Bears: 5 changes for a playoff push in 2015

If the Chicago Bears are going to compete for a playoff spot next year, these five changes must be atop the team’s list of priorities heading into the offseason.

Find a competent head coach

The Chicago Bears made the unprecedented move of firing both the general manager and head coach the day after the 2014 campaign. At GM, Ryan Pace replaced Phil Emery, yet the club is still searching for its next head coach.

This easily tops the team’s list of offseason priorities. Consistent success in the NFL starts at the top. Finding a competent head coach is the only way the Bears can quickly right the ship and put themselves back on par with the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers. If Pace fails in his first and most important big decision as general manager, little will change in the Windy City.

Decide Cutler’s future

Jay Cutler signed a seven-year, $126.7 million contract last offseason and was benched by Week 16. His fall from grace in Chicago has been detrimental to the club and it’s unclear if Bears brass will move forward with Cutler under center. His $15.5 million salary for 2015, along with another $10 million that kicks in on the third day of the league year, will make it hard to trade or cut him.

The team may have no other option but to keep Cutler, which will greatly impact the head-coach search. A 32-year-old passer that led the league in turnovers, whose contract is a weight around the neck of the organization, won’t be attractive to every candidate.

Cut Dead Weight

The Bears in 2014 fielded many veterans who fell short of the mark, which leaves the club with a number of tough decisions. The team could save $11.5 million in cap space by cutting DE Jared Allen, which seems like a formality at this point, yet further considerations include DT Jeremiah Ratliff ($2 million in cap savings), K Robbie Gould ($1.8 million), DE Lamarr Houston ($3 million), and even WR Brandon Marshall ($4 million) who was disappointing both on and off the field last year.

Prioritize Character

The Bears were painfully void of leadership last year. The in-fighting amongst players and coaches reached comedic levels and the season quickly spiraled out of control. In both free agency and the draft, as well as in the coaching search, high character has to be a priority. It’s the only way to erase the me-first attitude that has infiltrated the locker room at Halas Hall.

Lay the Foundation

The tried-and-true method of sustained success in the NFL comes by building a team through the draft. It will be no different for the Bears, who have numerous holes to fill throughout the roster. It won’t happen overnight but a strong draft in GM Ryan Pace’s first year would be the first step in resurrecting a once-proud franchise.

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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.

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