The last time the Atlanta Falcons played the Chicago Bears, they lost a brutal game where Jay Cutler threw for 381 yards, a 13-13 tie turned into a 27-13 deficit that stuck for the duration, and Steven Jackson ran 6 times for 25 yards. The loss put the Falcons at 2-4 for the year, setting them on track for the ugly finish they eventually got to in Week 17 against Carolina. The date was October 12, 2014.
The two teams have gone in very different directions since. Both teams would fire their coaches in the 2014 season, sure, but the Falcons were the NFC’s Super Bowl representative in 2016, and the Bears were 3-13.
We already know how the Falcons got here—I’m not going to belabor that—but we’re probably all less clear on what’s happened with Chicago. Let’s take a closer look.
Head Coach Change
Trestman was considered an offensive guru in the CFL, but he didn’t prove to be a great coach in the NFL. His teams went 8-8 and 5-11 in his two years, and then he was replaced by very famous former Panthers and Broncos head coach John Fox, who has had a lot of success in the NFL.
Fox has proven to be a poor choice for a rebuilding Bears team, however. They’ve gone 6-10 and 3-13 in his two seasons, and it’s fair to wonder whether he’s the right coach to oversee this team with Mitch Trubisky at the helm. If the Bears falter again, it’s fair to expect he’ll lose his job.
The Jay Cutler Era Ends
The Bears made Jay Cutler one of the highest-paid quarterbacks in football, and while they got some years of relevance out of it, ultimately the entire era was a huge disappointment. The Bears utterly failed to build a contender around Cutler most years, and by the time he had slouched his way out of town for the last time, the team had nothing left in the cupboard.
Everything Went Wrong
I mean, everything. Going from Jay Cutler to Mike Glennon is one thing, but losing Brian Urlacher, Matt Forte, Devin Hester, Alshon Jeffery, Greg Olsen, and a dozen other quality other players and replacing them with inferior options is guaranteed to sink you into the basement. It looked like the Falcons were heading for that doom, but they had Matt Ryan, a handful of great players, and they nailed the coaching hire.
This is in many ways the defining problem of the current era of Bears football. They invested in a quarterback who couldn’t quite get them there, they failed to surround him with the kind of talent that could have pushed the team over the top, and they consistently failed to add new talent via the draft. They may well rise to relevance again soon with Trubisky at the helm, but for the moment, they’re a cautionary tale for every once-great NFL team.