Bears hit bye week struggling in 2nd season under Pace, Fox
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) The Chicago Bears had just wrapped up a dysfunctional season.
Chairman George McCaskey was addressing the firing of general manager Phil Emery and coach Marc Trestman when someone asked about his 91-year-old mother, team matriarch Virginia McCaskey.
''She's (ticked) off,'' he said after the 2014 season.
Who knows what she's thinking now.
The second season under general manager Ryan Pace and coach John Fox isn't going the way the Bears envisioned.
They hit their bye and the midway point last in the NFC North at 2-6, looking more like a team regressing than one poised for bigger things.
There's uncertainty about quarterback Jay Cutler's future in Chicago. There was a recent report of a rift between the front office and coaching staff. There has been a long list of injuries and breakdowns in execution.
But there was also a dominant victory over NFC North leader Minnesota on Monday night. That, at least, sent them into the break on a positive note. It's up to the Bears to build on it.
''I think you always have positive visions,'' Fox said. ''Unfortunately we've had our setbacks along the way, whether it was injury-wise, execution-wise, how that affects your roster and your performance usually is pretty tell-tale. Hopefully we can get more whole as we go.''
The second half of the season includes just one current division leader on the schedule, and that would be the team they just beat - Minnesota in the final game. Three other teams are a game above .500, two are at .500, one is 3-4 and another is against San Francisco (1-6).
Something else that should help the Bears is they're starting to get key players back.
Cutler made a successful return after missing five games because of a thumb injury and linebacker Pernell McPhee has played the past two after he started the season on the physically unable to perform list following offseason knee surgery. But receiver Kevin White and linebacker Lamarr Houston went on injured reserve this season, big blows for the offense and defense.
A long line of Bears have either missed time or played through injuries. That's forced backups to carry a bigger load and exposed a lack of depth.
Along with that, there are mounting questions about the direction of the franchise.
Fox wavering over Cutler's future as the starter fueled more speculation about the quarterback's time with the team. They also don't have a young QB they've been grooming to replace him. And they don't know what they have in White, the No. 7 overall pick in 2015.
After missing his rookie season because of a left shin injury, he is once again on injured reserve with a fractured left fibula, though Fox has said he could come back this season. That injury happened in the fourth game of the season against Detroit on Oct. 2.
White was leading the team with 19 receptions and had 187 yards when he went on IR. But it's not clear if he can stay healthy, let alone develop into a star.
It's not just White, though. The Bears' 2015 draft class as a whole has taken a beating.
Two of the six picks are on injured reserve (White, center Hroniss Grasu with a torn ACL) and two more have missed time because of injuries (nose tackle Eddie Goldman, running back Jeremy Langford). Safety Adrian Amos is the only one to play all eight games, and offensive lineman Tayo Fabuluje is no longer with the team.
''So when you build in the draft and you lose a whole draft class, it's not real conducive to success,'' Fox said.
Despite all that, there have been some positive developments for the Bears.
Outside linebacker Leonard Floyd is starting to emerge after being slowed by calf and hamstring injuries. The No. 9 overall draft pick, he has three sacks over the past two games.
''That kid is special,'' defensive end Akiem Hicks said. ''He has a lot of great bend, great hand work. And he's under veterans who can teach him a lot like Willie Young and Phee and Coach Hurtt (outside linebackers coach Clint Hurtt), you know guys who actually played the game and were effective.''
Fifth-round pick Jordan Howard has three 100-yard rushing games after running for a career-high 153 against Minnesota.
But after having the Cubs deflect attention in Chicago with their championship run, all eyes figure to be on the Bears now.
''It's been very frustrating, because as you saw (Monday) night, we're a lot better than our record is,'' Howard said.
''It's just little miscues here and there that we've had in other games. We're very confident that we can finish this season out strong and possibly make the playoffs.''
AP NFL website: http://pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL