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Columnist
If Bears fire coaches, then cleaning whole house next
By Bob LeGere | Daily Herald Columnist

Chicago Bears general manager Jerry Angelo says he likes the nucleus of his team, but the Bears may need a complete overhaul after this season.

 

Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

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Published: 12/22/2009 4:28 PM

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Let's say the Bears decide to replace not just offensive coordinator Ron Turner and all the assistant coaches on that side of the ball, but the entire staff, including head coach Lovie Smith. What then?

That would be just the start of a rebuilding job that never seemed more necessary than during Sunday's loss in Baltimore.

Before the 31-7 loss to the Ravens, general manager Jerry Angelo said: "We like the roster. We have a good nucleus of young players. So pretty much our roster will be intact next year. But I look at that as a positive, not a negative."

If Angelo still believes that after Sunday's latest embarrassment, then he should go, too.

This is not a competitive team. It's historically bad. Unless this 5-9 disaster finds a way to defeat the Minnesota Vikings on Monday night, or unless the Pittsburgh Steelers win both of their final two games (against the Baltimore Ravens and Miami Dolphins), this will be the first Chicago Bears team since 1975 to play an entire season without defeating an opponent that finishes with a winning record.

The personnel is as bad, if not worse, than the coaching, starting with both lines.

It was a mistake to pay defensive tackle Tommie Harris a $6.67 million roster bonus back in February, and it would be throwing good money after bad to fork over the $2.5 million roster bonus that he's due next June. He hasn't earned it, and if the past two years are any indication he'll never be anywhere close to the same player who was given a four-year, $40 million extension a year and a half ago.

Defensive left end Adewale Ogunleye is 32 and will be an unrestricted free agent coming off a fractured fibula. Nose tackle Marcus Harrison has been a disappointment.

On the other side of the ball, the offensive line failed all season to assert itself in the run game and was poor-to-mediocre when it came to protecting quarterback Jay Cutler. Based on this season's performance, left tackle Chris Williams and guard-center Josh Beekman are the only two players on the O-line who may have a future beyond next season as starters in the NFL. And neither one of them is a sure thing.

Even when the offensive line did get the job done, running back Matt Forte, the rookie sensation from 2008, looked timid, tentative and a step slower than a year ago. And when it comes to Forte breaking tackles, Brian Urlacher was right on. Maybe Forte lacks the qualities to get the tough yards between the tackles and would be better as a third-down back because of his fine receiving skills.

Things have degenerated so rapidly on offense that it's only natural now to wonder if Cutler is a Pro Bowl player or just this generation's Jeff George, a talented player with all the tools except the ability to win.

As for the wide receivers, even a Bears hater has to admit that this group has shown improvement. But it remains a work in progress.

Tight end Greg Olsen has been a huge disappointment in the second half of the season. Early on it looked like he would benefit most from Cutler's presence. Through nine games Olsen had 34 catches for 361 yards, a 10.6-yard average per catch and 6 touchdowns. But he hasn't been a factor in the past five games, catching 18 passes for just 110 yards, a 6.1-yard average and no touchdowns.

So replacing the coaches, however many, would just be a start.