On Monday night at Soldier Field in Chicago, the New Orleans Saints and the Chicago Bears will meet in what could be dubbed "The Disappointment Bowl," a meeting of two teams that were widely expected to be better than their current 5-8 records.
Another nickname for this game could be the "Kromer Bowl," after former Saints assistant and now Bears offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer badmouthed quarterback Jay Cutler to a reporter, then tearfully apologized for it.
To talk about all of this and more, we are joined by Lester Wiltfong Jr. of Windy City Gridiron to take the pulse of the Bears and look at this upcoming contest. The game means a bit more for New Orleans, which amazingly still has a chance to earn a playoff berth. The Bears on the other hand are eliminated from playoff contention, yet they're still a collection of professional NFL players that'll try to finish the season on a positive note.
Without further ado, here's our Q and A with Lester.
1) Canal Street Chronicles: With three games remaining in the regular season, the Chicago Bears are already eliminated from playoff contention. This will mark the fourth year in a row that the Bears have missed the postseason. What has been the main reason for this unsuccessful streak? Front office? Coaching? Players?
Lester Wiltfong: The easy answer is yes, all of the above. The Bears have a roster full of free agents because the drafting in the Jerry Angelo era was pretty bad. Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker has had no answers the last two years and Marc Trestman's offense has been maddeningly inconsistent this year. The players aren't making plays, in part because of various injuries, but there hasn't been one bright spot on the entire team.
2) CSC: Quarterback Jay Cutler is a lightning rod for criticism, and it reaches ridiculous levels when his team is not winning. However, Cutler is 8th in the NFL with a 66.2% completion percentage, 14th in the league with a 91.0 quarterback rating and Football Outsiders has him ranked 16th among NFL quarterbacks with a 3.2% DVOA rating. These numbers suggest that Cutler is an average quarterback, and certainly not as awful as many portray him to be. How do you feel about the Bears quarterback? Will he, in your opinion, ever become the guy that leads Chicago to the Promised Land again?
LW: I wrote an article a while back titled Jay Cutler is what he is. I don't expect Cutler to ever become an "elite" quarterback, because the truly great ones have it all figured out before their 9th year in the NFL. I expect Cutler to be exactly what he is. He's an average quarterback that can play at a Pro Bowl level at times, but he can also make a boneheaded play at times. He's having a career year in a few passing categories, but the turnovers have been a problem.
Basically there are people that feel he's a prima donna that forced a trade from the Broncos; others can't stand him because of the NFC Championship game when he couldn't play on a grade II MCL tear, others hate his body language, or his facial expressions, or his refusal to act like he enjoys every press conference he goes through, some hate him because he's not Aaron Rodgers, others hate him for bumping his left tackle, or telling Mike Martz to F off, or for ignoring Mike Tice.
There are plenty of reasons not to like Cutler, but until he's no longer the QB for the Bears, I'll still be cheering him on each week. As far as Chicago's championship aspirations with him under center, there have been worse quarterbacks that have made it to the Super Bowl.
3) CSC: If you were Saints head coach and offensive play-caller Sean Payton, how would you go about attacking the Bears defense? On the other side of the ball, if you were New Orleans defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, how would you defend the Bears offense?
LW: Honestly the Bears can't stop anyone on offense. They've been better against the run this year, but they still fall for misdirection. A healthy dose of play action will fool the young Chicago linebackers all night long.
On the flip side, the Bears' offense has been struggling all season long. If the Saints can get pressure on Cutler while sitting back in a zone, eventually a mistake (interception, penalty, fumble) will happen.
4) CSC: Offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer is at the center of a big controversy in Chicago for anonymously criticizing Jay Cutler. He and offensive linemen Jermon Bushrod and Brian de la Puente all came from the Saints' offensive system under Sean Payton. How have Bushrod, de la Puente and Kromer fared in Chicago in their respective roles? How much of a distraction do you think the "Kromer incident" will be?
LW: Bushrod had a solid year last season; he's had to fight through some injury issues in 2014. He had a stretch of a few games where he really struggled, but I attribute that to his injuries. The last couple of games he's looked better. Brian de la Puente is on injured reserve now, but before he was hurt he filled in at center and left guard. I'd like to see the Bears bring him back next year.
If we are to believe the press conference on Friday, the Kromer "incident" is in the past. Kromer, Cutler and Trestman all met the media and are just looking to put it behind them. But with that being said, it wouldn't surprise me to see the Bears fire Kromer after the season. Going outside the circle of trust is a big deal and I'm not sure the team can come back from this one.
Kromer was caught up in a moment of frustration and he vented to the wrong guy. I can certainly understand Kromer's frustration, but there are more problems on the 2014 Chicago Bears than the play from Cutler. The o-line has been bad, the play calling has been suspect, the defense has been a sieve, special teams has been a joke and the injury bug has bit again.
5) CSC: How do you see this Monday night game turning out? Who wins and why?
LW: If the Saints don't drop at least 40 on the Bears I'd be very surprised. When you factor in the team being out of playoff contention and this week's controversy, if the Saints jump out to an early lead, the game could be over by halftime.
Many thanks to Lester to take some time to speak with us.
For more coverage on the Chicago Bears, please visit Windy City Gridiron.