December 21, 2012
The big-picture stuff going on in Lake Forest is juicier than it has been in years. To my delight, that's not going to change for many weeks.
Who coaches the Bears in 2013 is a much more meaningful, more layered conversation than if Lovie Smith's secondary can handle Larry Fitzgerald on Sunday better than it did James Jones in the loss to the Packers.
We wonder aloud if Phil Emery has more muscle than previous general managers. We try to connect the dots on what type of coach Emery will tab if Smith is jettisoned in January. And we wonder if Emery prefers the 3-4 defense, which was speculated when the GM selected Shea McClellin with the 19th pick.
The anticipation of change can be both unnerving and exhilarating. Give and take about the prospect of a reconstruction project is engaging. An update on tackle Jonathan Scott's hamstring is not.
What has been lost this week is how easily the Bears could lose again.
I wouldn't invest in the Bears as a 51/2-point road favorite against any team in the NFL right now. Not even the bottom feeders can keep the Bears from being the Bears.
Playing the 5-9 Cardinals doesn't ensure the Bears won't turn short yardage into third-and-6 because of a false start. Should we assume the Bears' specialty units will be able to get a 12th player off the field in time to avoid a penalty because the Cardinals lost nine straight prior to Week 15?
The Bears have earned their second-half spiral by performing poorly. Coaching poorly. They've gotten worse instead of better and beaten up instead of staying healthy.
Jay Cutler and his offensive mates have provided no reason to expect celebration dances in the end zone. You can bank on a couple of off-the-charts bad Cutler throws, a handful of drops, a dozen uninspired rushing attempts and protection breakdowns.
The Cardinals battered Matthew Stafford in their 38-10 win over the Lions last weekend. I don't know why any thinking person would expect Mike Tice's always-changing, often-hurt, gelatinous wall of manflesh to keep Cutler from running for his life.
On defense the Bears are merely hanging on. If Beanie Wells rips off a few long runs, it should surprise nobody. If Fitzgerald, who has underwhelmed this year, has a big day, nobody would say, "Man, I didn't see that one comin'."
No on-the-field disappointment with these Bears can be dismissed. And maybe that's not all bad. Sometimes the bottom has to get painfully low before one can be restored to health.
The Bears are most capable of hitting a new low Sunday.
•What does Cutler have in common with quarterbacks Ryan Lindley, Kevin Kolb, John Skelton and Christian Ponder, Kirk Cousins, Nick Foles and Ryan Tannehill? The same number of 300-yard passing games this season. One. Not exactly fast company.
•Fox sent what's left of Dick Stockton and John Lynch to Arizona for the Bears-Cardinals. If ever there were a weekend to pop for one of those gizmos that syncs a television feed to live radio, this is it.
I have a hunch that next year there will be a handful of Bears games when the networks crews that are low on the depth chart keep us company through Emery's reclamation project.
•Most of the "this is the best game of the year!" blather has been a kiss of death for the night games. Crossing my fingers the Seahawks and 49ers break out the brass knuckles and buck the trend Sunday night on NBC.
Special contributor Dan McNeil hosts "The McNeil and Spiegel Show" weekdays from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. on WSCR-AM 670.
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