"You PLAY to WIN the GAME!" - Herm Edwards
While that particular press conference has achieved the status of spoof/meme/meltdown, the message is a universal truth. Unless his/her name is Albert Haynesworth, an athlete's primary objective is to win the game, the set, the match, the bout, the competition, the championship (...and I apologize to anyone named Albert Haynesworth who did not receive a $100 million contract from the Redskins). For an NFL player, the aim is to hoist the Lombardi Trophy come early February. But, that implies that the team is winning games...meaning what, exactly?
Winning a football game is not an exact science. In fact, I have a hard time believing that it is a science at all, as the word implies knowledge, and nobody knows who will win a given game with absolute certainty. Case in point: the 15-1 Packers of 2011. Their one regular-season loss was at the hands of the Kansas City Chiefs; yes, those Chiefs, led by the insurmountable
Joe Montana Tyler Palko Neckbeard. I, personally, still don't know how that happened.
Despite that, I'm going to break down what I believe will give a team an extremely good chance of winning every game. (I'll also see how the Bears stack up against my expectations)
Quarterback: Perhaps the most important player on a football team, the QB is the de facto leader of the offense. The Wildcat notwithstanding, the QB will handle practically every offensive snap of a team, and as such must be dependable. Or so it was, maybe 15, 20 years ago. Today, the NFL is definitely a "passing" league -- three 5,000-yd passers last season! -- and as such, a great QB is essential. He needs to be able to throw the ball with zip and accuracy into increasingly tight windows, be able to move around in the pocket and escape the rush, must read the defense and make the proper adjustments at the LOS. Above all, the QB must lead his team, through thick and thin, in shootouts and blowouts, rain or shine.
Bears: Jay Cutler is about as physically gifted a QB as it gets (besides maybe Cam Newton), and he's got the drive and intelligence to put it all together. This box was checked before the TSA heard about it.
Running Back: Whether we're talking a rotation (Saints, Redskins, Giants) or a primary/secondary committee (Ravens, Jaguars, 49ers), more than one good RB is required for a successful offense. Elusiveness, power, and overall running ability are important, as are blocking and catching prowess. Having a "spell" back (similar to starter) or a "change-of-pace" runner (different skillset/style) is in right now. No more bell-cow, one-man shows (besides Steven Jackson, God bless his heart). A solid contribution from the RB's -- on the ground or in the screen game -- goes a long way to diversifying an offense and keeping a defense guessing.
Bears: Matt Forte is a special, do-it-all back. Bush is a bruising runner with deceptive speed and soft hands. Kahlil Bell provides excellent depth. Forte signs a contract of any sort and we're golden.
Receivers: The offense fields 5 eligible receivers on any play. The defense usually has 7 guys in coverage. It's not tough to see that WR's need to beat their guy, get open, and catch the ball for any offense to be effective. This is a position where group skillset is more important than individual ability. Not every receiver is going to be the Megatron/Andre the Giant-type, with all physical tools to succeed. But generally, a team will field a burner that will keep the safeties busy, a big, possession receiver who can play outside the numbers or go over the middle, and a slot guy that can churn out the YAC on the short routes. This is perhaps the toughest position to pin down in terms of a "winning formula," but I'm going to say variety is key here.
Bears: With the acquisitions of Marshall and Jeffrey, the Bears filled the gaping hole at "big, possession receiver." Bennett is a solid slot guy with dependable hands and an indomitable spirit. Hester and Knox make horsepower seem overrated with their speed and acceleration. Don't look now, but the Bears may have a legitimate receiving corps for the first time in a long, long while.
Tight Ends: Perhaps the most underrated position in all of football, the TE is basically an OT and WR rolled into one giant, athletic package. The trendy look here is a big, receiving threat with adequate blocking skill, see: Gronkowski and Graham, though the more traditional guys like Tony Gonzalez and Jason Witten are as effective as ever. Being the QB's security blanket is a major role for TE's in the passing game, blocking DE's 1-on-1 is not. In the run game, the TE must be able to hold his own and wall off the LB or S and spring the RB. Their size makes them great red-zone targets, and soft hands are a must, as TE's will frequently be looked for on 3rd down and other money situations.
Bears: Kellen Davis is a big dude with decent receiving skills and blocking ability. Matt Spaeth is a good blocker who can catch well. Rodriguez is, allegedly, a solid receiving threat. While no one of these guys is a bona fide superstar, the group is a solid all-round bunch.
Offensive Line: Ah. The trenches. World War I may have been the advent of "trench warfare" on an international scale, but football was and still is won in the trenches. Centers are responsible for line calls and making sure everyone is on the same page, in addition to snapping the ball. Guards generally need to be able to take on DT's not named Haloti Ngata, sometimes one-on-one. In the run game, they need to be able to use leverage to push forward, or athleticism to pull and lead the runner through a newly created gap in the defense. Tackles have the unenviable task of containing speedy edge rushers and creating the pocket for QB's. As a group, the O-line is responsible for a) giving the QB time and space to throw, and b) creating running lanes for the backs. An O-line that can dominate the opponents defensive line is a huge plus, and is often the key to establishing a juggernaut on offense.
Bears: Achilles' heel. We don't know who will be playing where, nor how good they will be in their respective spots. If only this were as simple as "Hulk...Smash!"
Well, that's the offense. I was planning on including everything in one post, but 1) this is getting long and 2) I have an essay and two finals to study for. I'll try to write up the other 2 parts later this week.
Thanks for reading!