With Monday Night Preseason Football around the corner, my Fantab set (see right rail), (hilarious) power rankings assessed and analyzed, I have come to my objective senses about the outlook on the Bears season.
Super Bowl or bust.
Whatever you want to call it, this may be that window of opportunity for a team who plays the role of underdog/hot-seat rumpers oh, so well. From Lovie Smith to Matt Forte (still no contract) if this Bears team puts up a stinker in the regular season, there will be more shake-ups than the Illinois State Fair. That is where I bet on Lovie, and that is where I bet on the players who have his back no matter what.
Lovie didn't practically hand pick his staff for pointless advantage, Rod Marinelli fell into his hands after trying to polish the turd that is the Detroit Lions and failing to win a game as a head coach. Mike Tice couldn't compete with the Grudens and Cowher's of the league and went back to his roots as a line coach, fitting seamlessly in the Bears role. And as a mad dash of "genius" spice, he added pass happy madman Mike Martz to mold Jay Cutler into the Midway Kurt Warner and the Bears offense into the "Greatest Show on Solid Dirt."
To understand my reasoning for such a crazy prediction on the season, I figured it'd be best if the explanation was in numeric format. So here are my 5 points to why the Bears will be playing at Lucas Oil Stadium for Super Bowl XLVI.
5. Repeat Defenders
The Chicago Bears defense last season looked alot more like the "Monsters of the Midway" than it did in seasons past. A healthy Brian Urlacher (97tackls, 4 sacks, 1 interception, 2 fumble recoveries) turned the clocks back to Pro Bowl form, Julius Peppers and Israel Idonije (16 sacks combined) locked down the edges and the secondary unit of Charles Tillman, Chris Harris, D.J. Moore and Tim Jennings ( 15 interceptions combined ) held the passing lanes to Cover-2 perfection.
Who To Watch: Vernon Gholston
Vernon Gholston was the 6th overall pick of the 2008 NFL Draft by the New York Jets. Gholston was a standout at Ohio State University, combining for 22 sacks, 40 tackles ( 30 for loss,) one interception, one fumble and a defensive touchdown. After being picked 6th overall by the Jets he was moved from his natural spot at the defensive end to outside linebacker.
After 3 subpar seasons he was moved back to the end spot, but it was too late. New head coach Rex Ryan, a vocal disbeliever in Gholston's talents never gave him a chance. Now the Bears and Vernon have an opportunity to prove the naysayers wrong, and to the benefit of both Peppers and Idonije and second string partner in crime Corey Wooten.
4. Cowboy Up
The Bears seemed to be repeating a method that is not uncommon in recent Chicago pro sports seasons. Gather a massive amount of the players from the same team. The Chicago Bulls tried this very same technique with players Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver, and Ronnie Brewer all former Utah Jazz. The Chicago Bears picked up for Dallas Cowboys Roy Williams, Sam Hurd, and Marion Barber. Williams and Barber were both was valued keys to the paper champion Cowboys success, but suffered significant drops in success throughout the recent years and in a desperate overhaul were ultimately causalities.
"As I See It," this will ultimately be the biggest talking point during this season. Although Williams will than likely not repeat his 1,300 yd season with Mike Martz like he did in 2006 under the tutilege of Mike Martz, but anything close to a 1,000 yard season with 7 or more touchdowns will be the extra help the Bears need to take that next step and put up more than 14 points in the NFC Championship game.
Marion Barber was one of the Cowboys featured backs from 2007-2009, where he rushed for 2,792yds, 24 TD's, and averaged 4.3 yds/attempt. He was to much the Bears shigrin a casualty of pay and necessity and fell right into the hands of Jerry Angelo and the Chicago Bears. By having Barber spelling Forte on carries, and more than likely handling the 3rd down role, the Bears should see an increase in goaline TD's and a decrease in redzone picks by Jay Cutler.
Sam Hurd is still a bit of a project. In 5 seasons with the Cowboys, he only contributed 45 receptions, for 630 yards, and two touchdowns. But the addition of another slot receiver couldn't be bad for the Bears.
Who To Watch: Matt Forte
Matt Forte is now going into his second preseason game without a contract extension. And even if he gets one before game-time, it still doesn't mean that the Bears front office, and fans alike don't still want to see a significant increase in production. Forte says he has proved himself worthy of something bigger than a rookie contract in his numbers over the last three seasons (3,236yds, 18TD's, 1,495yds receiving, 7 receiving TD's), and he is correct. But one thing about the NFL is that it's never about what you have done, it's about what have you done for me lately; as in right now. And Forte wants to prove that he is worth more money than any running back in Bears history, that means more money than Walter Payton and Gale Sayers were ever paid in one contract combined.
Now Forte must prove he is worth more than both the likes of Sayers and "Sweetness". No easy task, but Forte's numbers prove he may just be up to the task.
Who To Watch: Bears coaching staff
This is the first season in many that the Bears have a cohesive unit of coaching and key personnel. Offensive coordinator Mike Martz is in his second year, Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli has another year under his belt and line coach Mike Tice is returning to fix the errors that held the Bears offense back due to inefficiency to protect the quarterback.
So that makes all three of Lovie's coordinators, and seven of the position coaches are all back for another season. This was by far the least turnover in an offseason since Lovie was hired by the Bears in 2004. So let's see how a little continuity in the coaching staff helps a team that has remained one of the most loyal teams as far as player personnel (except quarterback) in the NFL.
More importantly there are a few favorable reuniting's of player coach success, most notably between Roy Williams and Mike Martz ( Roy amassed his 1,300yd, 7TD season with Martz as his offensive coordinator,) and Darryl Drake ( Roy's wide receiver coach at the University of Texas where Roy set virtually all receiving records). If familiarity has any advantage than this will prove to be the most beneficial in Williams acclimation to the Bears.
It is also noted that once again Jerry Angelo went out and sought some more Texas blood. It is known that Lovie Smith loves his Texas guys being from Sandy, TX and with Williams and Sam Hurd both being Texas natives you can add that to the list of Texans on the Chicago Bears.
1. Jay Cutler
Who To Watch: Jay Cutler
Jay Cutler receiving alot of criticism for not playing the second half of the NFC Championship Game. Even when looking past the injury many stated their interest in watching Caleb Hanie play over that of Cutler anyway. Don't get it confused, had Jay Cutler been healthy enough to play he would have. And if he would have played I see the Bears having a far greater advantage of beating the Packers in the second half than that of both Todd Collins and Caleb Hanie combined (truly not saying that much.)
This is historically Jay Cutler's season to shine. In his sixth career season in the NFL and third with the Bears, he has had enough time to weather the storm that was his first season and enjoy success as last years NFC North Champion and championship game representative.
The only thing in the way of Cutler's success is the combination of ego and protection. Can Jay really withstand another season with 52 sacks? Will we see the Cutler that threw 27TD's and 26 interceptions? Or will we see the Jay that throws 23TD's and 17 interceptions in a NFC Championship campaign.
Tags: Brian Urlacher, Caleb Hanie, Carlos Boozer, Charles Tillman, Chicago Bears, Chicago Bulls, Chris Harris, Corey Wooten, D.J. Moore, Darryl Drake, Detroit Lions, Fantab, Gale Sayers, Green Bay Packers, Illinois State Fair, Israel Idonije, Jay Cutler, Jerry Angelo, Julius Peppers, Kurt Warner, Kyle Korver, Lovie Smith, Lucas Oil Stadium, Marion Barber, Matt Forte, Mike Martz, Mike Tice, Monday Night Football, New York Jets, NFC, NFC North, NFC North Championship, Ohio State University, Rex Ryan, Rod Marinelli, Ronnie Brewer, Roy Williams, Sam Hurd, Super Bowl, Super Bowl XLVI, Tim Jennings, Todd Collins, University of Texas, Utah Jazz, Vernon Gholston, Walter Payton