It takes a special team to collapse in the NFL. You need a mechanically and emotionally erratic quarterback, a quiet and laid back coach who won't ever bring the collapse to the team's attention or try to do something about it, and in Chicago's case, an offensive line that appears to be a group of double agents for the opposing team's defense.
No team has exemplified collapsing better than the 2011 and 2012 Chicago Bears. In 2011, they started the season off 7-3 through Week 11, which presumably meant they needed about four more wins to make the playoffs. But of course, Chicago went 1-5 in their last six games and missed out on that opportunity.
In 2012, The Bears looked like a definite lock for the playoffs in Week 9, going 7-1 in that span. But then the perfect storm hit Chicago once again, and they finished the season 3-5 to miss the playoffs for the second year in a row.
So what has gone wrong in Chicago the past two years to account for such dismal collapses? Erratic quarterback? Check. Laid back coach? Check. Double agents on the line? Check.
First, let's start with the quarterback. The quarterback of a team is the leader even if he is a rookie. It is just how the hierarchy of an NFL team operates. The team is going to mirror the actions of the quarterback because he is the leader. But the problem with Chicago is their leader is this guy.
What is almost more important than Cutler's stats is the way he holds himself and leads this team.
Cutler is off the hook in 2011 because he got hurt right when the team began to implode, which is obviously a major reason for the implosion, but 2012 is a different story. The biggest problem with Cutler statistically is his love for the interception.
In 2012, he ranked tied for 12th in the league with 14 interceptions, but what is key is that nine of those interceptions were thrown in the six losses that season.
But what is almost more important than Cutler's stats is the way he holds himself and leads this team. Watch up to the 1:30 mark of this video and you will get a glimpse of his "Eh, we'll figure it out soon enough" attitude. But in football and all sports, while a confident attitude is important, a sense of urgency is equally as important. And when Cutler is out there throwing picks and the game away, he does not seem to be too worried.
So what kind of effect do you think that will have on the rest of the team? That kind of attitude can cripple a team and it is obvious that it is one of the reasons Chicago collapsed in 2012.
But when a team lacks leadership out of the quarterback position, it must be able to lean on the head coach. And it seems that the Bears could not get that from Lovie Smith either. He has proved to be a fantastic defensive mind, but as a leader of men, he did not do too well.
The collapses and underachievement year after year are a perfect example of this. Smith seemed like the ultimate players' coach who was too laid back for his team's good. And when the collapses began, Smith did not have the control to stop them in their path. And that is why, even though the Bears finished 10-6, Smith was fired last season.
If the Bears collapse again, then we will know that Cutler is the real issue.
But the major issue for the Bears the last couple of seasons was not Smith or even Cutler. The biggest problem for Chicago is that they could not protect Cutler, and good teams are going to take advantage of that.
But in the past offseason, they finally did something about the putrid offensive line by signing Jermon Bushrod and Matt Slauson in free agency and drafting Kyle Long in the first round. Chicago also hired offensive guru Marc Trestman as Head Coach in the offseason, which will put more of an emphasis on the offensive game plan, something that has been lacking in previous seasons under Smith and former offensive coordinator Mike Tice.
So, they fixed the head coach and offensive line issue this season, but what about the quarterback issue? Nope, Jay Cutler is still slinging it for Chicago and it does not seem like that will change any time soon.
He has had a decent start to the season, but the Bears have started 3-0 and are off to a hot start once again. The real question here is, will they collapse once again? If they do, then we will know that the problem is not as much Smith's inadequacies as a coach or the line's adept ability to transform into a turnstile, but that Cutler is the real issue.
It will be interesting to follow this team to see if they return to their roots of collapsing. But with Jay Cutler leading this team, does anyone really know?