Every day there seems to be a new discussion about which player could take over the Chicago Bears' center position this season. Considerations of almost every offensive lineman have been discussed at some point, despite the fact that there is no evidence that the Bears are actively pursuing an option at center other than the one they had last season: Roberto Garza.
Look, I understand that people have a deep-rooted disdain for Garza's play based on the past few seasons. He's been near the bottom of Pro Football Focus' blocking rankings each of the past two seasons, and at thirty-four, there is no way that he miraculously undergoes a career resurgence to become one of the top centers in the game. But Garza is the veteran leader of an offensive line that has gained a steady influx of new talent this offseason, and the Bears need that from him. No one else on the team has the experience under center that he does, can identify incoming blitz packages and adapt the line calls accordingly, or reign in some of the Bears' young linemen when they are blowing assignments.
Does that experience solely qualify him to be the Bears' starting center? No, but consider this: if Garza stays at center, it would be the only position on the Bears' offensive line next season that has not undergone a personnel switch. Jermon Bushrod is in for J'Marcus Webb at left tackle, while Webb flips over to the right tackle spot and is competing with Jordan Mills and Jonathan Scott to start. The guard situation is a mess that probably won't get sorted out until week three of the preseason, with newcomers Matt Slauson and Kyle Long battling James Brown and Gabe Carimi for those two starting spots. Even if Carimi earns the right guard spot, he only started three games there in 2012, and only after flaming out at right tackle and watching Jared Allen destroy Lance Louis.
That's four positions on the offensive line with new starters as compared to last season. Not to mention Marc Trestman's emphasis on limiting the amount of time Jay Cutler will be susceptible to a hit in the pocket. That's a lot of change to the Bears offense, and Garza is - for all his struggles - clearly the only option Trestman and company have in mind at this time.
If you want to crow about Taylor Boggs and P.J. Lonergan, go right ahead. But combined, they've played in as many NFL games as I have, and been drafted as many times and all WCG writers combined (that would be zero). Do you really want an undrafted, zero-experienced center taking over Trestman's newfangled offense? Or having that player be the new center of an offensive line that has already undergone massive changes?
If you're not a believer in Garza, but don't believe that Boggs or Lonergan can beat out the former Madden cover boy, then maybe one of the guards could be the new center (which is how we got in this situation with Garza in the first place). Carimi, Brown, and Slauson have all been mentioned at various points by fans as possible center options this year. Carimi and Brown are college tackles playing guard, and asking them to change positions again - so early in their careers - does not sound like a promising endeavor for a team with playoff aspirations.
Matt Slauson, who's the favorite by fans to replace Garza, has a grand total of three appearances (at most) playing center, and that was in relief of Nick Mangold in 2009. And, let's not forget that right now, Slauson is the best guard on the roster. So, are you willing to sacrifice his proven success at guard for an unknown quantity at center when we already have a serviceable option?
The other option is Edwin Williams, but... seriously, no. If he hasn't beat out Garza by now, he's never going to do it.
Again, I'm worried about this year, not next year or the year after. That's why I don't get the desire to take guards with adequate to solid performances in their careers and move them to center, even if they search the internet for tips on how to be a great center. Change at center is on the horizon, but it doesn't look like its happening this offseason. A lot could change between now and week one of the 2013 season, but so far there is little to no information from the Bears that anyone other than Roberto Garza will be manning the center position this year. The storm of change at center is being solely voiced by fans, and until Trestman or Emery tell us otherwise, it'll simply be bluster.