This page is being redesigned and will be added to the site in the near future. For now, the original story is below. The new page is being redesigned to equal the current "enhanced" stories on the 1979-1985, '91-92, 2001 and 2005 pages.
The 2000 Chicago Bears
by Roy Taylor,
Just how can one properly summarize the Chicago Bears 2000 season? How can a team that entered training camp with such high expectations play so terribly for the majority of a season? The team ended the 1999 season on a high note, clinched some inspired victories, had a young quarterback that showed promise in several games, and had the most money in the NFL to spend on free agency. The problems that would lead to a dismal 5-11 finish for a team that was expected to reach the playoffs began not too long after the 1999 season ended.
Shortly after Chicago's loss to Tampa Bay on January 2, 2000, Coach Dick Jauron explained to the media that the club was lacking "team speed", and more players that can score points. As the free agency period opened in February, Mark Hatley was determined to make an impact for a team that sorely lacked impact players. Hatley signed defensive end Phillip Daniels from Seattle on the first day of free agency, awarding a five-year, $22 million contract to a second-tier player from the Seahawks. One day later, he signed cornerback Thomas Smith away from Buffalo for five years and $20 million. It can be argued that these two players were signed because the best available at their positions, Simeon Rice and Ashley Ambrose, either re-signed or had a franchise tag placed on them. Clearly, Hatley was sinking full faith in the Bears future into these players, along with his first two first round picks, Curtis Enis and Cade McNown. These four players would need to make a dramatic impact, or the team would be strapped with their salary-cap implications for the forseeable future.
Also during the offseason, Coach Jauron made another announcement that would prove pivotal for the 2000 season. Although he did state that there would be an open competition for the starting quarterback job, he also annoited Cade McNown number one going into camp. For this reason, many fans have questioned exactly how "open" the competition really was. It doesn't seem like it was open at all. In the April draft, the Bears would be selecting ninth. Observers expected to select Virginia RB Thomas Jones or MSU WR Plaxico Burris if they were available, or New Mexico "Freak" Brian Urlacher if he fell to them. Early reports on draft day stated that Mark Hatley had offered Philadelphia one of the Bears' third round picks in order to trade up and select Burris, but he was rebuffed. Chicago then stood pat and selected Urlacher. Let the record reflect that in his rookie season, Burris was a complete bust, while Urlacher gained rookie of the year honors.
Things seemed indeed to look improved for the Bears in training camp and the first two preseason games. The defense looked improved, Cade McNown actually looked like an NFL quarterback, and the offense gained yards as well as scoring points. Until after halftime of the team's third preseason game at Cincinnati, Chicago looked unstoppable. However, at that point, the team began to regress. McNown began once again throwing eratically without setting his feet, the receivers dropped balls, and the defense looked porous. Once again, questions remained as the Bears opened the season at Minnesota.
On September 3rd in the Metrodome, an inspired Bears team led the Vikings 20-9 midway through the third quarter. Minnesota was starting the year with untested QB Daunte Culpepper, whom the Bears had bypassed picking because Cade McNown was more NFL-ready. On a long touchdown run by Robert Smith late in the third quarter, Chicago fans watched the Bear's promising season come to an end after not even three full quarters of regular season football. Randy Moss beat Thomas Smith on a long pass and Culpepper ran for two touchdowns as the Bears lost 30-27. As the Bears lost game after game in route to a 1-7 start, quarterback McNown looked worse and worse. His slide was apparent to everyone in the NFL, especially Bears fans whose chants for MILLER! MILLER! MILLER! grew by the week. However, Coach Jauron continued to tell the team and the public that McNown "gives the team the best chance to win," a remark he would admit was incorrect at the end of the season. McNown continued to start until he sustained a separated shoulder at Philadelphia on October 22nd. Jim Miller was given his first chance on that day, but was unable to rally the team from a deficit due to the fact that he had taken virtually zero practice snaps as the second string QB all season-another indictment of the coaching staff. On November 5th, Miller started his first game and lit up a heavily-favored Colts team in a 30-27 victory. That score is deceiving in that the Bears led 27-0 in the third quarter.
Miller started the next week at Buffalo, determined to lead the Bears to the playoffs after a 1-7 start under McNown. In the second quarter, as Miller and the offense began to click, the QB rolled right, headed for a first down, then promptly blew out his achilles tendon. With Millers leg went the chances for a respectable Bears season. Backup journeyman Shane Matthews started 5 of the last six games, winning three of them, and McNown made a horiffic 9-for-29 appearance in an embarassment in San Francisco. The team finished on a high note in Detroit by beating the Lions there for the first time since 1993 on a last-second Paul Edinger field goal. Many questions remain in Chicago for the 2001 season, one of which is not the fate of the head coach. Team President Ted Phillips stated that "Coach Jauron has all the intangibles to lead this team, and does a good job in motivating the players to keep playing for him." Sad fact is that it's become a job requirement for the head coach in Chicago to be able to motivate his players to keep playing after the playoffs are far out of reach. Unfortunately, there is not an end to this trend in sight. © 2000-2014 Roy Taylor