Playoffs or bust? Lovie Smith busted and now he's out and the Bears are in disarray. (US Presswire)

The Chicago Bears faced a steep grading curve in 2012 considering they had to make the playoffs or face a coaching change. When they started out 7-1, the curve became even steeper and made their ultimate collapse all the more severe. 

Their final grades reflect yet another standout season by the defense and special teams, another abysmal failure on offense, and their cumulative GPA indicates the ability to beat only the weak teams while losing to above average competition.

Offense: D

They brought in Brandon Marshall, yet Jay Cutler had the second-worst passer rating of his career (81.3), his struggles against the Packers continued and they finished 29th in passing. They finished fourth in time of possession, benefited from a league-best 44 turnovers forced, eight defensive touchdown returns and one special teams TD return, but still only finished 16th in scoring. Their struggles on first down (31st in NFL) resulted in too many third-and-long situations and put even more pressure on an undermanned, injured offensive line. Although they finished 10th in rushing and 14th in yards per carry, Matt Forte and Michael Bush rarely seemed to take over a game. Again, the blame falls back on the line that was never upgraded enough after struggling greatly in 2011.

Defense: A-

Despite losing Brian Urlacher four games and never really having him at 100 percent, they finished fifth in total defense, second in interceptions per pass defended, fourth in third-down percentage, and third in points allowed. With numbers like that, it's not surprising Tim Jennings, Charles Tillman, Julius Peppers, and Henry Melton made the Pro Bowl, and Lance Briggs probably should have. A major emphasis was placed on improving a 29th ranking in sacks per pass attempted and they did exactly that, ranking 11th. Numbers like these normally fit the very best playoff contenders, which only further underscores their complete incompetence on offense. About the only negative in their defense was a tendency to give up scores before halftime (11 times in the last 3 1/2 minutes) and that the pass rush wore out as games got into fourth quarters.

Special teams: B

By Bears standards, it was a step down in special teams effort. Yet it was far better than most teams. The big problem came with the return game, and Devin Hester in particular. He ranked 10th in kick returns (25.9) and only 22nd in punt returns (8.3) and his antics trying to field punts wasn't measureable, but very ugly. Robbie Gould was slightly below his career field goal average at 84 percent, but Adam Podlesh rebounded from a poor start punting to finish fourth placing kicks inside the 20 while helping make it possible for the Bears punt coverage team to lead the league. Kick coverage finished fourth.

Coaching: D+

The Bears offense was obviously better with the other Mike -- Martz -- than with Mike Tice as offensive coordinator. Strange play calling, an inability to use Matt Forte as a receiver and even a runner, and the inability to develop an alternative receiving threat to Marshall were part of Tice's problems. Confusion getting plays to Cutler further reflected poorly on offensive coaching. Lovie Smith had his usual assortment of strange in-game decisions and pointless replay challenges; his silly fourth-and-one gamble against Seattle may have been the turning point to the Bears season. Being the second coach to miss the playoffs after a 7-1 start was sufficient to get fired. Rod Marinelli had his best year as defensive coordinator as he revived the pass rush, and secondary coach Jon Hoke should get some of the credit for helping turn around Tim Jennings' career. Dave Toub's special teams finished ninth in the overall ranking system, the eighth time in nine years they've been top 10.

Cumulative GPA: 2.25

Follow Bears reporter Gene Chamberlain on Twitter @CBSBears.