Here are things that will be discussed when the season ends. Fill in the blanks as you see fit. Please check your answers in the back of the book. (Who knows, maybe you really do know some of these things. I'm not saying that you don't; all I'm doing is identifying patterns... so don't get all uppity with me.)
1. Jay Cutler's elite-ness.
Around these parts, the conversation has died off, thankfully. But just to be sure it stays that way, I'm going to bring it up one last time… err… wait… what? Anyways, in terms of NFL quarterback preparedness, grit, and audible-ness, "elite" has become overused and misconstrued to ridiculous proportions (Esiason: "There are elite quarterbacks and then there are super-elite quarterbacks."). But aside from the drivel, probably the top "thing I knew all along" this season will be Cutler's capacity to be a successful quarterback. He's one of the best statistical QBs in Chicago Bears franchise history, but in the current market, he's generally assumed average. Whether the Bears can keep winning with an assumed average, or should pay him more the market demands, is a real question we'll be asking ourselves when the season ends.
John Clayton said that Cutler is "one of the biggest enigmas in the NFL." No, actually, he isn't, old man Clayton. He has a "howitzer" for an arm (thanks, Tirico), always thinks he can squeeze his pass into the tiniest of available spots, and doesn't like getting his face smashed into the sod. He's also incredibly smart, doesn't like it when teammates slack off, and prefers his play calling partner in the headset be at-the-ready even before the play clock begins. Enigma solved.
In summary, stop using "elite" as if it were some sort of special, if ephemeral privilege that only certain players can obtain when he meets some pie-in-the-sky standard you invented while sitting on the commode while flipping your six-month-old copy of Midwest Living. Start using more descriptive and functional words -- disciplined, efficient, practiced, knowledgeable, well-suited, glitterati -- and provide some freakin' context.
2. The Bears offense was [...], but that's (only) because of [...].
Are the Bears going to be who you thought they were? Obviously. But let's face facts: Trestman implemented a new blueprint, has a ton of TEs, a fullback, and a refreshed offensive line (that includes two rookie starters). That's the "new" stuff. We expect Cutler to do okay, Marshall and Jeffrey to do well, Forte to have a banner year, and so forth. Which components of the offense will deliver, which will fall flat, and which will still be a work in progress? Not everything is going to go according to plan. But at the same time, I fully expect a few surprises along the way (don't let me down, Marquess Wilson).
What does that mean? I'm equivocating. The same things that can/will hold us back can/will be the same things that can/will propel us forward.
3. Dude, toldya. That [rookie] is going to be the next [veteran].
If pre-season awards for most impressive rookies means anything, and you know they do (When have they not?**), then Jordan Mills (RT), Jon Bostic (MLB), and Kyle Long (RG) are going to be superstars in no time. If you're worried, don't be. After a few spastic Joniak broadcasts and ESPN MNF "he's a future hall-of-famer" nods, everyone will be in good shape... Don't. You. Worry.
** This question is rhetorical. Please don't answer.
4. [Veteran] is done. Why do we still have him, again?
Here's how it goes: "I know I said it during the preseason. And I know I said it last year and the year before that. But that's not the point; the point is that [veteran] is getting up there in years. He does what we need him to do in our [offensive/defensive] scheme, and that's great and all, but it's time to start thinking long-term at that position."
This was used a lot more frequently during the Lovie Smith years (remember that guy?), but I think it might still apply...
5. Three plays. If [player #1] saw what I saw on that play, then [player #2] would've done what I would've done if I'd been in his position. (multiply by 3 and add, "then we'd be in a better position for [x]")
Never mind the logical fallacy present ("affirming the consequence," or something…), but this happens all the time and we're all guilty of it. How often do you watch a play unfold and scream at the television because you think you were the only one who saw [x] open on a deep in, or thought that [x] over shot his gap while returning a kick, or thought that defender [x] took a bad angle to the ball, but only in complete ignorance of the other admittedly obvious elements of the game that your buddies (or heaven forbid, the broadcasters) point out that you neglected?
There are a lot of great, entry-level X and O football books out there ("Blood, Sweat, and Chalk" is popular). One book, by Pat Kirwan, is titled, "Take Your Eye Off The Ball" for a reason. Maybe if I read it, I'd stop yelling at the TV about such things…
6. Emery's second draft class was [...], and our record shows it.
SI: "Why LB Jon Bostic over Arthur Brown?"
SBnation: "If J'Marcus Webb doesn't work out at right tackle…"
Kiper Jr.: "My issue with Long isn't that he's short on talent -- he's not. I just wasn't in love with the value."
(name withheld): "I think Te'o is a lock to go between 10 and 20 overall."
What kind of impact will the rookies have had? When the time comes, we'll certainly pretend we've known it all along, just like everything else. Although with rookies our minds tend to change because young athletes are more malleable. They can win starting jobs, surprise us in the clutch, get injured doing something great (or stupid), and give us some assurance (or fear) that our relatively new GM is indeed just as much of a genius/mad scientist as we believe him to be. But how will this draft class compare to the previous? How much did the change in head coach affect things? Will Emery's approach to the third class be any different?