When the writers at the Chicago Sun-Times reviewed the 2013 season, they broke it down into categories. Most Valuable Player (Adam L. Jahns – Josh McCown, Patrick Finley – Matt Forte, Mark Potash – Brandon Marshall), Biggest surprise (Janhs – rookie offensive linemen, Finley – health of the offense, Potash – McCown), etc… But no one, when addressing Biggest Disappointment, mentioned mine. The fact that linebacker Lance Briggs snuck out of the locker room after both the loss to the Philedelphia Eagles and the loss to the Green Bay Packers at the end of the season without saying a word, leaving players like rookie linebacker Jonathan Bostic to explain the loss.
Never have a been so disappointed at such a lack of discipline, a lack of guts and courage in my life.
I’ve been asking myself why Briggs acted this way for two weeks now. I haven’t come up with a good answer but I think this morning’s article by Janhs addressing the fact that not everyone bought into the coaching change at the end of the 2012 season gives a clue:
“As much as [head coach Marc] Trestman tried, whether it was reorganizing the locker room or his life-lessons approach to football, it always was on the players to get on board with his new way of life at Halas Hall after he replaced longtime coach Lovie Smith, who was beloved by many Bears players who were held over.
In the end, some players may have never been able to adjust and find contentment in all the changes going on. It was the first story of training camp when quarterback Jay Cutler said, ‘Not everybody’s bought in,’ and remains one at season’s end.”
It’s just guess work. But if you’re thinking that Cutler and others are talking about Briggs, I’d say you’re on the right track. The combination of the coaching change and Brian Urlacher’s abandonment of the team as he pridefully turned down a contract worth double his value on the open market probably hurt Briggs more than most. And then he had what can only be termed a disappointing season where his physical hurts were added. To call the situation unhealthy in all aspects would probably not be an understatement.
Many theories have been proposed about what was lacking in 2013 and what needs to be done to fix it (including my own). But to my knowledge, no one mentioned the lack of veteran leadership. Virtually every veteran from past Bears defenses who could have provided such was on the sidelines injured. Julius Peppers was, perhaps, the only one of note to stay healthy but he’s never been very vocal.
To Briggs’s credit, unlike players like Henry Melton, he was on the sidelines trying his best to help the defense along while injured. But as, the saying goes, fortune does not change men. It unmasks them. Briggs let the team down when it counted off the field. And that means that, perhaps, he’s not the leader that they need. At least he’s not acting like it.
Jahns hits upon an ominous note about the off-season near the end of his article:
“Rooting out dissent and determining players commitment to the Bears’ new approach will be as important as signing the best, most capable players.”
Will Briggs be rooted out? That would be a shame.
Winston Churchill once said, “A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.” It’s been a full year now and Smith is long gone. Briggs may not have agreed with the direction the organization took and he probably never will. But it’s time to move on to solving the problems at hand.