Commentary

A statement game

Bears' players spoke louder than Angelo with embarrassing defeat to Ravens

Updated: December 20, 2009, 9:39 PM ET
By Melissa Isaacson | ESPNChicago.com

Jerry Angelo has spoken.

[+] EnlargeLovie Smith
James Lang/US PresswireJerry Angelo said the money remaining on Lovie Smith's contract won't figure into any decision on Smith's fate.

Why we should actually care is the $11 million question.

For starters, if you're looking for the person with the most control over Lovie Smith's fate, forget about the Bears' general manager and start with quarterback Jay Cutler.

Two interceptions Sunday in less time than it took for Angelo to say next to nothing in a pregame chat with reporters, once again derailed Bears drives and drove home one indisputable fact. No one will impact the fate of the Bears' head coach more than his players.

If it's not Cutler throwing interceptions -- he added his third of the day and league-high 25th of the season when the game was out of reach, then it's a defense that allowed the Ravens to drive 81 yards for their second touchdown after the second pick.

The players have spoken. And this is what they have said -- 31-7. Three more Cutler interceptions. Six turnovers in all. A season guaranteed to finish below .500 and the third straight year out of the playoffs.

But before Sunday's latest embarrassment, Angelo finally addressed the questions that all of us -- media and fans -- have been guessing on for most of this season. He cleared up very little, and really, why should we have expected anything else?

Angelo is much too involved in the current muck of the franchise, much too vulnerable himself, to be objective on anything. There is also no guarantee that whatever Angelo recommends to the Bears' board of directors regarding Smith's fate, that they will agree with him and act on it.

Still, Angelo spoke and so we analyze.

He said that whatever decision is made on Smith -- and he emphasized that will not occur, contrary to reports, until after the season -- it will not be influenced by money, despite the fact the Bears' coach will be owed approximately $11 million for the remaining two years of his contract.

Angelo said he will focus on the problems of this season, the root of those problems and how to fix them.

"And I don't look at money in those times," he said. "It's not about money; it's about doing what we feel we need to do to be a better football team."

He said the team has been "competitive," the buzzword for: "Has the team given up on Smith?" The sad fact is that there is no evidence to suggest that the leaders on this team have turned on their head coach. In other words, they are this bad and undisciplined without an agenda.

Angelo was clearly uncomfortable answering questions, hence the following double-talk.

Question: In retrospect, did Lovie's duties as defensive playcaller hurt him as a head coach?

Angelo: "I can't answer that. Again, I want to talk to Lovie about a lot of things. I'm sure that's going to come up and then we'll see. Things didn't come together like we wanted and there are a lot of reasons why. It's not just any one thing, and he may bring that up, I don't know. All this is premature, but we could get a real laundry list of things that didn't go quite the way we wanted them to go this year."

Help.

Of course, he did say "I like our roster," because any other answer is in the GM's boilerplate letter of resignation.

"We have a good nucleus of young players," Angelo said. "So pretty much our roster will be intact next year. But I look at that as a positive, not a negative."

Good of him to realize that was our next question: And this is a positive?

Clearly, Angelo is in denial.

Question: You mentioned young receivers. Do you regret not getting an established NFL receiver for Jay Cutler?

Angelo: "Do you think the receiver position has been our problem?"

Question: Do you think that could have helped?

[+] EnlargeJerry Angelo
Jerry Lai/US PresswireJerry Angelo said the Bears' problems will be fixed, but what if he's the problem?
Angelo: "I don't think it could have helped. I thought our receiver position played pretty well. There are other things that maybe we didn't do as well, but I felt that turned out to be a pretty good position of strength. I want to see it continue in these next three weeks because we have a lot of young guys."

A position of strength?

Look, the whole situation stinks. If the Bears' coaching staff remains the same, it just delays the inevitable as well as the Cutler development plan, which is no small undertaking. If they manage to find a capable offensive coordinator to take Ron Turner's place, Cutler is likely looking at four coordinators in four years when the new head coach brings in his own.

If money is not an object, as Angelo said, then the Bears won't mind covering for him and Smith. But then we need to hear that from chairman of the board Michael McCaskey and he hasn't been holding too many press conferences lately.

Angelo said it doesn't matter that there's a plethora of qualified coaches available. And clearly, given the Bears' record of never hiring a new coach with NFL head-coaching experience in the entire history of the organization, this actually makes sense.

"We'll address everything that needs to be addressed at the right time, and we will get our problems fixed," Angelo said.

Great to know. But what if he's the problem?

Melissa Isaacson is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.

Melissa Isaacson

Columnist, ESPNChicago.com
Melissa Isaacson is a columnist for espnW.com, ESPN Chicago and ESPN.com. The award-winning writer has covered Chicago sports for most of her 31-year career, including at the Chicago Tribune before joining ESPN in 2009. Isaacson has also covered tennis since 1986.