Continuing on with a theme Davids Haugh and Kaplan and I talked over on Tuesday’s “The Game” at 87.7 FM:
The new contracts done this offseason with quarterback Jay Cutler in January and Brandon Marshall this week solidly put in place the big-picture “face” (or, faces) of the franchise. It is significant on a number of levels.
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One is that the identity of the Bears has so often been defined by defensive “faces” for the last half-century: the ’63 NFL champions; Dick Butkus (more than Gale Sayers); the ’85 Bears; Brian Urlacher. Walter Payton was the face of the ’75-‘83 Bears, which didn’t win anything, and Jim McMahon garnered a huge share of the Bears ID for his few seasons of success.
But the Bears “became” an offensive team last year with the hiring of Marc Trestman, ending a run of defensive head coaches from Dave Wannstedt through Dick Jauron and on to Lovie Smith. GM Phil Emery gave Cutler the teammates and coaching staff needed for No. 6 to develop into the player he was projected to be coming out of Vanderbilt.
The defense lost Urlacher after 2012 and just about everything else in 2013, creating a vacuum at precisely the time Cutler was growing into his role.
And Marshall as well. Consider: The Miami Dolphins were reportedly ready to send Marshall packing before the Bears made their pre-emptive strike, trading two third-round picks rather than risk losing him on the open market. The Denver Broncos were only too happy to deal Cutler out of town in 2009.
Now those two sort-of castoffs are the acknowledged leaders of not just the offense, but the team. It has happened as both have approached and passed age 30, to the point where both are leading workouts with teammates in the offseasons. The organization has supported the evolution, which has seen two often-petulant stars become leaders intent on making the whole greater than the sum of the parts.
“I think one of the big things we’re finding with people who have had issues in terms of character situations in the past, the more they reach out and help others, the better they become,” said Emery during an appearance this week on WSCR-AM 670’s “The Mully and Hanley Show.” “Them doing for the better good helps them improve in terms of their track record and heading in the right direction.”
It doesn’t ensure winning Super Bowls. But a lack of character and heading in the wrong direction ensures not winning Super Bowls.