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Counting down 2014’s biggest Chicago sports stories: No. 2

The Sun-Times is counting down the 10 biggest Chicago sports stories of the 2014 calendar year one day at a time.

No 2. Much-hyped Bears crumble with worst season in a decade

Jay Cutler signed a new seven-year, $126 million contract on January 2, setting the stage for a new era in Chicago Bears football.

The Bears offense was coming off a strong season, and Cutler was only going to get better behind second-year head coach Marc Trestman – who was brought to Chicago, in part, to fix Cutler.

That contract could have earned a spot on our countdown of Chicago’s biggest sports stories this year if only anything had gone right for the Bears.

Instead, after a 5-11 season, Trestman and general manager Phil Emery were shown the door Monday, and Cutler was benched in Week 16 of this disastrous season.

The best thing about the 2014 Bears season is that it’s finally over.

How bad was it?

Here are some of the noteworthy lowlights:

-Lamarr Houston tore his ACL while celebrating a sack during the blowout loss to the Patriots. It was his first sack of the season, and the Bears were down by 25 points in the fourth quarter when it happened.

-Kyle Long and the aforementioned Houston called out Chicago fans for booing at Soldier Field. Both subsequently backtracked on their comments.

-Brandon Marshall challenged a Twitter follower to a fight. I’ll let that sink in.

-Brandon Marshall challenged an ESPN radio host to a fight. Has it sunk in yet?

-In-fighting in the locker room was heard by gathering reporters and was an early sign of the trouble the Bears were in.

-Jay Cutler tied for the league lead with 18 interceptions and had 24 giveaways. Every football analyst across the country took a shot at Cutler this year, and the biggest shot came from former teammate Brian Urlacher, who told a radio show that the only thing elite about Cutler is his paycheck.

-Criticism of Cutler also came from within. Offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer complained about Cutler to an NFL Network reporter, then tearfully apologized to the team for doing so. Kromer was also fired Monday.

Monday’s housecleaning came just in time to keep the disaster that was the Bears season contained to 2014. And just in time to clock in at No. 2 on our countdown.

What will be No. 1? Check in tomorrow.

The list so far:

1. Revealed Dec. 31

2. Much-hyped Bears crumble with worst season in a decade

3. Paul Konerko retires

4. Cubs hire Joe Maddon

5. Jay Cutler gets benched

6. Derrick Rose’s comeback, sluggish start and return to form

7. Jon Lester signs with Cubs

8. Jose Abreu takes Major League Baseball by storm, wins AL Rookie of the Year

9. Blackhawks’ playoff run reaches Western Conference Finals; Kane, Toews sign 8-year extensions

10. National Labor Relations Board says Northwestern football players are employees, orders union election