Three times in Brian Urlacher's career the Bears have started 1-4 - in 2000, 2003 and 2004. None of those teams made the playoffs or finished with winning records.
All those teams had either incomplete rosters or organizational issues that didn't make a 1-4 record seem so jarring or out of whack.
But if this Bears team loses its fourth game Sunday, if this collection of talent considered by many NFL executives to be among the five best in the league flops again, then Monday threatens to be one of the most confusing, frustrating days of Urlacher's career.
So he refuses to consider it.
"We're not planning on losing,'' Urlacher said Thursday. "We'll see how it works out. We plan on winning every game so we're not looking at it that far [ahead].''
The words stopped short of a guarantee but implied that Urlacher might be in line for one of those get-out-the-red-cape, set-the-Tivo type of football games. The last time the Bears took the field as desperate as they will be at Lambeau Field on Sunday night came last Oct. 16 in the second half against the Arizona Cardinals when they trailed 23-3.
Urlacher didn't score in the 21-point rally that included two defensive TDs but he willed the defense back in a performance that one day will be referenced at his Hall of Fame induction speech. He made 25 tackles, three for lost yardage, broke up two passes and was as responsible as any Bear for Dennis Green's post-game meltdown.
It's time for another one of those defining moments from Urlacher, especially in the second half.
Whatever is happening at halftime isn't working for the Bears, who have been outscored 82-30 in the third and fourth quarters. Last year, it took the Bears defense until the fourth quarter of the Dec. 11 matchup against the Rams - the 13th game - to give up its 82nd point in the second half.
"Last year's over,'' Urlacher announced.
This year doesn't have to be for the Bears. But it will take another Urlacher-ian effort for everyone at Halas Hall not to already start thinking of 2008 when they get back to work Monday morning.
Losing to the Packers is out of the question for Urlacher. Here are some questions more easily pondered.
Are the Bears keeping an eye on Daunte Culpepper? If he recovers completely he could be a solid QB for a couple years and allow the Bears to be patient drafting the next "franchise QB". He seems like a more exciting temporary QB than Griese. -- Carl Johnson, Burbank, Calif.
Before anybody starts planning the Daunte Culpepper Lottery, reserve judgment until the guy stays healthy for an entire season and resembles the big-play threat he was in Minnesota instead of the MRI patient he was in Miami. March is eons away. The free-agent class of quarterbacks likely will have better fits for the Bears offense. Griese might make it all a moot point anyway. The Bears indeed liked Culpepper before the 1999 NFL draft but the Vikings selected him at No. 11, one spot ahead of the Bears. That forced the Bears into making a choice for which they really are still paying: Cade McNown at No. 12. But even if Culpepper's career renaissance continues, he represents a risk for any team counting on him to start the 2008 season.
I am no Kyle Orton fan, but after last week, I think the guy deserves a shot at some point. No? If Griese is horrible again Sunday, do they go back to Rex, stay with Griese or give Orton a shot? --Allen Richards, Evanston, Ill.
Sunday could go a long way toward clearing up that question. If Griese commits silly turnovers for the second straight week and the Bears lose, a 1-4 team four games off the division lead has to at least consider trying Orton soon. Even if can't save this season, it would be worth giving Orton some experience to see if he is worth developing into a possible 2008 starter. If Griese sputters but the Bears win, and that trend continues, then a team still thinking about a deep playoff run eventually would have to consider going back to Grossman and hoping the time off helped. It's a tricky situation, full of hypotheticals that football coaches hate more than turnovers.
Why did they draft Garrett Wolfe if they don't want to play him? --Buck Buchanan, Woodruff, Wis.
The Bears always want to play productive players; every team does. Wolfe has shown glimpses of good open-field running, especially in the final preseason game, but his size limits his ability to help the offense as an every-down back for a team that likes running between the tackles. He did carry three times for three yards against the Lions during a series the Bears used to send a message to Cedric Benson and has begun to contribute on special teams. But beyond spot duty, Wolfe doesn't figure to compete for regular playing time in the backfield his rookie season.
Do you think that the one person not getting the blame enough is Muhsin Muhammad? He took a swipe at Rex in the media but can't produce anything. In my opinion he's hurt, and too old. --Tyler Collock, Chicago
So you noticed Muhammad's subtle jab at Grossman on Comcast Sportsnet too? Muhammad praised Grossman's natural ability but said Griese's experience gave him an edge over Grossman, a valid opinion but the first time a teammate had made that distinction. It was interesting given the way Muhammad defended Grossman at every turn in 2006 and also because Grossman was forever the diplomat in saying anything close to critical about his receivers such as after an interception against the Cowboys on which Muhammad was at least as much to blame. When the Bears signed Muhammad before the 2005 season, they realistically thought they could get three good years out of him. His production (nine catches, 85 yards) needs to improve quickly if the Bears are going to squeeze that third good season out of the 34-year-old.
Do you see the Bears looking for a different QB via trade? Derek Anderson? Benching Grossman is one thing. Telling Griese this is NOT a one-game audition makes this more serious. What do you see happening THIS year? -- Victor Devaldivielso, Aurora, Ill.
This isn't the NBA or Major League Baseball where midseason trades at a key position such as quarterback can turn a team around quickly. An NFL offense involves too many complexities for any quarterback, as seasoned as he is, to arrive in the next couple of weeks before the trade deadline and expect to make an impact on the Bears this season. Beyond that reality, salary-cap implications prevent many such deals from being discussed. The quarterback position is the league's highest-paid on average and if the Bears aren't going to trade for someone making a salary in the league's top tier, why bother? Teams take care of position concerns during the off-season and by then the Bears will know a lot more about Brian Griese and, who knows, maybe Kyle Orton too.
Why are we not having a serious conversation about the complete failure of the offense under Ron Turner? All facets of the offense are terrible. I am willing to place money that Rex Grossman will have a very successful career once he is out from under Ron Turner. The rest of the NFL has figured out Ron Turner and thus the Bears offense. --Rob Schickel, Chicago
The entire first month of the season essentially has turned into a four-game conversation on the state of Turner's offense and his value as a play-caller, hasn't it? Day after day in the Bears locker room, players are asked about the emphasis on the run, when Greg Olsen will get on the field more, when Devin Hester will get involved. It has been so constant that 2007 so far is shaping up to a referendum on Ron Turner's ability to adjust his game plan to take advantage of the talent on the Bears roster. Good blocking, hard running and smart throwing make offensive coordinators look smart. And Turner sure looked smart last year. Missed blocks, fumbled handoffs, bad interceptions and dropped passes have gone a long way so far this year toward shaving at least 25 points off Turner's football IQ. He has 12 games left to prove that the rest of the league in fact hasn't figured him out, as critics suggest, and the Bears aren't as predictable as it appears.
You mentioned 10 things to get the Bears offense in gear, but you failed to mention involving Mark Bradley. Why dress Mike Hass when you can give more time to Bradley? --Dennis Brown, Godfrey, Ill.
It just seems futile to put any faith in Bradley making an impact. For some reason he appears to have fallen out of favor with the coaching staff and injuries and inconsistency have conspired against him. If there were an NFC All-Pro team based on training camps, Bradley would be on it. But introducing Hass into the equation would make a bolder statement that dropped passes and concentration lapses just aren't going to be tolerated anymore.
With the current injuries in the secondary for the Bears, would it be a good idea to consider using Rashied Davis as a part-time nickel back? He's been back there before and would his skills and pro experience come in handy over a rookie's? --Jon Steckelberg, Chicago
Only in desperation would asking Davis to switch back over to the position he first played with the Bears in 2005. If Charles Tillman returns as expected, the Bears will have enough healthy cornerbacks to allow Davis to worry about catching passes instead of defending them.
If the Dolphins don't want Ricky Williams back, any chance the Bears take him? He's a risk, but his downside can't be much lower than Cedric Benson's upside. --Scott Green, Champaign
That's all the Bears need: Another mercurial Texas running back whose idiosyncratic demeanor often draws attention away from the fact that nobody's certain how well he can run the football on Sunday. Sorry, the Bears already have one of those guys in stock.
With Lance Briggs missing last week, and possibly missing more time because of his injury, how does this affect the chances of him getting franchise tagged again this off-season because of the stipulation that he has to play in a certain percentage of plays? --Zack Bubness, Lowell, Ind.
At this point, with the Bears' season hanging in the balance at 1-3, the possibility of getting tagged with the franchise designation has nothing to do with why Briggs needs to get back on the field soon. He had returned to his Pro Bowl level after missing all off-season activities. The Bears need him back, now, so he can cash in later. Frankly if he cannot play in 75 percent of the snaps and the Bears' suffering continues, nobody should assume that the team automatically will tag Briggs again if able. As good as Briggs is, it would have to be weighed whether it would be worth all the acrimony again to keep him for a possibly rebuilding team that may have seen its Super Bowl window close quicker than anybody expected.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times