So far, this offseason has been a tumultuous one. Given that the Bears defense gave up the 4th most points allowed by a Chicago unit since the 16 game season was installed in 1978, and the 6th most points allowed in Bears history, many of us were hoping for a top down dismissal. We didn’t get it. Lovie and his defensive brain trust are back in full force, in a new configuration but none the less the same group. Lovie stepped down from the DC play calling duties and moved Rod Marinelli into the defensive coordinator’s spot. So much for new ideas.
The offensive side of the ball had its fair share of issues in ’09, and the high expectations placed on the unit were not met after the team traded away Kyle Orton, two 1st round and one 3rd draft picks for Pro Bowl QB Jay Cutler and a 5th round pick. In response the offensive coaching staff was, for the most part, ousted on their collective ears in shame and replaced. Unfortunately, the new offensive chief isn’t exactly what the hoards of ravenous Bears fans hoped for. What they got was another familiar face from Lovie’s past in the form of Mike Martz. The good news is that Martz has proven that he and his scheme can be successful. The bad news is that a Martz led team has not a winning record since 2003.
And yet, here we are. As the beginning of the free agent signing period approaches, signs of that old offseason optimism are creeping into the boards. Fans have settled into the idea of Mike Martz leading our offense, and have even started showing signs of optimism at the prospect. The defense still seems to be a point of anxiety for most, but what was to be expected? The same coaching pieces are in place that have helmed the last three years of decline. But now, with the news that the Bears will pursue Julius Peppers, fans are getting excited.
The greatest source of optimism here, for me, is in the idea that because the decision was made to keep Smith and company, the Bears might just go all out this year to prove it was the right choice. The Peppers rumor seems to fit into that idea. Remember that this is the same defensive philosophy that has been in place for 6 years. It worked well for the first three. There is logic to the idea that it can work again, with the right pieces in place.
So I ask……..Is it Ok to start being optimist yet?
Some points that have my interest peaked and my spirits climbing:
- Mike Martz steered “The Greatest Show on Turf” towards two Super Bowl appearances. And the offensive pieces are already in Chicago for a repeat performance. He has a young confident and strong armed quarterback in Jay Cutler. He also has a young receiving corps that is teaming with promise led by Devin Hester, Devin Aromashodu, Johnny Knox and Earl Bennett. Another tool at his disposal is Matt Forte, a young halfback who has some of the best blocking and receiving skills in the NFL, skills which are extremely important to Martz’s style of offense. Even the offensive line, which looked truly….well, offensive for most of the year seemed to make strides in the right direction late in the season. This offensive unit is the best suited group to Martz’s style since his early days in St Louis. I don’t want to claim that it’s all sunshine and rainbows, as the offense is coming off of a year in which the running game was terrible, interceptions were commonplace and the young receivers often appeared lost in routes. But there are definitely reasons to feel good about what’s ahead for the offense.
- Mike Tice. Tice is renowned around the league for his ability to mold offensive linemen. The Bears spent a decade, from ’96 to ’05 dealing with linemen that Tice had his claws sunk into. A lot is being made of what Tice can do with the very athletic young linemen on the Bears roster. Are the days of Bears running backs suffering from little to no running room and of Bears quarterbacks running for their lives finally over?
- After tearing the hearts out of many of fans by announcing that the Bears wouldn’t be very active in free agency, the rumor is that the Bears will make Pro Bowl defensive end Julius Peppers their priority in FA. Could the front office have just been playing possum about making an impact in FA?
Are all of the problems going to go away over night? Nope. But there are some signs of things improving. Maybe there is some light at the end of the tunnel? One thing seems to be certain. The Bears appear to be all in. This could be a fun offseason.