The resurgence of quarterback Jay Cutler and the Bears offense continued Sunday in a season-ending 37-23 victory over the Detroit Lions at Ford Field, but will it be enough to save the jobs of offensive coordinator Ron Turner and some of his assistants?
Even coach Lovie Smith's job security remains unsettled, and the case could be made that, down the stretch, the offense outperformed the defense, which Smith took over this season. The Bears scored 73 points in their final two games, both wins, after scoring 74 points in the previous six games combined. But the defense allowed 84 points in the final three games.
"We're going to do whatever we decide to do fairly soon," Bears general manager Jerry Angelo said before the game on WBBM Radio. "That is what we have always done. We certainly have things to talk about. I am not minimizing that. We will do that once the season is over."
It ended for the Bears with a 7-9 record and a third straight season out of the playoffs. But they did win their final two games after losing eight of 10, and Angelo has said more than once that every game is important and that he would evaluate every game the same, even after the Bears were out of the playoff picture.
"That is not lip service," Angelo said. "These games are very important to us, and we want to make sure our focus is there."
The consensus around Halas Hall, among sources with knowledge of the situation, is that Turner and probably offensive line coach Harry Hiestand and quarterbacks coach Pep Hamilton will not be back.
But a compelling case for continued employment was made in the final two games, as the Bears generated 781 yards of total offense. Cutler, who still wound up with an NFL-high 26 interceptions, was brilliant in season-ending victories over NFC North rivals Minnesota and Detroit, with eight touchdown passes, just one interception, 534 passing yards and passer ratings of 108.4 and 122.0.
Afterward, Smith tap-danced around any employment-related questions.
"Every year, changes happen," Smith said. "We realize that's a part of it. We're enjoying this [win] now. I think changes are necessary from top to bottom with everybody that's [had] something to do with everything, as far as improving our team. As far as changes, we just need to change some things to make it a little better and go from there."
Asked if he thought Turner did a good enough job to be brought back for the final year of his contract, Smith said: "I think all of us didn't do as good a job as we needed to, starting with me. And it goes down to all coaches, players and everyone who's involved in our organization. [We] didn't do as good a job as we need to to get back to where we belong."
Asked if he was confident that he would be back, Smith said: "Until someone tells me otherwise. After a game, I normally come to work trying to improve our ball club. I'll do the same thing [Monday]."
Smith took over the defensive play-calling duties this season but there wasn't any improvement in the final product, and that may be a job he looks to fill before next season, freeing himself up.
"I don't necessarily see it as a burden most of the time," he said. "It definitely took up more of my time. It was a chore, but winning football games is a chore in general. I definitely enjoyed it at times, but I had my hands full doing both."
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