The Chicago Bears fell to 3-4 yesterday and with road games against the Patriots and Packers next on the schedule, this season could quickly spiral out of control.
Following the 27-14 defeat to the Miami Dolphins at Soldier Field, tempers boiled over in the post-game locker room, with Brandon Marshall erupting in a fury. He reportedly called out Jay Cutler, then turned his attention to Robbie Gould.
This isn’t the first time Marshall has caused dissent within a locker room, as he previously burned bridges with teammates and coaches in both Denver and Miami.
Marshall has professed himself a new person after getting treatment for bipolar disorder, yet the old Brandon reared his ugly head yesterday. If that version of Marshall sticks around, it will be very difficult for the Bears to climb out of their current hole.
According to Jermon Bushrod, a two-time Pro Bowler in his eighth year in the NFL, that won’t happen under his watch.
“That’s not going to happen here,” Bushrod said today. “We’re a team. This is a team game. We are not going out there as individuals. So at the end of the day, we have to have each other’s backs. And we understand that when things like that happen, we just have to know how to deal with it.”
The concern is that Marshall, as he’s shown throughout his career, doesn’t always know how to deal with it properly. With his presence in the locker room as one of the veteran leaders, extended acrimony toward teammates, coaches or both can have a trickle-down effect.
“We can’t have a bunch of different opinions in our locker room, because we have to stick together,” Bushrod said. “If we don’t stick together, then it’s not good.”
Therein lies the challenge for the Bears: putting the pieces back together and building a cohesive unit that can pull the team out of its current hole.
And that falls on the veterans.
The Bears are the third-oldest team in the NFL, with veteran Pro Bowlers littering both sides of the ball. Their leadership and their ability to bring the locker room together will be crucial in quickly righting the ship.
“Just being leaders, you know, having dealt with these situations, personally, this coming from my previous team, you deal with these things all the time. As you grow older, the longer you play in this league, you know how to deal with this stuff,” said Bushrod. “The veteran leadership is going to play a major role, because the young guys that haven’t played before – we have a lot of young guys here on the team now, a lot of these guys haven’t played 16-game, 20-game seasons – they don’t know what it is.
“You lose a game, some guys kind of blow their top, but it’s not about that. It’s about resiliency, bouncing back and taking advantage of every opportunity that you have and not forgetting about what’s at stake the next nine games.”
The 2014 campaign for the Bears has clearly reached the point of no return. Either the players collectively pull together and find a way to win this week against New England, or else they continue to fall apart and fail to make the playoffs for the seventh time in the past eight seasons.
“Right now, the leaders are everyone in our locker room,” Willie Young said. “Everyone is held accountable. Everyone truly believes that you lead by example. That’s what we’re going to continue to live by. We’re not going to change what we’re doing but we’ve got to figure out what it is. Obviously, we’ve got to make some corrections.”
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his fourth season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter.