Bears eye change after 8-8 finish
The Chicago Bears are facing some big questions as they sift
through the wreckage of a lost season.
At the top of the list is this: Will Mike Martz be back for a
third season as offensive coordinator? Coach Lovie Smith wasn’t
tipping his hand on Monday.
”We’re evaluating everything and Mike’s a part of that,” Smith
said. ”So I can’t tell you. Mike is a guy who’s been around a few
years. I haven’t had a chance to sit down with Mike to see exactly
which way he wants to go, and which way we want to go.”
Changes figure to be in store for the Bears after they finished
8-8 following a monumental collapse with quarterback Jay Cutler
injured that left them out of the playoffs for the fourth time in
five years. They dropped five straight before winning the finale at
Minnesota, and as the losses mounted, so did speculation that Martz
was on his way out.
He has an expiring contract, and although he has said he hopes
to return, Smith was noncommittal. He said he needed ”to sit down
with Mike and I haven’t done that.” He said he hopes to have a
decision ”as soon as possible,” but ”that could take some
Besides Martz, special-teams coordinator Dave Toub and Pro Bowl
running back Matt Forte have expiring contracts.
Forte’s rookie contract is up, and he’s coming off his first Pro
Bowl season. So even though he didn’t play after spraining the MCL
in his right knee early in a loss to Kansas City on Dec. 4, he
figures to be in line for a big payday. He came into his fourth
season looking for an extension, and general manager Jerry Angelo
insisted the Bears tried hard to get something done.
”Of course, he’s going to say that,” Forte said.
Forte was reportedly offered a deal that guaranteed about $13
million or $14 million, but might have been looking for something
closer to the five-year, $43 million contract with $21 million
guaranteed that Carolina gave DeAngelo Williams.
”We weren’t even close to that at the beginning of the season.
My agent told me the longer we wait, the harder it’s going to get
to do,” Forte said.
The question is: Will he get a multiyear deal or will the Bears
place the franchise tag on him?
”I have no idea,” Forte said. ”Nobody’s talking right now, so
Asked if he’ll report to camp if the Bears slap him with the
franchise tag, Forte said, ”I have no idea.”
Forte’s stock certainly was soaring before he went down. He went
into the game against Kansas City leading the league in yards from
scrimmage and third in rushing. He finished with 1,487 scrimmage
yards and ran for 997, averaging 4.9 yards per carry.
Forte was clearly having his best season as a pro before it got
cut short, and he doesn’t think the injury should diminish his
”I didn’t have surgery, I don’t have to have surgery,” Forte
said. ”There’s nothing wrong with my knee. It’s actually healing
up pretty well so I don’t think that does anything.”
The Bears’ freefall had already started by the time Forte was
It began when Cutler broke his right thumb trying to make a
tackle following a late interception against San Diego on Nov. 20.
The Bears were putting the finishing touches on their fifth
straight win when everything came apart.
Besides losing the two best players on offense, Chicago saw
receiver Johnny Knox suffer a season-ending back injury.
There were key mistakes by running back Marion Barber in close
losses to Kansas City and Denver, and big struggles for backup
quarterback Caleb Hanie with Cutler sidelined. He went 0-4 as the
starter before Josh McCown got the nod.
The injuries and a lack of depth certainly didn’t make Martz’s
job any easier. He also left himself open to second-guessing at
times with his play-calling, but the offense was clicking before
Cutler went down, with Chicago averaging about 32 points during
that five-game win streak.
”We would like him back,” receiver and return star Devin
If they don’t bring back Martz, the Bears would be looking at
their third offensive coordinator in four years. Then again, they
won the NFC North in their first season with him a year ago.
”That would be tough to do, but it happens all the time,”
Forte said. ”You’ve got to learn the playbook. When Coach Martz
first came in, we learned his plays and did pretty well. It’s just
when there’s no consistency and having to change the playbook and
all that, that makes it a little more tough.”
What made it tougher was the lack of a backup quarterback,
top-tier receiver and issues protecting the quarterback even if
Smith had this to say about the offensive line: ”I think this is
the best situation we’ve been in since I’ve been here with our
Considering the line ranked 27th through Sunday, that’s a
stretch. Either way, Smith insisted the Bears don’t need sweeping
”I definitely don’t think we need a complete overhaul, by any
means, and our players know that,” he said.
As for Toub, he could be in line for a head coaching job, and
the Bears declined comment on a Chicago Tribune report that the
special teams coordinator will interview for the Miami Dolphins’