Forget getting off the bus running. Why not just grab a scape-goat, and throw him under it? As expected, the Bears fired Ron Turner today. But was anyone at all surprised? It seems like Jerry and Lovie stuck together and took care of the coaches on the defensive staff. Ironically, no one on the defensive side of the ball was let go - so far. And it looks like they may be bringing on another Cover 2 guy (Perry Fewell, from Lovie's days in St. Louis, of course) to be the new defensive coordinator. Apparently the key to job security on the Bears is to be a defensive coach.
Don't get me wrong. Our offense had plenty of problems this year - and Turner definately called some questionable plays at key junctures of the season (see red zone problems). But was the offensive play calling the reason why we got blown out big against the Bengals, Cardinals and Vikings during a key stretch where we lost 6 of 7 games? I don't think so. The key to our late season turn-around was clearly on offense, where we scored 73 points in our last 2 games and Cutler threw 8 TDs and only 1 interception. The play calling improved and the offensive line actually looked like an NFL offensive line. Chris Williams looks like he's capable of protecting Jay's blind-side and the young receiving corps is looking very capable, if not dependable. Conversely, the defense finished the year very shaky - giving up 84 points over the final 3 games. Not exactly a strong finish for our head coach and defensive coordinator - Lovie Smith.
I was a vocal critic of Turner's for most of the season. I thought his play calling was poor, and at times very predictable. The lack of creativity seemed to be especially lacking in the red zone. But most important of all, the play-calling just did not seem to blend well with Cutler's (or the line's) strengths. Having Cutler stand back in the pocket as it collapsed and Forte running behind the left side in the red zone seem to be recurring themes that stick in my mind.
But to blame all of the teams' (or even just the problems on offense) entirely on Ron Turner is as short-sighted as it is hypocrytical. By the way, who brought in Orlando Pace and Frank Omiyale to "anchor" the left side of the line to start the year? Oh, that's right! That would be Jerry Angelo, the guy who still has a job. Turner may well have worn out his welcome in Chicago. Many of the fans on this site certainly turned on him this year. But to cut Turner lose and then stop there is doing a piss-poor job of assigning blame - and accountability - for the melt-down that we witnessed this year.
Some could argue that Turner did the most with what he was given to work with. Yes, Angelo, to his credit, pulled off what was arguably the gutsiest off-season move in franchise history when he made the trade for Cutler. I think from that point on, Turner was basically toast. The expectations in Chicago were soaring after we made the deal to bring in our first "franchise" quarterback. Once the bar was set, if Turner and the offense didn't deliver, he would be an easy scape-goat for the teams' failures. Angelo kept saying things like "the quarterback makes the receivers better." All this did was build expectations higher and put more pressure on Cutler and Turner to deliver. What followed was very predictable. Orlando Pace turned out to be a bust, the young receivers struggled early and often to create chemistry with Cutler, and the running game was among the worst in the NFL.
But in the final evaluation, Turner was the guy left holding the bag. No one stopped to tell Angelo what a horrible move (and terrible investment) the Pace signing was. Or how bad Lovie's beloved cover 2 got torched by the Bengals, Cardinals and Vikings (even in the game we won at the end of the year). No, Lovie and Jerry came together, closed ranks and convieniently blamed everything on the guy who tried to mold together a new QB and 6 new starters on offense - in a year where expectations were higher than they'd been since the Super Bowl.