Quarterback Jay Cutler and offensive coordinator Ron Turner have taken a large share of the blame – maybe too much – for a 5-8 Bears team whose offense is 24th in total yards, 32nd in rushing yards, 16th in passing yards, 28th in interception percentage and 22nd in scoring.
Some of the criticism could just as easily be directed toward an underachieving offensive line, a youthful wide receiver corps that's getting on-the-job training, an inconsistent defense and a weak pass rush.
"The quarterback is going to take the blame," Cutler said. "A lot of the good ones around the league know we're going to take the blame, and we're going to figure it out in-house."
If it doesn't get figured out soon, starting with Sunday's noon clash with the Ravens in Baltimore, heads are expected to roll at Halas Hall.
Turner, whose contract is up at the end of this year, said he isn't worried about taking the fall for a season that started out 3-1 but has gone in the dumpster. But that may already be a foregone conclusion. The Bears have scored more than 21 points just three times in 13 games and just once in the last nine games, during which the Bears are 2-7. In their last six games, the Bears are 1-5 and have averaged just 14.7 points per game.
Turner's job security may ultimately depend on is relationship with Cutler, in whom the Bears have invested heavily. Two months ago, Cutler signed a two-year extension through 2013 for $30 million in new money.
Cutler said his relationship with the Turner is "good" but didn't offer the offensive coordinator a ringing endorsement.
"There has been an open line of communication," Cutler said. "We have both been honest with each other. There has been some give and take on both ends, and that's how it goes. Anytime you struggle offensively, the offensive coordinator and the quarterback are going to take the blame, as it should be. So it's just as tough on him, I think, as it is on me."
It's probably tougher on Turner, since his job is more at risk. After the season, Cutler said he would provide his input on Turner only if asked.
"I'm going to tell them how I feel, absolutely," he said. "But by no means am I going to march up there and tell them what should happen and what's going to happen. That's up to them. They're going to do the best thing they can for this team, and I'm going to try and do my job."
Cutler was asked what he would say if his opinion were solicited.
"At this point, I'm not even going to start going down that road," he said. "That's not my job."
Turner and Cutler were on the same page there.
"That's not his position to [give a vote of confidence]," Turner said. "That puts him in a tough spot. Jay and I have a good relationship. We talk all the time. We communicate about what we're doing, about what we want to do, and I've got a lot of confidence in him, and hopefully he feels the same way."
Turner said the criticism from outside Halas Hall comes with the job anytime expectations aren't met.
"When you're struggling, it's part of it," he said. "You can't really get caught up in all that. I learned a long time ago, all you can do is continue to focus on the things you control. What you control is how hard you work, doing the right things, and if you do that, everything takes care of itself."
NOTES AND QUOTES
"It's tough," Hester said. "There will be a lot of changes, I know that for a fact, and I hope it's for the better."
Asked how he knows there will be changes, Hester said: "[I'm] not blind. Everybody sees it. There are going to be a lot of new players in probably, and some other things change around here. I talk to [wide receivers] coach [Darryl] Drake a lot. We all know that things are going to change, new people are going to come in, old people are going to leave, so we've just got to hope for the best, and at the end of the day make sure that you do your part."
Unless the offensive production gets a lot better in a hurry, Turner, offensive line coach Harry Hiestand and quarterbacks coach Pep Hamilton are all potential casualties along with the remainder of the offensive assistants. ...
Turner and coach Lovie Smith watch game film every Monday together with the entire staff, and they discuss what works and what needs work. Smith said he tries to offer encouragement to Turner and everyone on his staff.
"Do we need some words of encouragement?" Smith said. "Yeah, when you're 5-8, I try to give that. We're grown men. We realize where we are right now. It's disappointing. It's not a feel good for any of us right now, for Ron, for me and for the rest of our guys. But we're professionals. We come to work every day.
"Ron and I have been here a long time together (since 2005). We pretty much know what's going on. We've been in a tough situation before – all of our coaches and our team – and you're just trying to get out." ...
Cutler admitted that a disappointing season peppered with 22 interceptions and 29 sacks has caused his confidence to take a hit.
"It's tough," he said. "As many struggles, as many interceptions [as we've had], it's tough to go out there and throw the ball 20, 30, 40 times and be confident on every one. There is definitely part of me that is trying to scale it back a little bit and trying to be more careful. I'm still going to take shots at some of the chances."
QUOTE TO NOTE
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Cutler, Turner Each Getting the Blame
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