In the aftermath of the 2013 free agency, draft and offseason work at minicamps and OTAs, CSNChicago.com examines where the Bears have gone and where they will be going when training camp convenes in late July. One of a series.
The Bears’ 2012 season ended with a coach firing and a coach hiring, Lovie Smith out, Marc Trestman in. It represents nothing short of tectonic plates shifting in and around Halas Hall.
Beyond the normal upheaval that accompanies any coaching change, the Bears went away from a coach with a defensive background to one exclusively from the offensive side of the ball. An indication of the significant lay in the turmoil that has gone on at the coordinator level, on both offense and defense.
Smith employed multiple different defensive coordinators in his tenure: Ron Rivera, Bob Babich, himself and Rod Marinelli. He had the same number of offensive coordinators: Terry Shea, Ron Turner, Mike Martz and Mike Tice.
The difference was Smith as the constant through the defense; even when he wasn’t the coordinator in title, it was his scheme and it was coached by those who worked with him.
On offense, Tice was not Martz was not Turner was not Shea. No constant was there (other than perhaps Roberto Garza), no Lance Briggs, no Brian Urlacher, no Smith.
No coordinator lasted more than Martz’s two seasons with Jay Cutler. Trestman will, and while Smith changed coordinators his first year, Trestman is not likely to shuffle Aaron Kromer aside, because Trestman, like Smith, is the heart of the system now on that side of the ball. He is the one with the four-year contract.
Issue No. 1: Buy-in.
The Bears under Trestman have elected to stay the overall defensive course under new coordinator Mel Tucker. His acceptance is one thing; with Urlacher gone, no member of the Bears’ defense has played in Chicago for anyone other than Smith. But with the scheme in place, a unit with a veteran core is not being asked to change something that has worked very well for the better part of a decade.
Offense, however, is the franchise question.
Cutler is in the final year of his contract. He is in need of a season to not only establish himself as the Bears quarterback for the next five or so years, but also to establish himself as a top NFL quarterback, which his production and playoff history has not.
Brandon Marshall has had a stretch of six straight 1,000-yard seasons, including a 2012 with a career- and franchise-best 118 receptions.
Their relationship was viewed as major positive going into last season. But the offense ended up ranked 29th in passing yards, 28th in yards per game, and 16th in scoring based on an epic run of defensive scores in the first half of the season.
How thoroughly Cutler and Marshall, with success and a close relationship dating back to days in Denver, buy into the Trestman concepts and the coaching of QB coach Matt Cavanaugh projects to be the tipping point of the 2013 season.
Put another way: Cutler needs to believe in as well as execute in the Trestman system. His attitude and confidence in the situation will be picked up on by his teammates, just as the negatives were in 2012.
The right things have been said. The next part of the real work begins in earnest at about 9 a.m. on Friday, July 26