There is no denying that the Bears season has been an unmitigated disaster. And there is no way to classify the key decision-makers at Halas Hall as anything less than critically endangered … if only in the minds of hopeful Bears fans.
Everyone has a theory on who needs to go, but few can offer viable solutions. Here's a look at thee options for the Bears to consider. Remember, part of any plan must begin with a strategy for quarterback Jay Cutler and his $54 million in guaranteed money.
The best plan is to trade for former Bears quarterback Jim Harbaugh, the 49ers coach who is on the market. The Browns offered two third-round picks for Harbaugh last offseason so that would be the buy-in to any conversation for his services. The Bears should do whatever it takes, fire anyone he says, be willing to launch or hire or sign any player or staffer to make it happen.
Harbaugh, 51 next week, reportedly has worn out his welcome with the 49ers partly because his level of intensity has burned out the people around him. Wouldn't there be rich irony in hiring him to replace Marc Trestman?
But Harbaugh is wary of having buffers between himself and ownership. That has been a problem as Harbaugh and 49ers general manager Trent Baalke have clashed. Moreover, his family wants to remain in the Bay Area and the Raiders could be interested in him.
Harbaugh is a program builder and should be hired at all cost, even if it means Cutler and his (gulp) $38 million payoff walking out the door. Let Harbaugh hire his own general manager, team president, public relations staff, equipment man, head bottle washer, close family members — any and all.
What the Bears can't afford to do is lose him to the Raiders. Talk about deepening the humiliation. Harbaugh has everything the Bears organization doesn't: leadership, credibility and a winning resume.
But if a deal can't be worked out, the team can right the wrong of passing on Bruce Arians if they can get the Cardinals coach's top lieutenant, defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. Maybe the hottest assistant on the market, Bowles fits the Bears profile because he would be a first-time head coach, something they somehow demand, and he would return defensive credibility to the program.
While the Bears offense has been laughable and lamentable this season under GM Phil Emery and Trestman, the defense is likewise.
Like Harbaugh, Bowles has proven to be a quick fix artist. He took over the No. 28 run defense and brought the Cardinals to No. 1 in 2013. Despite losing what one observer called "every top impact player'' from that unit, the Cardinals rank sixth against the run and third in scoring defense this season despite losing tackle Darnell Dockett (knee) and linebackers Karlos Dansby (free agency), Daryl Washington (drug suspension) and John Abraham (concussions).
Like Harbaugh, Bowles is a former player. He played eight years in the NFL, starting for the Redskins in Super Bowl XXII. He was an interim head coach for the Dolphins in 2011 and took over as the Eagles defensive coordinator in 2012. He also spent two years on the personnel staff of the Packers in the mid-1990s.
Obviously, the first question he would have to answer to whatever team that hires him is who will be his offensive coordinator? Insiders say the offensive philosophy of former bosses Bill Parcells, Joe Gibbs and Richie Petitbon has influenced him. In other words, he likely would want an offense based around a power running game.
That would be an interesting way of dealing with Cutler, keeping him as the centerpiece of an offense built around a tough running game. Instead of relying on him to make everyone around him better, use some play-action to strike deep with a big-arm guy.
The least palatable option is for the Bears to keep Trestman for one more season, and that might be preferable to relying on Emery to hire his replacement.
Such an idea if fraught with peril. Can a head coach have all his coordinators fired and still remain? It would be as surprising as a 10-man fake punt, but with emotional apologies to Aaron Kromer, Trestman is really his own offensive coordinator. And he only agreed with Emery on the defensive and special teams coaches so they aren't really his guys.
If you are locked into keeping Cutler how does hiring another coach and employing another system work any better than repeating another season without coherence, without leadership and without hope?
Minus a proper housecleaning, should anyone trust Emery to pick another coach? The thing about hiring a novice to a decision-making position is to understand he never has done it before. If you keep Emery, who never made the final call in his career on a coach or a player before coming to the Bears, what makes you think he'll get it right this time?
You could pray for luck. Who hasn't sliced a golf shot into a tree only to see it ricochet onto the green? Maybe lightning will strike somebody.
Maybe the Bears will hire Harbaugh or Bowles.
Special contributor Mike Mulligan co-hosts "The Mully and Hanley Show" weekdays from 5-9 a.m. on WSCR-AM 670.