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Columnist
Better players best answer to what ails the Bears
By Barry Rozner | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 1/4/2010 12:08 AM

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A two-game winning streak.

Congratulations to your 2009 Chicago Bears on a fabulous finish.

So now what?

Well, every time you hear the argument that head coach Lovie Smith ought to be fired, the Bears - and their 7-9 record - give you just as many reasons why GM Jerry Angelo ought to be gone, too.

Which is why the whole lot of them should be fired, but also why it's most likely they're all returning after their monumental, back-to-back victories.

"When you get down to the final two games, you want to finish strong,'' Smith said. "We did that.''

So it's all about perception now, and the Bears as an organization will do what they can to appease an angry fan base.

Translated, that means scapegoats.

Will it be offensive coordinator Ron Turner? Offensive line coach Harry Hiestand? QB coach Pep Hamilton?

How about Smith pal Bob Babich, who's actually back where he belongs as linebackers coach? And will Smith hand the defensive play calling to line coach Rod Marinelli?

As soon as you start with all that, you have to ask yourself where Angelo is in all of this.

You need not look beyond Devin Hester to find the many ways in which Angelo has messed up the Bears the last couple years.

They took the best returner in NFL history and turned him into a mediocre wideout because they couldn't find a No. 1 receiver.

In the meantime, and as an added bonus, Hester has become mostly useless as a returner, offering little effort on kicks and zero on punts, where he clearly doesn't want to get hit and is more than willing to call for a fair catch even when he's got lots of room.

As for his offensive ability, Jay Cutler obviously avoids Hester when possible, and found a quick rhythm with the rest of the receivers when Hester sat out three games before Sunday's in Detroit, when Hester had a TD in his hands on the Bears' second possession but couldn't hang on.

And then there's Cutler, who as it turns out, can't walk on water.

He was mostly bad this year and occasionally good, but the Bears are committed to him financially for a long time, so they're going to have to fix the mess they created.

While he hit some Lions defenders in the hands Sunday, which has become a terrible habit, the Bears were fortunate that Detroit couldn't catch the ball, and the lack of turnovers allowed the Bears to win 37-23.

He managed 8 TDs to only 1 pick the last two games, with a 115 QB rating, proving not only that he can do it, but that many of the Bears' losses this season were on Cutler for throwing the ball to the wrong team.

He ended the season with 27 TDs to 26 interceptions, and a 76 QB rating, so Cutler must learn to protect the football or it doesn't matter who the coaches are, and even Cutler said Sunday that 2 wins when the season was already over doesn't change anything.

"No,'' Cutler said. "We didn't accomplish our goals.''

But they did manage to handle the vaunted Lions, who carried in the 31st-ranked defense and an offense nearly as bad.

So how could the Bears possibly hope to contain such a squad?

They couldn't, struggling to manage a 10-point lead in the third quarter, only to allow the Lions to march up and down the field and tie it with 9:37 left in the game.

But the Bears walked right down the field to take the lead back, just as they did at the end of the first half.

Where is that style the rest of the game? Why does the Bears' philosophy, on both sides of the ball, insist on such a conservative approach until they're forced to do something different?

Perhaps the best call of the game came when the Lions were certain the Bears would run it to kill more clock.

Up only 4 points with 3:02 remaining in the game, instead of handing off on a third-and-5 from the Detroit 12, Cutler hit Devin Aromashodu for a touchdown and the game was over.

Defensively, the bend-and-break Smith defense is unwatchable and excruciating for a fan.

That has to change as well, but until Angelo provides some NFL players on the defensive line and in the defensive backfield, it won't matter what Smith calls.

Smith knows it and that's why he said Sunday that if the Bears make changes, they need to look at the entire organization from top to bottom.

And he's right. Cosmetic changes aren't going to change a thing.

The guess here is that the QB coach and offensive line coach will be casualties, and maybe even the defensive backs coach.

After that, it may be a heated conversation between Smith and Angelo before Smith allows Angelo to take apart his staff.

Either way, scapegoats aren't going to solve the Bears' many position problems.

Better players will.