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Ready, aim, fire: Real season starts for Bears

MINNEAPOLIS – The final game was a cruel thing, not for the people with jobs on the line but for the viewing audience. It lasted two hours, 53 minutes, and it was a merciless mash of bad football.

Those of us in the press box had the additional misfortune of being next to the suite containing Bears ownership. You haven’t lived until you’ve witnessed chairman George McCaskey celebrating every Jay Feely field goal as if it were the end of poverty on the planet.

McCaskey apparently will be the one signing off on any major decisions after this miserable 5-11 season, especially the ones involving the futures of general manager Phil Emery, coach Marc Trestman and quarterback Jay Cutler. A 13-9 loss to the Vikings probably won’t play a part in that. Who stays and who goes should not depend on a terrible football game at the end of December. It should depend on all the terrible football games that came before it.

If you’re living in Trestman’s world, filled with “unbelievably compliant’’ players and “great’’ practices, you believe you’re the man to fix this team.

“Nobody understands the situation better than I do,’’ he said. “I’ve lived it every day for the last two years and certainly the last six months, so I think I have some expertise in that area. … I don’t think there’s anybody in a better position to assess it, other than myself and Phil.’’

If that’s the case, then why couldn’t one or the other or both have fixed the car while it was careening down the road rather than after it had crashed in a last-place heap? It’s the question the Bears haven’t been able to answer all season.

All the evidence points toward a thorough housecleaning. History points toward the McCaskeys doing nothing. Or something in between? Who knows? I’m left with the mental image of McCaskey cheering Sunday as if it were the Super Bowl and the realization that whatever happens Monday could be tied to this guy’s morning constitutional.

Two years ago, Emery hired Trestman and passed on Bruce Arians, who has gone on to success in Arizona. In January, he gave Cutler a seven-year, $126 million contract. Let’s not even talk about his decision to draft Shea McClellin.

Cutler hasn’t been able to overcome his tendency to make the wrong throw at the wrong time, no matter how much money the Bears have thrown at him. The highest-paid player in the league managed to get benched this season. You can’t teach that.

Trestman tried to turn meeting rooms into New Age sweat lodges, and players stomped all over his compassionate coaching.

“I love this team, and I love the players in this locker room,’’ he said Sunday.

It might not be reciprocal. Some players are still angry at offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer, who revealed himself as the anonymous source of an NFL Network story critical of Cutler. After Sunday’s game, several players talked about the broken trust in the locker room, a sign that a coaching change wouldn’t be protested.

Trestman did say he believed Cutler could be part of getting the offense right next season. I can’t tell if everyone involved with this team is tin-eared or if I can’t hear the dog whistle that is calling them back to Halas for 2015.

“I’m really proud of our football team, the way they played (Sunday),’’ Trestman said. “They played with great effort.’’

On second thought: tin-eared. How anyone walks away from an offensive performance featuring no touchdowns, 264 yards and four false-start penalties, and talks about effort is beyond me. We waited all season for Trestman to publicly take an honest, sober view of his team, and he never did. It’s one thing to protect your players; it’s another to insult the intelligence of the fan base. The bull’s-eye on the head coach’s back might not be so big if he had been a straight shooter.

Trestman talked about a scheduled 11 a.m. meeting Monday to begin to put a plan in place for next season. Whether he’ll get a chance to do that is unknown at this point.

Lots of people are talking about the possibility of a Black Monday of firings at Halas Hall. I won’t be surprised if it turns out to be Pastel Monday, with no firings above the coordinator level and earnest promises to get ’em next year.

A crazy scenario? If field goals by the backup kicker excite the team chairman so much, imagine what the prospect of an Emery-Trestman-Cutler return might do for him.