The pieces were in place, Dave Wannstedt insists to this day.
Wannstedt made his oft-repeated and frequently mocked proclamation before the 1996 season, his fourth with the Bears.
"We had Bryan Cox and Curtis Conway, and Erik Kramer had just set a bunch of Bears record. Rashaan Salaam was coming off a nice rookie year. And I really felt like the pieces were in place. And they were for three weeks. And then Erik broke his neck, and obviously you can't win without a quarterback."
In the season opener, the Bears pounded the defending Super Bowl champion Dallas Cowboys 22-6 on "Monday Night Football."
Then the Bears lost close games to the Redskins and Vikings. Kramer herniated a disc in his neck in a 35-16 loss to the Detroit Lions and was replaced by Dave Krieg, who actually had a decent season, completing 59.9 percent of his passes for 2,278 yards.
The Bears won six of their final 12 games to finish 7-9.
Wannstedt, now coaching at Pittsburgh, his alma mater, was fired after six seasons, 41 victories and 57 losses.
"I've always believed," Wannstedt said, "that whether it's at Pitt or the Bears or the Dolphins, for every coach there's a window that opens up. It might be the first year. It might be the third year, the fourth year. The stars either align and things fall right or they don't and the window closes."
Does Wannstedt believe he got a fair shake in Chicago?
"Oh, God, yes," he said. "The McCaskeys were more than fair. It just didn't happen. Our window opened and it closed. Then we got in free agency, and players left and then you're starting over again. But it was a good experience.
"I just feel bad that when we had our chance we didn't hit it, you know?"
Wannstedt: Pieces were in place "for three weeks"
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