When Brandon Marshall attempted to insert himself into the Bears leadership void Sunday, you couldn't help but think of poor old Carlos Zambrano. The volatile former Cubs pitcher once mistook confrontation for leadership too. It didn't work out well for him or his team.
Marshall can comfort himself with the knowledge his locker room antics were brushed off with a "Manny being Manny'' shrug from teammates. Coach Marc Trestman metaphorically shoved a couple of fingers in his ears and made a long, loud humming noise. Management and ownership remain in seclusion at an undisclosed location.
In short, the Bears head into the stretch turn at 3-4 staring into a 3-5 abyss with the Patriots up next. Best-case scenario, they wind up with a .500 record heading into their off week.
Either way, playoff hopes are dim and the future looks bleak. How do the Bears get out of this mess? How do they fix it?
Is there a chance this thing actually can blow up and send the organization back to the Stone Age? Would anyone in the franchise maintain credibility if that happens? Does this bunch have the character and integrity to pull out of a tailspin?
Sadly, these Bears have a character flaw. They are built on offense and it's apparent personality imperfections dog the two most important offensive players.
Marshall has been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. He has had a history of disruptive histrionics throughout his NFL career. Sunday's reversion was the first obvious hint of trouble since he came to Bears.
Jay Cutler never has been known as a selfless, vocal leader. He's a gunslinger in his playing style and more loner than leader in his field generalship. He has improved in those areas as his alpha-male status has become established but is far from hailed for intangible qualities beyond obvious physical skills.
Both players are regarded as high maintenance in league circles. They need coddling over confrontation.
Enter Trestman, whose New Age nurturing seems perfect for such temperamental types. But Cutler and Marshall aren't the only players on the team, and Trestman's style hasn't been a perfect fit beyond the offensive skill positions.
Trestman wasn't hired to put a boot on anybody's rear end and he seems loath to do so, especially when it comes to his stars. General manager Phil Emery has put together a band of mercenaries that Cutler and Marshall lead.
In an era of salary-cap restrictions and player movement, the Bears aren't the only team filled with high-priced veterans acquired from other teams. But Emery's army lacks the balance of veteran homegrown talent.
There are Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman on defense, but both are injured with Tillman lost for the season. On offense, running back Matt Forte is a stalwart but has a quiet personality.
Trestman's commune captaincy relies on a weekly leader-in-rotation mentality that underscores the leadership void. It also makes you wonder if the coach plans on giving away participation medals at the postseason banquet.
The simple fact is the Bears have been losing because of turnovers. They are plus-7 in their three victories and minus-8 in four losses.
A friend of Marshall's insists that the player's theatrics go well beyond "I want the football.'' It was merely a reaction to a talented team letting their season slip away.
Nonetheless, Marshall has just 31 catches and is on pace for 71. In the old days, Cutler's version of a checkdown was to throw the ball up to Marshall. Now he's actually checking down to Forte.
There is rich irony in the Bears facing the Patriots this week because it was knowledge of the Patriots system that got Emery hired. He worked for former Bill Belichick employees and sold the Bears brain trust on the idea he would draft a champion like the Patriots did.
The Patriots were renowned for drafting character guys, a moral high ground they lost in the wake of Aaron Hernandez's arrest. But for years Belichick preferred to draft players who fit in the rank-and-file positions and allowed the Patriots to absorb some questionable guys into the locker room.
Trestman seems to be doing his quarterback whispering routine with a comparative band of gypsies. With nine games left, the Bears have to go 7-2 for a legitimate shot at the playoffs. If it doesn't start in Foxborough, it's not going to happen.
Special contributor Mike Mulligan co-hosts "The Mully and Hanley Show" weekdays from 5-9 a.m. on WSCR-AM 670.