Okay, so winter shows up in Chicago and overstays its welcome. Around New Year’s Day, Chicago is completely done with snow, slush, cold, wind chill, poorly-heated apartments, waiting on the bus, and generally any activity that requires being outdoors. Being excited for football means, yes, we are accepting that football means winter–long, seemingly endless winter. It’s not that we want summer to end; we love pools, the beach, ice cream, sunshine, and not having to wear eight layers of clothes when we leave the apartment. However, baseball is just not doing it for us. This baseball boredom is not just sweeping Chicago, but it’s spreading throughout the country like wildfire (http://tinyurl.com/olrnon2). So, one must look ahead to the future in sports and see that the wave of the NFL is visible from the shore.
Training camp for the Bears starts in a week and a half and the Bears have a lot to work on to prepare for the upcoming season. With a new coach, Jay Cutler facing the end of his contract, a batch of new players, and the absence of Brian Urlacher, the Bears have a lot to adjust to before facing the Panthers on August ninth.
Of course, the first major adjustment will be to the new head coach, and possible middle-aged John Boy Walton, Marc Trestman. Lovie Smith had the ability to focus veteran players while inspiring rookie players to stand up to the challenge of becoming a part of the solid Chicago Bears roster; we do not know what Trestman has in store for the Bears. His first, and most important challenge, will undoubtedly be to whip Jay Cutler into shape. This should prove a successful task for Trestman as he was the offensive coordinator for the Oakland Raiders in 2002 which resulted in Raiders’ quarterback, Rich Gannon, winning that year’s NFL MVP Award, even though the Raiders lost to the Buccaneers in the Super Bowl. Gannon’s 2002 season saw shattering records, throwing 4,689 yards and 26 touchdowns. If Trestman could turn Gannon into a cannon, he could certainly bring out the same success in Jay Cutler.
Jay Cutler, though, must be responsive and open to the changes and work hard to maintain his position on the Bears roster. This is the last year on his contract, so he must be willing to do what’s necessary to lead the Bears to the playoffs in order to keep his job. One of the main things he needs to focus on is to stop relying heavily on Brandon Marshall. Though their chemistry on the field is overpowering, his crippling reliance on Marshall is only hurting the team. Last season Marshall ended the season with 118 receptions; behind him were Earl Bennett with 29 receptions and Devin Hester with 23 receptions. Cutler needs to focus on the other players as Marshall may not always be open or may get hurt. Cutler needs to learn to keep his options open this season before the Bears decide to open up their options in next year’s off season.
Of course, a new coach and a quarterback in need of repair are two things that the Bears must adjust to, but one of the biggest changes is the absence of the king of the defensive line, Brian Urlacher. The Bears picked up DJ Williams and Jon Bostic in hopes of filling the big shoes of Urlacher. However, Urlacher didn’t just leave a gap in the physical defensive line, the Bears lost a leader on the field. The defense worked because Urlacher was an upstanding leader on the field. This would be the best time for Lance Briggs to step up into that role as he has the seniority, the experience, and the energy to rebuild the tight nucleus of the Bears defensive line.
Though the tight defensive line is in need of some minor adjustments, the offensive line needs to be fiercely restructured and refocused. The Bears are notorious for having the sloppiest offensive line in the NFL. Over the past three seasons, Jay Cutler has been sacked 113 times. You don’t have to be a football coach to know that lying on the field is not the best way to throw the ball to a teammate. It’s also not the best way to keep your quarterback in a good condition to play. Offensive linemen Jermon Bushrod, Matt Slauson, Kyle Long, J’Marcus Webb, and Roberto Garzo have a lot of work to do and a lot to prove.
All of these tweaks, adjustments, and changes should be focused on one goal: the playoffs. Chicago is hungry for another playoff and baseball is not providing any satisfaction for anyone on the North Side or the South Side. The Bulls made the playoffs without Derrick Rose this year, and they fought long and hard to the bitter end. They fell to the Heat but vowed to return next season to claim the Larry O’Brien trophy. The Chicago Blackhawks skated through the competition and brought the Stanley Cup back to the Windy City. No one has any hopes for baseball, but everyone has put their faith in the Chicago Bears. If Jay Cutler wants to keep his job, he has to get the Bears to the playoffs this year. If he doesn’t, the townspeople will finally revolt against the quarterback instead of sitting on their barstools and blithely bitching about his performance. Chicago is hungry for another exciting round of playoff sports and, though the NFL playoffs are a ways away, getting there takes time, focus, and practice. The Bears have ample time to get their eyes on the prize and make sure they have what it takes to get them to that goal.
There are a few more weeks until preseason kicks off, so be sure you are prepared with the freshest Chicago Bears gear you can get your hands on! Find this original “Bring It On” tee here (http://tinyurl.com/lshblom), or browse our vast selection of Bears gear on our website (www.clarkstreetsports.com). Get prepared for football season, and get ready to BEAR DOWN!