clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Can the Bears "fix-it" quick?


The Miami Dolphins went 1-15 in 2007. In 2008, they improved by 10 wins to 11-5 and went to the playoffs. The New Orleans Saints in 2008 were 8-8, and finished last in the South. In 2009 they marched through the NFC and took the Colts down to become Super Bowl Champions.

The quick turnaround is entirely possible in the NFL. The salary cap and the CBA have long contributed to parity across the league that most professional sports don't see.

Sean Jensen wrote over at the Sun-Times last week about this very subject. It got me thinking, do the Bears have the tools and options to pull this off? Sean seems to think so, and he's got the opinions of Ron Jaworski and Greg Cosell (exec. producer of "NFL Matchup") to agree with him.

Definitely read this full article, as it's long, and a pretty good read. (It echoes a lot of points we've bounced around the threads here.) Let's take a look at some of their ideas, and we can see whether their glasses are rosier than ours.

Though they don't have picks in the first two rounds of the NFL draft, the Bears have reason to be optimistic based on their finish to the 2009 season and their premium personnel, particularly the expected return of Pro Bowl middle linebacker Brian Urlacher.

I'd say it's definitely not unreasonable to feel this way. We have debated here ad nauseam the young, raw talent on the Bears roster, and whether it can be developed quickly and ably into pro bowl-caliber weaponry. The Bears also have a defensive squad that, when healthy, can usually be at least  a top 16 defense, if not something much more special.

Jay Cutler

It's no secret that quarterback continues to be the most scrutinized position on the field, not only for the Chicago Bears, but for all 32 teams of the NFL. A lot was made of Martz and Cutler coming together, expecially after Martz' NFL Network comments about Jay.

The new system is going to be the ultimate test that Jay Cutler will face. More of the offense will fall on his shoulders (or more accurately, his arm) than ever before. A lot has been said about his mechanics, especially since mechanics and decision-making are the things that seem to have led to his high interception count. But says Jaws:

Jaworski noted that two-time MVP Kurt Warner had ''sloppy mechanics'' before working with Martz with the St. Louis Rams.

''He was an Arena guy, but he became a rock-solid NFL passer,'' Jaworski said. ''Quick. Accurate. Read defenses properly. And Jay has more God-given talent than Kurt Warner.''

Jay definitely has that. Big arm, possibly bigger ego, though? Cutler knows he can throw it, and he's got that mentality that can scare us. The whole "I can put it anywhere, anytime" is great, but can get you into a lot of trouble. That said, it's no truth that quarterbacks have good years with Martz, and if they can work together and get in a good tandem, big, big things can happen.

But it  comes down to the Other 10 on offense.

Particularly for Jay, the Five on the Line, and the Ones Lined Up Wide. There's a good group of young guys at the wide receiver position, and Martz seems to be excited to use Hester in the way that nearly every Bears fan has asked him to be used. The SLOT! 

This receiving group could develop into something great. They don't have to be superstars, but if they're hot, Martz will call for Cutler to try to put it in their hands.

The offensive line is the big concern. While Williams seems to have settled in a bit in the LT slot (which took long enough), it remains to be seen if he can keep that kind of performance going for a full season. There's a lot of question at the guard position, and RT. Kreutz will be the center, still, and hopefully the energy of Mike Tice can invigorate him.

The X-factor, though, will be how well the assistants -- especially new offensive line coach Mike Tice -- will prepare their players.

The Bears certainly won't lack creativity, Jaworski said.

''Martz has every protection imaginable.''

That he does. I think it's going to be exciting to see Tice work his group into a unit that can run those protections. So much of that pressure is going to fall on Chris Williams, protecting Jay's blind side. While Jay's quick on his feet, the classic aspects of Martz's scheme are likely to get Cutler crushed without competent blocking.

Good Defense puts the ball in the Offense's hands a lot.

So it stands to reason, average defense should put the ball in the offense's hands enough to do something.

Being realistic about everything, the Bears are likely not going to return to the level of defensive play they showed in '05 and '06. They're facing some pretty big expectations in the secondary, and there's not much to the defensive line. In a scheme that's predicated on both of those performing well so the linebackers can play out of their minds, we should probably worry a bit. That being said, this team actually can prevent the big play. If the secondary coverage improves a little more, it can buy the line some extra time to get to the QB. If the Line gets better, it helps the secondary make plays on the ball. Win-win, right?

Marinelli was supposed to be the key to fixing that, but the effect was minimal on the '09 team. Shifting him to defensive coordinator seems as if it will take away from his ability to focus on working with this group, but we shall see. Tommie Harris started to look promising again, but there wasn't much in the team to make me feel like we really had something going.

But he added that the Bears might consider limiting the snaps of Mark Anderson, who had 12 sacks as a rookie but just 9 ½ in the three seasons since.

''I think Anderson is a one-trick-pony kind of player,'' Cosell said. ''He can work as a pass rusher. But the more you have to play him, the less productive he'll be.''

I think this is something a lot of us saw when they tried to make him a starter--he couldn't hack it as an every down end. As a pure pass rusher, though, he's still got some skill. Hopefully this is something that can be addressed, either through FA or whichever, to be able to bring him to that role as a pass rushing specialist.


This is the one nagging thing for me about this Chicago Bears team, and the reason I have to temper my expectations. They don't mention it much in the article, but this team's coaching staff is...uhm...politely...unique. It's loaded with experience at the major positions. (Even though Marinelli doesn't have DC experience, he's got enough league experience and defensive experience to be considered, well, "experienced.") The problem is, will it gel?

I personally believe that everyone on this staff's job is still in jeopardy. I think anything less than a Conference Championship or a Super Bowl bid, and they could still be shown the door, especially if someone like a Cowher continues to express some kind of interest.

It's just such a motley group of buddies, that I worry that if it doesn't go well, it's going to go really bad. Like, 5-11 or worse.

In closing--it's definitely possible. There's enough pieces and knowledge here for it be put together. Can it be? That remains to be seen. We should know more as we see who our draft picks are, and if we do make a big free agent move. While a lot of us don't think the big FA deal is likely, most of us didn't think the Cutler trade was possible, either. 

Regardless, I'm going to stir the pot right now and make my way too early prediction now: 11-5, Division Champs, first round playoff loss.

Have at it, folks.