The Chicago Bears are venturing into a bold, new era. The team is undergoing many changes, from the structure of the front office to the make up of the roster and everything in between.
For nine seasons the team had the stability and steady leadership of Lovie Smith, for better or worse. For eight of those seasons it was managed by none other than Jerry Angelo, and for seven of those seasons the chairman of the Bears was Michael McCaskey.
For 2013 all three of those positions will be held by different people at the same time, entering a new era for fans and the franchise itself.
George McCaskey has instilled hope in many fans that he is turning over a new leaf on the team and will lead it with more intensity and passion, something fans have claimed (whether fair or unfair) that the McCaskey's haven't done since the '80s.
McCaskey hired Phil Emery, another man who has gotten fans excited. His intense analytical approach to seemingly every move has won him favor and acclaim. Furthermore, his willingness to explain the motive behind his decisions is a welcome relief to those tired of Angelo's seemingly defensive responses to questions about his moves.
And now, the last piece, Emery has in turned hired Marc Trestman. A man who looks as likely to be a football coach as Steve Urkel. However, with a similar analytical approach as Emery and a long resume of offensive success, he looks to be a man to lead the Bears into a brave new world of offensive football not seen in Chicago since, possibly, the 1940s.
So that leads me to this: Where are the Bears going to be in 2013?
The team is coming off a 10-6 season in which it missed the playoffs. The late-season collapses the last two seasons led to many of the hirings mentioned above.
Now with a new regime in place, what is the state of the Bears? Are they rebuilding?
The case could be made: the offense has large holes in it, especially along the offensive line and lacks a speedy wideout. While there are some key playmakers, some have questions marks and unsure futures (Jay Cutler). In addition, they will be learning another new offensive system (fourth in five years) and learning to play under entirely new coaches.
The defense is aging and has been, it's marquee player of the last decade is gone and there are question marks at linebacker and defensive tackle depth. Throw in a new defensive system on that side of the ball as well and suddenly a step back from last year's 10-6 record doesn't seem so far fetched.
Emery and Trestman are likely to continue building the roster their way after this season and by the time the start of the 2014 season begins there will be even fewer familiar names as holdovers from the Smith era.
Or is the state just building?
Building would be a state above rebuilding; the moves I mentioned above aren't necessarily a complete blow-up and do over; they have a quarterback, they have pieces to work with. No one knows what the new staff wants. They have enough talent left from last year to make the playoffs this season if things go a bit different. There is certainly reason for optimism for 2013 and beyond.
I wouldn't say this team is peaking, but perhaps that argument could be made. I think they are still a season or two away from peaking. Cutler is at a point in his career where he should be peaking and Lance Briggs, Julius Peppers and Charles Tillman are at or just beyond their career peak. They could all put together one or two more solid seasons to push this team over the top.
Finally, the last option for the state of the franchise is totally confused. With a new regime, new systems, plenty of question marks at various positions and lots of salary cap and expiring contracts concerns, this team has a lot of questions to answer. Could fans end up having to slog through one or two very under-whelming seasons before we see the new regime hit its stride?
I certainly hope not. Personally, I see the state of the 2013 Bears as "building." The new regime seems to be anxious to get results and push for success right away. Emery has worked diligently to fill holes on the roster and give himself flexibility for drafting in a couple weeks time. I believe that while 2013 might not match or exceed last year's 10-6 mark, I think that progress will be established and the building blocks will be placed for the team to be solidly in the hunt for years to come.
What do you see the state of the Bears being for 2013?