Biggest Takeaways from Chicago Bears' 2014 Season

Bear Heiser@@BearHeiserFeatured ColumnistDecember 29, 2014

Biggest Takeaways from Chicago Bears' 2014 Season

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    David Goldman/Associated Press

    The Chicago Bears' 2014 ended just as poorly as it began.

    Sunday's 13-9 loss to the Minnesota Vikings capped off what might have been one of the most underachieving seasons in franchise history.

    From general manager Phil Emery to head coach Marc Trestman to defensive coordinator Mel Tucker to quarterback Jay Cutler and down the line, it’s hard to point the finger at one player, one coach or one side of the ball.

    Seventeen weeks of dysfunction more than likely will lead to massive changes taking place at Halas Hall. Before that happens, though, let’s take a look at the 10 biggest takeaways from this very forgettable season.

The Verdict Is In: Marc Trestman Needs to Be Finished in Chicago

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    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    After calling plays for the NFL’s second-ranked scoring offense in 2013, Marc Trestman followed up his rookie performance in the most underwhelming of ways. After scoring 27.8 points per game last season, the Bears offense scored a full touchdown less in the head coach’s second year in Chicago.

    On few occasions this season has the Bears offense looked to be in sync.

    The offense lacked balance all season long, as the Bears finished with the worst run-pass ratio in the NFL—63.1 percent pass to 36.9 percent run.

    Trestman’s decision to run the offense this way is somewhat hard to comprehend, seeing as his quarterback led the NFL in total turnovers (24) for most of the season by a healthy margin.

    The Bears’ second-year coach regularly preached balance, but it never came to fruition.

    One of the more questionable moments came when Trestman elected to bench Cutler in favor of backup Jimmy Clausen with two games remaining on the calendar.

    All in all, Trestman couldn’t get out of his own way. It was one thing after another for the former Montreal Alouettes coach. Now he likely will pay the price.

    More on Trestman in the days to come.

    UPDATE: Trestman reportedly has been fired, according to Alex Marvez of FOX Sports.

Chris Conte Must Be Moved on from This Offseason

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    Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    We all know concussions are a big deal. Well, Conte has a history of concussions dating back to last season, at the very least.

    Conte is the only man who knows just how many concussions he’s suffered. The total number hardly matters, though, because all it takes is one serious hit to the head to rattle his brain.

    "You do have concerns when Chris has a history," head coach Marc Trestman said after Conte suffered his second of the season.

    The majority of the time, if the player can get up under his own power, he’s going to try and hide it from his coaches. While it’s unknown if Conte hid any concussions from the coaches and trainers, his extensive list of injuries make you wonder why he didn’t take a step back to get healthy.

    Before the Bears played the Saints in the middle of December, Conte said the following to David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune, most of which is alarming to hear:

    I'd rather have the experience of playing in the NFL and die 10 to 15 years earlier than not play in the NFL and have a long life.I don't really look toward my life after football. I'll figure things out when I get there. As long as I outlive my parents.

    While it’s hard to deny that Conte plays the game at 100 mph, it’s time to walk away from the fourth-year safety who is set to become a free agent after the season.

    Health is the most important thing in football. And Conte doesn’t seem to care about his own health, let alone how it impacts his team.

Kyle Long Is the Real Deal (If There Was Doubt)

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    David Banks/Getty Images

    Kyle Long has been named to the Pro Bowl in each of his first two seasons in the league, a feat no offensive guard has accomplished before.

    The Oregon Duck was the lone bright spot on an offensive line that constantly had to shuffle around guys due to injuries. Despite the lack of continuity, Long allowed a grand total of zero sacks in the 15 games he played, of which he played every snap, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).

    Only three other guards went through the entire season without allowing a sack, only one of which—Zack Martin of the Dallas Cowboys—played more snaps than Long.

    General manager Phil Emery, given he still has the job come springtime, really needs to give Long a hard look at left tackle.

There Is Not Enough Evidence to Convict Phil Emery

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Phil Emery has had his fair share of swings and misses in his three seasons as the general manager of the Chicago Bears.

    On the one hand, you have a total failure in 2012 first-round pick Shea McClellin, who started his career at defensive end and eventually moved to linebacker. The Boise State product, while in coverage, allowed the highest quarterback rating (132.3) of any starting linebacker in football, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).

    On the other hand, you have 2014 first-round pick cornerback Kyle Fuller, who at one point this season was thought to be the front-runner for the Defensive Rookie of the Year Award. Let's not forget two-time Pro Bowl guard Kyle Long.

    Those two draft selections represent the failure and success Emery has had on draft day.

    As bad as the McClellin pick looks, though, the seven-year, $126 million contract Emery unnecessarily handed to quarterback Jay Cutler shortly after the 2013 season is starting to trump it.

    While the Bears offensive struggles cannot be singularly attributed to Cutler, the quarterback certainly didn’t make things easy for the team, as he led the league in total turnovers for most of the season.

    We need more time to see what Emery can bring to the table.

    UPDATE: Apparently we don't need more time, because Emery reportedly has been fired, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Brandon Marshall Had a Rough Go of It in 2014

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    Brandon Marshall struggled in 2014.

    The year was not kind to him, football-wise. His numbers were down. He battled various injuries during the season, eventually getting knocked out for the year by a pretty serious lung injury. He was put on injured reserve after Week 14.

    Projecting the 13 games Marshall played out to 16, his numbers were down in catches, catch rate, receiving yards and touchdowns. He struggled to get separation; he lacked speed.

    The Bears—Jay Cutler, specifically—needed Marshall to be the Marshall of old. The guy who caught 218 passes in his first two years in Chicago.

    Marshall signed a contract extension last offseason, so he's going to be here for a while. There's no reason to be concerned about his future, as just about everyone on the roster had a down year, minus, maybe, running back Matt Forte, who broke Larry Centers' NFL record for catches by a running back.

    The Bears need to hope Marshall's poor play isn't something that continues into next season. He still has two years left on a three-year, $30 million extension.

    Bears fans, start thinking good thoughts. Cutler's going to need him next season (hah).

Jeremiah Ratliff Needs to Be a Part of the 2015 Defensive Squad

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    Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

    The Bears got lucky Jeremiah Ratliff had a falling out with the Dallas Cowboys last season. Ratliff appeared in five games in 2013, recording nine tackles and 1.5 sacks.

    That performance led to general manager Phil Emery to hand Ratliff a two-year contract extension in the offseason. Ratliff did not take the money and run like he did in Dallas. The former Cowboy registered 31 tackles and 5.5 sacks in 11 games this season.

    Pro Football Focus (subscription required) ranked Ratliff as the NFL’s ninth-best defensive tackle in 2014.

    Ratliff now has one year and $1.5 million left on his contract. The Bears will be getting a steal next season if Ratliff can find more health than he has in recent years.

Mel Tucker Needs to Go

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    Brian Kersey/Getty Images

    The Chicago Bears defense no longer scares anyone. All it took was the loss of former head coach Lovie Smith and the hiring of defensive coordinator Mel Tucker.

    In his first season in Chicago (2013), Tucker operated the NFL’s 30th-ranked defense in points allowed (29.9) and total yards against (394.6). He followed that up by calling plays for a defensive unit that once again ranked 30th in the NFL in total yards against (381.5) and dropped down to 32nd in points allowed (28.6).

    Gone are the glory days of a hard-nosed Bears defense that opponents hated playing.

    It’s time for Mel to pack up and leave town.

Jay Cutler Seems Ambivalent Toward Staying in Chicago

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Following Chicago’s 13-9 loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, quarterback Jay Cutler was asked if he knew if he’d be back in Chicago next season.

    “No,” Cutler said.

    That answer right there is a sign of just how bad the situation has become in Chicago.

    You have a quarterback who just completed the first year of a seven-year contract saying he’s unsure if he’ll return to the team who only months ago handed him a $126 million deal.

    After the incident involving offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer speaking negatively about Cutler to NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport, it's no wonder Cutler couldn't care less if he comes back. Trust was broken.

    Charles "Peanut" Tillman talked about it Sunday.

    "This year there was a lot of trust broken," he said, via Rich Campbell of the Chicago Tribune. "When you do have conflict, you need to let that...stay in house."

    On top of Cutler’s uncertainty over his own job, he’s also uncertain what will happen to head coach Marc Trestman:

    “No idea. I mean, I don’t think anyone knows what’s going to happen. No one knows what direction we’re going, but I’m pretty confident that we will know relatively soon. I don’t think it’s something that is going to drag out.”

    Usually the quarterback will back the head coach until the head coach is no longer the head coach. Cutler is making his feelings about Trestman known.

    How the times have changed over the course of the past 12 months.