Even in the worst of times, covering the Bears beats working for a living. But this dreadful season has pushed the limit. This past week, we tiptoed around the unavoidable question — ‘‘Do you expect to be fired on Monday?’’ — and literally moments later wished Mel Tucker, Aaron Kromer, Joe DeCamillis and Marc Trestman a Merry Christmas. Still wish you had my job?
Bad seasons are a part of life in the NFL. Regime change is, too. But this season has been as awkward and difficult as any in recent Bears history — and that’s saying something. The disappointment after high preseason expectations was one thing. The lightning speed of the decline was another.
On Nov. 10, 2013, the Bears were 5-3 and tied for first place in the NFC North after beating the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. By Nov. 10, 2014, the ‘‘death march’’ for a coaching staff in only its second season had begun after an embarrassing 55-14 loss to the Packers at Lambeau that clearly defined the entire organization as one heading in the wrong direction.
With a bye week to prepare and atone for a 51-23 loss to the New England Patriots, the Bears trailed 42-0 at halftime — on ‘‘Monday Night Football.’’ So in less than a year, the Bears went from first place to an almost-inevitable coaching change in Trestman’s second season. Less than a year after signing a seven-year, $126 million contract extension, quarterback Jay Cutler was benched. It has been a year of unprecedented downfall at Halas Hall.
The last seven weeks have been the most awkward of dances. So many questions, so few answers. And questions that have to be asked, even when the answers are nowhere to be found. Before the game against the Minnesota Vikings on Nov. 16, Kromer was asked why receiver Alshon Jeffery hasn’t been as effective at winning jump balls downfield as he had been in 2013. His response was typical.
‘‘I’m all for it,” he said. ‘‘I’m all for him . going up and getting those balls, and we’re going to continue to throw those balls to him and allow him that chance to get it.’’
All that’s left now is Black Monday and the extent of changes that will be made after a dismal season. But the show must go on. So while we anticipate and speculate, the Bears have one last job to do. It defies human nature, but somehow they’re able to block out the distraction.
‘‘I can’t control anything other than helping this football team win,’’ Trestman said. ‘‘We’re 5-10, and we’re going for No. 6 on Sunday. That’s where the focus is. It really doesn’t go outside of that.’’
‘‘That’s the great thing about football,’’ center Roberto Garza said. ‘‘When you’re playing football, all you can focus on is, ‘How do I block you in front of me? How do I do my job?’
‘‘When it’s said and done, you start thinking about things like [the future], how much different an offseason can be — with coach Trestman, without coach Trestman. Nobody knows what the situation is going to be.
‘‘[But] when you’re playing football, it takes over your life. I have to go out there and do my job to the best of my ability. And that is something football makes you do.’’