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Bears once offered high hopes for 2014 — no, really

The Bears aren’t the only ones who had a bad year. Before the season began, I picked them to finish 10-6.

The difference is that they’re an airplane that lost engine power about 30,000 feet ago and I’m a columnist who had his head in the clouds, if not somewhere else. People at Halas Hall are likely to lose jobs over this mess. I should still be employed after the season mercifully ends. Unless I write something truly reprehensible about the Bears. Which could happen. At any moment.

Seeing what I have seen this season and knowing what I know now, it’s hard for me to comprehend how I came to the conclusion that they would be good in 2014. Someone must have spiked my Gatorade. Phil Emery?

I thought the Bears’ offense would improve from last season, when it finished eighth in the NFL in yards per game. What kills me is that I should have known better. I know what Jay Cutler is. I’ve known what he is since he arrived in Chicago: a mistake-prone quarterback who eventually hurts his team. And what did I do? I picked the Bears to go 10-6 because surely Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Martellus Bennett and Matt Forte would help cover up Cutler’s innate Cutler-ness. And surely a defense bolstered by some free-agent signings couldn’t be as bad as last season’s defense, which finished third from last in the league in yards allowed.

Forte et al couldn’t hide Cutler, and the defense has been just as bad as last season’s model.

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a team fall apart so quickly and thoroughly as this one has. The Bears are 5-10 heading into their last game of the season, at Minnesota on Sunday, but that record doesn’t begin to describe how damaged and defective they have been this year. Whether the bad football was a result of numerous distractions or the other way around, I couldn’t tell you. All I know is that there were problems right away and that they loitered.

Those problems aren’t going away if the McCaskeys stay the course with their leadership team. Consider this my semi-hourly appeal that the Bears do some major housecleaning in the nanoseconds after their season ends Sunday afternoon. I don’t know how you keep coach Marc Trestman after this huge disappointment of a season, which included terrible losses to New England and Green Bay.

I don’t know how you keep Trestman after he coached ’em up during a bye week and then lost 55-14 to the Packers. His comment the day after the game was a fireable offense: “This team and this locker room is in a good place.’’

I don’t know how you retain Emery, the general manager who found Trestman in a football haystack two years ago and who signed Cutler to a seven-year, $126 million contract less than a year ago. I don’t know how you keep a man who has overseen a level of dysfunction in the organization typically associated with the Lohan family.

And I don’t know how you keep Cutler after benching him for a poor performance against New Orleans and then sheepishly making him the starter for the season finale because Jimmy Clausen had a concussion. Remember what Packers defensive end Datone Jones said after their blowout victory in November?

“The Bears don’t really believe in Cutler,’’ he said.

He was right. Several weeks later, offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer would apologize to the offense for being the anonymous source who ripped Cutler in an NFL Network report.

I don’t know how you keep Emery, Trestman and Cutler, but I do know that anything is possible, including the possibility that all three could be back next season. That scenario has been pushed to the margins of public discussion, as fan outrage has turned Trestman’s ouster into a foregone conclusion. Is it? I trust chairman George McCaskey to make the right decisions the way I would trust me to rebuild an Indy car engine.

We don’t know what’s going to happen after the season. Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker figures to be looking for work. Kromer’s job is in jeopardy after speaking out of school. Their bosses’ jobs should be in jeopardy, too, but as I said, maybe they aren’t, these being the confused Bears. But who am I to talk?

Besides predicting they would go 10-6 this season, I had them winning a playoff game.