The 2011-12 Bears season was essentially the tale of two football teams.
At first, there were the good, complete Bears. With Jay Cutler and Matt Forte leading the offense, the Bears were surging at 7-3 and seen as legitimate contenders for the NFC crown, Aaron Rodgers be damned.
Then, Cutler got hurt. As did Forte. Johnny Knox followed suit. Caleb Hanie looked helpless at quarterback, and the Bears only won one game after Week Eleven, beating the Vikings in the final game of the season, a meaningless tilt for both teams.
For a team with such high hopes and quality talent, an 8-8 record isn't acceptable. Some changes have already been made to the roster.
For a few years now, Bears fans have been calling for Jerry Angelo's head to some degree. From questionable free agent moves to poor use of high draft picks, Angelo never succeeded in Chicago.
Finally, after a season that showcased his inability to acquire depth, Angelo was let go by the Bears.
While he may find a job as some sort of adviser, Angelo has likely forced his way out of any sort of high-leverage front office job ever again.
Mike Martz's best days may already be behind him.
While nobody will ever disparage his Greatest Show on Turf, it's looking more and more likely that Martz is a one-trick pony. Martz fell out of favor in St. Louis, Detroit, San Fransisco, and now Chicago.
Rumors are that Martz "resigned" to pursue collegiate coaching opportunities. Though, his contract was up, and it was clear he wasn't coming back.
While Martz will always be highly regarded for his success in St. Louis with Kurt Warner and Marshall Faulk, he may have worn out his welcome as an NFL coach.
The story of Caleb Hanie is a bit of a strange one. Undrafted out of Colorado State, Hanie has managed to make the Bears invest two draft picks in quarterbacks, indirectly.
Hanie was signed as an undrafted free agent after the 2008 draft, and made the roster as the third string quarterback. He completed one of two throws in '08, and saw other various insignificant work during the 2009 and 2010 seasons.
Coming into the 2010 season, the Bears had selected Central Michigan QB Dan LeFevour in the sixth round of the '10 draft. Hanie won the support of the Bears staff over LeFevour for the third quarterback spot, leading to LeFevour being waived in an effort to sneak him to the practice squad. The Bengals grabbed LeFevour off waivers to be their third string quarterback.
The 2011 NFC Championship game saw Hanie come in following injuries to Jay Cutler and then backup Todd Collins. Hanie lead the Bears on two scoring drives, but also was picked off twice, including on his final play of the game. Despite this, Hanie garnered a lot of support from the Bears higher-ups and was named the backup to Jay Cutler.
With LeFevour gone, the Bears needed a new young QB project for the third string, and selected Nathan Enderle out of the University of Idaho in the fifth round. While Hanie may have been Martz's guy, grabbing their second quarterback in two draft shows a serious lack of trust in Hanie.
Hanie got his chance at QB in 2011, and went 0-4. Josh McCown, who had been coaching high school football for the first nine weeks, was a vast improvement over Hanie, going 1-1 to finish the season.
Hanie got a chance to prove himself, and he proved himself incapable at this level.
Going into the 2011 off-season, the Bears biggest need was a big wide receiver who could be a target, go to the tough areas, and be that elusive true #1 WR that tops 1,000 receiving yards in the season, a mark that hasn't been reached since Marty Booker had 1,189 in 2002.
The Bears, instead, filled this need, and the need for a running back behind Matt Forte who wasn't Chester Taylor, with the so-called Cowboys Connection, signing Roy Williams, Marion Barber, and Sam Hurd. Williams was supposed to fill the need for a large wide receiver.
Needless to say, this didn't happen. Williams struggled, dropping catches left and right, and lacking physicality. Williams was on a one-year deal, and almost certainly won't be back.
An NFL team may give him a chance just based on his size, though his skill won't ever make him anything beyond a depth option or desperate reach as a starter.
This is the first and only slide which does not reflect a player's combination of skill and performance. For what it's worth, Hurd has been a solid special teams player throughout his career, which he continued as a Bear.
The second part of the three headed Cowboys Connection, Hurd is already a free agent following his arrest and charges by the D.E.A. in December.
The D.E.A. charges stated that Hurd attempted to purchase and distribute large amounts of cocaine and marijuana in a network throughout Chicago, and to set up regular shipments of both.
Hurd likely faces jail time. With some of his clients being listed as NFL players, Hurd will likely never get so much as a thought in any GM's mind. He went from being a solid clubhouse presence to totally toxic.
Meriweather is easily the most accomplished player on this list, and the one most likely to get more and more chances. Meriweather was named to the Pro Bowl following spectacular seasons in New England's secondary in 2009 and 2010.
Heading into the 2011 season, the Patriots waived Meriweather at the end of camp, who the Bears swooped in and signed to a one-year, $3.25 million contract. Many Bears fans, including myself, bought into the hype. Surely he just had a bad camp, besides, he was a Pro Bowler the year before, this couldn't be a bad move!
Oh, how wrong we were. Meriweather was pushed out of the starting defensive lineup, and showed why the Patriots waived him. He won't be back as a Bear, and it looks like his best days are well behind him. Despite this, having been a Pro Bowler in the past, Meriweather will likely get roster spots he won't deserve based on his 2011 performance.