Back in August most fans looked at the Bears roster, coaching staff and the schedule and predicted 10 or 11 wins in most cases. Everything seemed to be pointing up.
Looking at the roster additions, the upswing in offensive output and the shiny new contract that Jay Cutler signed, it seemed like everything was lining up for a return to the postseason.
But it all went bad rather quickly.
And now we just can't wait for it all to be over.
The latest debacle to hit this fiasco-mired squad is the benching of Jay Cutler for Jimmy Clausen. It's easy to look at that move and say it is too little too late, mostly because it is.
Some could argue that it never should have come to this, that Cutler should have been benched a long time ago or that he never even should have been re-signed in the first place.
The fact is that in a little over a week's time that neither head coach Marc Trestman or general manager Phil Emery will still be employed in Chicago. It also stands to reason that come minicamp in May and likely before the children of Chicago observe Casmir Pulaski day that Jay Cutler will no longer have a locker inside Halas Hall.
The trio are quite possibly three of the four or five biggest problems that the Chicago Bears currently have. They are also the three easiest to be jettisoned out of the building and away from the toxic dump that is the Chicago Bears franchise.
When did it all go wrong for a regime that was so highly thought of not so long ago? In the bigger picture, when did it all go wrong with one of the NFL's charter franchises?
Was it on January 16, 2013 when the Bears hired Marc Trestman?
Trestman's promise of a disciplined, offensive team that knew the "science of football" and was going to have direction and accountability never really came out in full force. Despite the absolute brilliance shown in 2013, it all disappeared this season and has never even slightly returned. Trestman appeared to be in over his head more and more. He lost control and it wasn't until two days ago that he finally attempted to regain it. However, it was so far gone there was no saving it.
Did it all go south on January 30, 2012 when the Bears introduced Phil Emery as the new general manager?
It seemed so great at the time. Who could be worse than the outgoing Jerry Angelo? Anyone could draft better than him. With Emery though it has been hit and miss in the draft. Plenty of good; Alshon Jeffery, Kyle Long, Kyle Fuller but plenty of bad; Shea McClellin, Evan Rodriguez, Jon Bostic. One of his biggest blunders will go down as the signing of Cutler to his seven-year $126 million contract with $54 million in guarantees. The Bears might be able to get out from under it without too much damage, but it is the poster child for bad QB contracts right now.
However, Emery's biggest mistake is the hiring of Marc Trestman. Emery led an exhaustive search, leaving no stone unturned and he was so sure that Trestman was going to be the guy. This was after he had AP Coach of the Year winner Bruce Arians in the room, wanting to be hired. Arians might be a two-time winner of that award while the Bears are stuck interviewing Arians' assistants for their vacancies.
It seems laughable now, but remember when Emery was hailed as the GM of the future? Now Emery might have plenty of time to watch Criminal Minds reruns with Trestman, if they're still on speaking terms.
Or, do all the Bears' problems as a franchise go back to April 2, 2009?
That date, known to some as Jay Cutler Day, was when the Bears traded for the 26-year-old signal caller fresh off a Pro-Bowl appearance. Two first round picks, a fifth round pick and Kyle Orton got the Bears the QB their team was so starved for, but it's never really worked out like we had hoped.
Two head coaches, two general managers, four offensive coordinators and so many receivers and offensive linemen later, the pieces have never been enough for Cutler. Has the talent around him failed him? Have the systems and the coaches failed him? Or is it just that Cutler was never going to be the guy in the first place?
There have been moments of brilliance, flashes of potential, enough to make the decision makers and fans say "if we can just get a little more out of him, it'll be perfect."
But it never was. Now he's benched and likely has played his last game in navy and orange. The wheels came off in a season in which he was within grasp of the single-season marks for QB and just a few more TDs from the all-time franchise record. Cutler might be the most polarizing Bear ever.
As the Bears and their fans look forward and try and pick up all the pieces and rebuild the team, who deserves the blame for taking them to the bottom so quickly?