and probably for the foreseeable future.  It will be up to the new GM and Head Coach to decide what to do with him, but based on all the factors we have discussed, I think they will probably keep him around for now unless they get an overwhelming offer to move him. 

With that we move on to the former General Manager Phil Emery.  Let me start by saying I know you and I disagree for the most on Phil Emery.  I thought Phil Emery did make some good moves, but overall I thought it was a good decision that he was dismissed along with Trestman.  I didn’t think he showed enough during his three-year tenure in Chicago.  Three years isn’t a long time and sometimes you want to be fair to a guy and give him a fair shake to see what he can do, but I feel like we saw enough and what type of GM he was going to be. 

The Bears came into the season with one of the oldest teams in the league.  This was his third year at the helm, so we can’t keep blaming his predecessor Jerry Angelo and the team he left him.  Now were into the team that Phil Emory has built and put his stamp on.  Most, if not all, of these players on the roster are his guys and his type of players.

Phil Emery has had three drafts in the books.  Can we really say any of them are a success?  Yes, he has hit on one player in each draft and the Bears have one stud from each of his draft class thanks to him that will hopefully be with the team for years to come.  Alshon Jeffrey, Kyle Long, and Kyle Fuller are all difference makers and players you build the franchise around.  The rest of the players in his draft classes, especially his high picks, have not done much.  Many teams miss on players, but he has missed on many players.  He only has three players in three drafts and the rest are barely a factor and may not be on the roster in a year or two.  Unless we count the punter we took in the 6th round in the 2014 draft. 

As much as I like Kyle Fuller, as you know Adam I was not excited about that pick on draft day.  I was clamoring for a safety (another Bears need) and wanted a safety out of Alabama.  As good as Kyle Fuller has been, would Ha Ha Clinton-Dix have been better?  He would have filled a big need and may have a better career.  Sometimes Emery tried to reach for the pick that made me wonder if he was trying to prove something…

Besides for the question of the draft we have to talk about free agency. That is another important job of the GM.  I actually think this is a place where Phil Emory has succeeded in.  I think Emory has made some great signings that went under the radar.  He made some very good value contracts for role players that performed well.  Some of these players are Willie Young, Matt Slauson, Lamarr Houston, even Jared Allen seemed good at the time.  Then he made some bigger splashes that were well worth it in Martellus Bennett and Jermon Bushrod.  I like many of his FA pickups.  Only if the Bears had the centerpieces from the draft for these compliantly pieces to go with.

Last but not least, I was not a fan of Phil Emery as a Leader, Executive, and someone leading the football operations department for the Chicago Bears.  I did not think he had what it took to be an NFL executive and a GM.  A GM in the NFL means more then just about scouting and drafting the right players.  It comes down to how you handle the organization, the tone you set, and professionalism.  I felt Emery who was a professional scout was lacking something in that area.  I could give a few examples of stories that I have read over the last few years that have made me scratch my head about how anyone in his position could do these things.  Many times he would do things backwards, and not very professional as you would hope for the man leading a big market NFL team like the Chicago Bears. 

What are your thoughts on Phil Emery?

ADAM: In a nutshell, my overall thoughts is that Phil Emery needed to go, but I also really liked him as a GM. The Bears season was so bad this past year and I have no objection to cleaning house and starting over (to me that included the McCaskeys as owners and Ted Phillips as CEO, but that's for another post). But I don't think Bears fans should revel in the fact that Emery is gone. Let's pour out a 40 for Emery and wish him the best of luck going forward. 

Before I eventually bash Phil Emery, let me list all of his great accomplishments:

- Traded for Brandon Marshall, who is probably the best and most talented receiver ever to wear the Orange and Blue
- Signed TE Martellus Bennett in FA
- Drafted Alshon Jeffrey in the second round
- Signed Jermon Bushrod in FA
- Signed Matt Slauson in FA
- Drafted Kyle Long in the first round
- Drafted Jordan Mills in the fifth round
- Drafted Kyle Fuller in the first round
- Drafted Ego Ferguson in the second round
- Picked up Willie Young for cheap in FA

That's a shit ton of hits and successes. Instantly, Emery turned around the Chicago Bears offense. I think he realized that the defense was going to struggle so he designed this team to just win on offense. The defense was going to struggle so we're just going to outscore everybody. And this strategy should have worked were it not for Marc Trestman. The Bears were one play away from a playoff birth if Aaron Rodgers not made an incredible 4th down play in Week 17 against the Bears or if Trestman had not fucked up one of the Minnesota games in 2013 and this strategy would have worked again in 2014 had the Bears had a better head coach. Emery built this team to have a specific identity and that identity was built to be competitive. That's why I put most of my blame on Marc Trestman for the Bears struggles.

However, Emery is not without his faults.

You are correct that we can't totally blame former GM Jerry Angelo for how bad the Bears defense has been and Phil Emery certainly does shoulder some of the blame. But that being said, the rug was going to get pulled out from underneath the mid-2000's Monsters of the Midway D and Jerry Angelo did nothing to stop the bleeding. With a great corps of Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs, and Charles Tillman, the Bears defense was so dominant that they forced their way into a Superbowl. But since then, Angelo refuses to restock and rebuild. He was able to get away with it for a while as Briggs, Urlacher, and Tillman all enjoyed second winds in the twilight of their career, but since 2006, how many great players, hell how many legitimate starters on defense did Angelo draft to help this team we see before us today?

But then again, Phil Emery could have stopped the bleeding as well and he didn't do that either. Look at the players he drafted during his first year:

- DE/LB Shea McClellin
- WR Alshon Jeffrey
- S Brandon Hardin
- TE Evan Rodriguez
- CB Isiah Frey
- CB Greg McCoy

Outside of Jeffrey, that's horrible. The only reason Shea McClellin is a starter is because the LB corps is so fucking bad, and is anyone else even in the league? And speaking of McClellin, here's the next defensive player taken after him in the first round- Pats DE Chandler Jones. Does Emery get fired if he drafted Jones there? On the flip side, the very next pick the Pats made in the 2012 draft was 4 picks later when they took LB Dont'a Hightower. Even the great Patriots make mistakes. 

The very next year, Emery took LB Jonathan Bostic in the 2nd round, LB Khaseem Greene in the fourth round, and DE Cornelius Washington in the 6th round. Washington is actually solid as a role player on the D-line but I have no idea who Khaseem Greene is and Bostic (along with Shea McClellin) are really fucking bad. 

None of those picks helped the Bears defense which in turn caused the Monsters of the Midway to be as fearful as a kitten video on YouTube. 

Now on to the 2014 draft. You mentioned you'd rather have S Ha-Ha Clinton Dix over CB Kyle Fuller. I've heard people make this complaint both on draft day as well as at the end of the year. I think this opinion is absolutely insane. First of all, a good cornerback is more valuable than a good safety. You can get away with mediorce or even bad safties if you have really good corners. A good safety with mediorce or bad corners is basically useless. Ha-Ha Clinton Dix looks good now but that's because he's in a great and stable system. Clinton-Dix on Chicago would have been wasted. How many cornerbacks can you name that have been difference makers in the past five years? Now name all the difference makers who have played safety. That list is significantly, significantly shorter. Secondly, Kyle Fuller is really good. According to, Fuller has been the 3rd best cornerback this year according to WPA and the 14th best according to EPA. And by the way, Fuller also passes the eye test. I've seen him match up against Calvin Johnson and he single-handily won the game for the Bears against the 49ers. The dude is good and he's going to be really good for a long time. By the way, in 2014, Ha-Ha Clinton Dix was 34th among safeties in WPA and 39th in EPA. 

Now on to the two main reasons (outside of the Bears record and non-playoff appearances) Emery got canned. The first is Cutler's contract, and I'm on record as saying it wasn't that bad (plus the downgrade from Cutler to anyone else would have been even worse than what we saw this year) and the second was failing to hire Bruce Arians. At the time of Lovie Smith's firing, Bruce Arians was the reigning Coach of the Year and after coaching the Arizona Cardinals to 11 wins in 2014, and with probably the most injuries of any team, it looks like Arians is going to win that award again this year. But here's the thing, it's not like after Arians tenure as the interim head coach in Indianapolis that it was a no-brianer to hire him then. People who are writing otherwise have the benefit of hindsight which is both an unfair and an irrational criticism of Emery. Obviously if Emery had hired Arians, I think the Bears have at least one playoff appearance in the past two years and I wish Emery had made that decision, but the fact that he didn't isn't a knock in my book. That 2012 Colts team coached by Arians seemed to be playing over their head and rallied for Chuck Pagano and his illness which I think was an great intangible for that team, but also not a sign of Arians amazing coaching abilities either. Plus, that entire team was just straight up lucky. I don't know how many articles I read like this one that showed the 2012 Colts was just luck (both actual luck and the QB) and a weak division more than Arians.

But at the end of the day, the Bears went 8-8 in 2013 and 5-11 in the past two years under Emery and under his head coach Marc Trestman, and for that he had to go.

IRWIN: I’m glad we're in agreement that Phil Emery needed to go!  Another point I didn’t mention earlier was because it looked like Emery wasn’t going to be a good GM (the three bad draft classes) you don’t want to give him more time to see, even though he may, so you can have the GM and coach on the same clock.  The GM and Head Coach relationship is very important.  So with the book on Emery not looking good, you may as well make a change now and clean house.  If Trestman was a good coach and coming back, then Emery may have another year and the story in Chicago maybe different right now!

On a side note I do completely agree with you that new ownership for the Bears would do wonders and that is a big part of the problem.  As you said, that is a blog post in itself, and maybe another one we can talk about down the line?

I also would have liked to see Ted Philips gone. I know they like him and value him, but at this point he is becoming a joke.  I could do a post on him too, but that would have been nice for them to clean house of the top three.  I wouldn’t be surprised if after they hire someone else, a football guy they did reshuffle him within the organization.  This would be based on who they brought in.  Maybe this is a pipe dream of mine though. 

As you mentioned Emery did a great job turning around the Bears offense. He paid a lot of attention to it, put a lot of resources into it, and got some great talent through the draft and via free agency.  He might have did this because he knew he hired an offensive minded head coach and he wanted to get him some weapons.  Or what most people think, myself included that he doesn’t know how to scout defensive talent as well.  We haven’t seen any evidence in his three years that Emery can hit on a defensive player via the draft consistency.  Most of his top defensive picks have been busts.

Emery addressed one side of the ball, the only side he could, but neglected the other side.  Even though he knew the defense was aging and would need an infusion on youth.  He inherited an aging defense, so one of his first priorities should have been to try and address it, but he never did. In his defense, he did try to address it I guess with some of the players you mentioned in Shea McClellin, Bostic, and Greene.  None of them should be starters and only Bostic shows signs to even be on the roster in any type of role.  Khaseem Greene was forced to start a few games for the Bears his rookie year and he looked terrible.

Before I go into defending my argument of Saftey Ha-Ha Clinton Dix I want to say that Kyle Fuller has been good.  He has been a very good CB and a pleasant surprise.  He looks to be the real deal for many years to come.  He was a little banged up at the end, but had a good rookie campaign overall.  I understand your argument that you want good safeties to stabilize the defense.  I get the point, but I rather just have the better player.  Even with both looking to be good solid players, I rather have Ha-Ha Clinton Dix because he looks better.  If they both do look, Fuller will stabilize the defense and secondary.  After watching the Bears have bad safeties (I know it’s a bad system) I rather just have the better player.  I am surprised Ha-Ha Clinton Dix was so bad in the rankings at his position.  I guess time will tell us if Emory got us this one last party gift for us…

I am with you Bruce Arians should have been the favorite candidate.  He had many years of experience as an Offensive Coordinator (all in the NFL).  He had actual experience as a head coach (even if it was in the interim) leading a team and directing an offense.  All things we were looking at in a Head Coach.  Plus, he is a no-nonsense guy that would have been a good fit.  I think Emery liked Trestman, because he reminded him a lot of himself.  You can’t hire someone based on emotion though, but based on fit and success. 

It was time for change if this regime did not get it done.  Let’s hope the next one gets it done and has a better vision.



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