Ryan Van Bibber: The most obvious place to start is what's going on with Jay Cutler?
John Crist: I know Cutler has been murdered from coast to coast for not making the Bears any better and throwing interceptions at an alarming rate, and I'm far from a Cutler apologist, but he has been put in a terrible situation and needs to be cut some slack. Yes, his exit from Denver was far from pretty and he's every bit the prima donna some people in the media have made him out to be, but Chicago's offensive line is downright offensive, his skill-position talent is average at best and the supposedly vaunted Bears defense has been a joke. Not to mention the fact that his offensive coordinator, Ron Turner, hasn't done a very good job of tweaking his system to suit his new passer's strengths.
One of Cutler's biggest assets is his ability to deliver the football down the field with arm strength and accuracy, but if his line can't even protect him long enough to take a seven-stop drop, we'll never see that part of his game.
RVB: The Bears gave up a treasure chest of picks in the Cutler trade. How do you see this impacting the long-term health of the franchise?
JC: No question about, that is the biggest question facing the Monsters of the Midway, who will finish out of the playoffs for the third straight season after an appearance in Super Bowl XLI. It would have been acceptable to trade away all those picks if Cutler immediately made the Bears a contender. But now that the entire roster has been exposed and there are glaring weaknesses at almost every position, it's going to be very difficult for general manager Jerry Angelo to replenish what he has lost with no first- or second-round draft picks for two straight years.
I'm expecting Angelo to trade down on more than one occasion this coming April, hoping to stockpile a handful of selections on the second day of the draft and see if he can get some late-round bargains.
RVB: What changes are in store this offseason? Will they make changes to the coaching staff?
JC: I've been saying for quite some time now that it will take a monumental collapse for the Bears to get rid of Lovie Smith, who still has two years left on his contract totaling about $11 million. But we may be seeing said monumental collapse coming to fruition as we speak, as Chicago has lost six of seven games and been blown out of the building on three occasions during that stretch. A loss to the 1-10 Rams at home would be nothing short of unforgivable, so if St. Louis does escape from Soldier Field with a victory, Smith may need to tighten up his resume.
That being said, both Dave Wannstedt and Dick Jauron hung around the Windy City at least one year too long, as this family-run organization doesn't have a history of writing big checks to chase bad coaches out of town.
RVB: While I know Bears fans are disappointed in the season, their record beats the Rams and the stat sheet does, too. How do you see this game turning out? Are the Bears taking it lightly?
JC: To answer your second question first, absolutely not, the Bears are not taking this game lightly. As previously discussed, Chicago has lost six of seven contests and looked terrible for the most part during that freefall, and there is a lot of veteran pride on the defensive side of the ball that feels embarrassed right now. Assuming the Midway Monsters can keep Steven Jackson relatively in check, as he seems to be the only St. Louis player of note coming into Week 13, I think the Bears are the better team and should emerge victorious.
Remember the Bears played an equally atrocious Browns club at home way back in Week 8, and they won that matchup 30-6.
RVB: What have been the bright spots in the Bears' season?
JC: They are few and far between, but I believe the receiving corps has played relatively well in 2009, especially since they were deemed to be the main weakness on this team heading into training camp. Defensively, Lance Briggs is still as good as it gets at the outside linebacker position, and while he has struggled from time to time facing elite wideouts, cornerback Zack Bowman has picked off four passes and may have a bright future in front of him if he can finally stay healthy. The kicking game is always a strength, as Robbie Gould deserves a Pro Bowl invite and Brad Maynard is a surgeon inside the enemy 20-yard line.
Nevertheless, this season has been a major disappointment in Chicago and warrants Smith worrying about his job for the first since he was hired back in 2004.
To go back and read Part I of this Behind Enemy Lines series, where Ryan answered five questions from John, on Click Here.
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Behind Enemy Lines: Part II
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