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Gabriel: Where Do Bears Go From Here?

By Greg Gabriel-

(CBS) On Thursday night, we saw the Chicago Bears lose to the Dallas Cowboys, 41-28. It followed a familiar refrain to the entire season: no consistency from start to finish.

A few weeks back against the Bucs, this Bears team started out flat, falling behind 10-0 at halftime. They came out in the second half to play a strong third quarter and win 21-13. On Thanksgiving in Detroit, Chicago got off to a needed quick start by jumping out to a 14-3 lead in the first quarter. From that point on, the team played poorly, losing 34-17.

Thursday was a different spin with the same premise. The Bears played well enough to be in the game, trailing by only 14-7 at the half. While there was some sloppy play, they were still only one score away from tying the game. When running back Matt Forte fumbled on the third play of the second half, setting up the Cowboys for an easy touchdown, all the wind came out of the Bears' sails. For the rest of the third quarter, this team played with no emotion or competitiveness. Players were just going through the motions.

The fourth quarter saw the Bears make a minor comeback and play with some spark, but it was really too little, too late. The result is this Bears team now has a 5-8 record with no chance of improving on last year's 8-8 record. With the next two games against New Orleans and Detroit, two teams still fighting for a playoff spot, it looks more and more like Chicago will finish 6-10, at best.

With the money spent on player acquisitions in the offseason, a 6-10 or even an 8-8 record is unacceptable. After watching this team for 13 games, it's easy to figure out it has no identity. The Bears have one of the best running backs in the NFL, but they can't run the ball. The passing game has lost the consistency it had last season.

Free agency and the draft was used to fix the defense, yet it has shown no improvement. What's disappointing about the defense is that in almost every game, there are stretches of play when no one competes or plays with any pride.

We are now almost at the end of Year 2 of the Marc Trestman era. With the Bears going 8-8 in 2013 and with probably a worse record this year, we can see the direction this team is going. Years ago I was told by a former front office executive that after two years of a coaching regime, you get a fairly good idea if the team is headed in the right direction.

While I'm not sure that theory is 100 percent accurate, it's darn close. In 2013, eight clubs had new head coaches, and through almost two complete seasons, we can see where those clubs are headed.

The Philadelphia Eagles hired Chip Kelly and immediately became a playoff team in 2013. This year they again are competing for the division title. Going forward, Philadelphia looks to be in good hands.

The same can be said for Arizona under Bruce Arians. While the Cardinals weren't in the playoffs a year ago, they still had a 10-6 record. This year they look as if they will again finish 10-6 or better.

Buffalo hired Doug Marrone, whose only head coaching experience was at Syracuse. The Bills struggled in 2013 but have shown vast improvement this season and are in the hunt for a playoff spot.

In San Diego, Mike McCoy went 9-7 his first year, got into the playoffs and won a playoff game. This year the Chargers sit at 8-4 and are again in the playoff hunt despite numerous injuries.

Rob Chudzinski didn't show the leadership Cleveland was looking for, and not only did he get fired but so did most of the front office after only one season.

In Jacksonville, Gus Bradley won four games a year ago. Now at 2-10, he will be lucky to win four games this year. The Jaguars drafted quarterback Blake Bortles with the third pick of the draft last May, and he has actually regressed as he has received more playing time.

Andy Reid took the Chiefs from having the worst record in football in 2012 to the playoffs in 2013. They again are competing for a playoff spot.

When you look at the theory, it seems to hold true as far as the head coaching class of 2013. Trestman took over a 10-6 team in 2013. They haven't come close to that record since. The Bears have always had an identity of being able to play strong, physical defense. That's no longer the case.

I don't know what the Bears are, and neither do the Bears.

A problem Trestman had when he took over was this was a veteran-laden team that was extremely loyal to former coach Lovie Smith. Most of these veterans had played a good part of their careers under Smith, and they didn't like it that Smith was dismissed. It has shown in their play.

In hindsight, Trestman and general manager Phil Emery should have gotten rid of most of that veteran crew, as it has done Trestman no favors. I'm not blaming the players, but they were Smith's guys and have resisted change. No matter what the reason, the players haven't bought into Trestman, and a team can't win under those circumstances.

Going forward -- because of age, injury, contracts and production -- some of those players have already played their last game as a Bear, but it's too late for it to help Trestman.

The direction this team is following has been set, and the arrow isn't point up. Not only is time for a change, change is needed.

Greg Gabriel is a former NFL talent evaluator who has been an on-air contributor for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @greggabe.

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