Generally speaking, when you watch as disappointing a season as the Bears are having, it's hard to even want to stay positive about them. It's very easy to start picking at the wounds. Heck, right now, it's hard not to turn around and see something you think is wrong, those things that make you say, "Even I wouldn't make that move if I was in charge."
I can't help but feel at this point, that punching this team while it's down isn't going to do a whole lot of good. So I'm going optimistic on this one. Let's take a look at a few of the things I really think the Bears are doing right, or at least indicate that they know what right is. Let's also look at some suggestions or ideas that might improve on what they're doing.
Ok, ok. I know that historically WR development is not something any of us are ever going to give this organization credit for. However, I think they're doing right by Johnny Knox this year.
Fairly early in the year, they recognized on some level that Johnny Knox has a considerable amount of raw talent, and saw fit to get him on the field early and often. While he's not the most well-developed route runner yet, that's something that can be improved on. A large part of his most valuable experience will come from the in-game experience--seeing what guys like Charles Woodson will do in a game situation-- and learning to adjust to those situations.
So he's doing alright. There's flashes amongst all the wide receivers with some level of talent or another. But at this point, I think the only thing to do to really bring that out of them is to get a new WR coach. I know that Darryl Drake has had some success with the Bears WR. According to his profile on chicagobears.com, the bears caught 95.9 percent of the catchable balls thrown their way in the Super Bowl season, a pretty impressive number. But think back to that team? How many of those were big play balls, and who were the receivers? Your primary targets that year were Moose, Berrian, and D. Clark. Berrian had his breakout year, and Moose was an experienced veteran. Berrian was our downfield receive, Moose was our short game guy. We simply weren't attempting the plays that our new quarterback should be able to make, and we developing young receivers well.
So bring in someone new. Preferably someone who has established NFL experience, and who will really push these guys to develop them to their full potential. I'll welcome some names in the comments, as the various WR coaches around the country aren't really something I'm fully up to naming (As I don't know their names)
The few miscues this season not withstanding, Special Teams continues to be a high point for this Bears team. While the return units aren't as explosive as we'd gotten used to a couple years ago, coverage units have remained solid, despite a high turnover in player personnel due to injuries.
It really does go unappreciated sometimes, but think of the terrible deficits we would suffer if we didn't have Brad Mayard. His ability to put the ball back downfield and pin teams in not-great to terrible field positions has really kept the Bears from being 2000% exposed on D.
And Robbie Gould. Who doesn't love Robbie Gould? Having picked up one of the most accurate kickers in the history of football who'd been waived by two teams and was working construction, his ascension and continued quality play should impress everyone just a little bit more. I know I take it for granted that he'll be "Goulden" (yes, I just went there) when he steps on the field.
But a suggestion? Stop making projects out of people who perform well on Special Teams. There's no reason that everyone who shows some brilliance in ST should be a project for another phase. Toub is having tons of success with these guys, and there's not a whole lot of reason to slap your most consistently successful unit in the face.
They're Taking Some Risks
We have all, for a longtime, wished for one of those real "NFL Quarterbacks" all of the other teams seem to find from time to time. While many of us, myself included, had absolutely nothing against Kyle Orton, we never really thought he'd have that gamemaking, marquee, big play ability.
They listened, and listened, and they finally went out and got someone who may fit the bit. Unfortunately...they didn't pan out on some of the other choices. (Orlando Pace)
The point to this idea is that for a long time, we never would've thought a Cutler-like deal possible. While some will argue we're continuously getting hosed on the deal(not me, I like him. A lot.), I don't think there's any disagreement that it was uncharacteristic for the organization we've known as the running team with the good defense. We've got a player that you can build on, and some youth showing some flashes of future play.
The suggestion? Actually BUILD on that. Take the pieces you have, find the pieces you don't. While I'd like to see a more veteran receiver come in to take some pressure off and to give a short-term "go-to" guy, I'd rather see an offensive line. Build this offense with the pieces you have now. Build the defense the same way. You've got core players--get more core players.
But you have to keep taking the risks. There's a correlation between risk and reward. When you have a team in the state you do now, well, you can get much worse. Make some player personnel changes. Make some coaching personnel changes. They aren't things to be afraid of.
Reflecting back--maybe it's backhandedly optimistic in places. Maybe the suggestions have been repeated ad naseum. But there's a good reason for that. Many of them are solid ideas.
I welcome your comments as always. I know there are some out there who are calling for the Bears to lose out so that changes can be made. Changes can be made regardless--there's no reason to want to lose, you should always want to win.