Offensive ineptitude has shouldered most of the blame for why the Chicago Bears have struggled to sustain success for years. Second-year GM Phil Emery recognized this from the day he took over and has worked tirelessly to find solutions. He has used free agency and the NFL draft to heavily infuse the offense with talent at wide receiver and especially along the offensive line. His biggest and perhaps most under-appreciated move however was bringing Marc Trestman and his West Coast offense to town. Many can question the wisdom of the hire since the 57-year old coach has spent half a decade up in Canada but if history proves anything it's that he has the tools to make Chicago not just a contender in 2013 but a consistent one for years to come.
The West Coast offense as most football fans know was the brain child of the late, great Bill Walsh. He created the system with the Cincinnati Bengals based on the need to protect the quarterback behind a bad offensive line with short drops from center and quick passes to receivers. By 1971 Bengals quarterback Virgil Carter led the league in completion percentage. Eventually the team brought in Ken Anderson who took the scheme to a new level, making Cincinnati a regular playoff contender. When the end of the decade rolled around the San Francisco 49ers came calling and the rest is history. Walsh won three Super Bowls and his immediate successor, George Seifert won two more.
It is for this reason the West Coast offense was and remains so prevalent in the NFL today. Not only did it win five more Super Bowls after Walsh retired, but it continues to bring success for teams around the league. In fact ten franchises, including the Bears, will run a variation of the West Coast system in 2013. Included in that group are the Green Bay Packers, Houston Texans, Washington Redskins, Cincinnati Bengals, and San Francisco 49ers. All five of those teams went to the playoffs last year. Four of the five have gone twice in a row. Obviously the West Coast offense isn't the sole reason that has happened but nobody can argue with success. If Marc Trestman is anything like these other coaches, then Chicago is in for a treat over the next few seasons.
That just leaves the elephant in the room. Can Jay Cutler run this offense properly? History, or at least recent history shows Trestman always enhances the quarterback position. During his last two coaching stints in Oakland and Montreal the passing game saw significant improvement in yards per game, completion percentage and touchdown to interception ratio. Both quarterbacks, Rich Gannon and Anthony Cavillo won the MVP award of their league. Delving deeper, people often forget Cutler is not a stranger to the West Coast system. He ran it for three years under head coach Mike Shanahan in Denver. His last season there in 2008 he went to the Pro Bowl with over 4,500 yards passing and 25 touchdowns. The key to that success was up front. Cutler was sacked just 11 times that year. While no one should expect that with the Bears this year, it does mean the more they protect him the better he plays. Such is the impact Trestman can have on this team moving forward.