Since losing to the Colts in the Super Bowl three years ago, the Bears have defined mediocrity. They have won 20 games, lost another 20, and tried out three starting quarterbacks before landing Jay Cutler.
The rotating signal callers have distracted attention from Chicago’s biggest problem: Lovie Smith’s defense isn’t very good.
The unit was below average in 2007 and 2008. With practically the same personnel back this season, Smith’s big gamble this offseason was to appoint himself defensive coordinator. He was counting on coaching rather than players to fix things.
And now Chicago’s defense looks worse than ever.
The Bears gave up 45 points to the Bengals in Week Seven, then 41 to the Cardinals in Week Nine. NFL Network’s Mike Lombardi spoke this week that the Bears have been struggling just to get lined up correctly of late. That’s coaching.
On Thursday night, look for Alex Smith and the 49ers to attack a Bears secondary that has been vulnerable because the defensive line hasn’t pressured teams.
This is a crucial game for Lovie and his troops. If the Bears can’t win, they will be 4-5 with Philadelphia and a trip to Minnesota up next on the schedule. A second game against Minnesota and a trip to Baltimore also loom.
While the heat is on offensive coordinator Ron Turner, it’s fair to ask what’s Chicago’s biggest flaw. They have a defensive-minded head coach running a defense that has been below average for three years running. There is very little young talent to get excited about.
Yes, the Bears ownership won’t want to eat the end of Smith’s contract. But they might not have any choice if Smith’s defense keeps giving up 40 points anytime they face a decent quarterback.