The Chicago Bears enter the 2013 offseason with a series of decisions to make, none of which have a clear cut answer. The 10-6 record, on the outside, seems like a successful season despite missing the playoffs. But the Bears, who lost five out of six games, have failed to make the playoffs the last five out of six years.
A disappointing season led to a disappointing exit for Lovie Smith, and it now leaves the Bears with one of their most crucial decisions in a decade.
Phil Emery is tasked with hiring a new coach for the organization after firing the third-longest tenured head coach in franchise history. It is a major change that will bring with it a number of changes. Notably, hiring an offensive-minded head coach will change the Bears’ long-held organizational philosophy.
The success of the 2013 Chicago Bears’ season will be predicated on the choices made this offseason. The current personnel and team chemistry give Phil Emery a window of success to work with. The hiring of the right coach is essential to the process and could instantly turn this team back into a contender.
If we take a look at recent history, a good number of first year coaches with talented personnel have been able to turn around teams in a single season.
The best example of that is Jim Harbaugh in San Francisco, who, after two seasons with a team that had been bad for seven years, has been awarded the No. 2 seed two consecutive years and nearly made it to a Super Bowl. He turned a group of underachievers into a highly regarded team.
The Chicago Bears have similar personnel, and the hiring of the right coach with the ability to pamper Jay and develop him within a system could have similar results.
Phil Emery needs to make Cutler feel comfortable, and he needs to pick a coach to extort out of this team what Lovie Smith could not. The current leading candidates for the job can be found here.
The offseason decisions extend beyond the hiring of a new head coach to the Draft and free agency as well. It starts with drafting young offensive lineman or new, upstart defensive talent to replace those already deteriorating.
The first issue for the defense could be to find the replacement for Brian Urlacher. On offense, it’s a simpler fix that can be achieved through different avenues; either sign a left tackle in free agency or draft one. The Bears could look to replace Roberto Garza at center and find someone to play left guard as well.
The offense, aside from the line, is deep and still relatively young. The line is a mix of inexperienced and untalented stand-in players, and the Bears have been able to manage but not surpass expectations with them. And it’s now time to address the one area that has consistently held this team back.
Emery realizes this, but he needs to make a concerted effort to go out and snag some strong offensive line talent. The free agent offensive lineman are talented, but it would likely require breaking the bank to acquire them (T Jake Long, T Ryan Clady).
On defense, it’s been speculated that with the firing of Smith, it will likely be the end of Brian Urlacher’s career in Chicago, too. Regardless, the team needs to make a quick decision and treat one of the all-time great Bears with the respect he deserves after his Hall of Fame career. It will be the end of a great era of defensive football if the Bears do decide to part ways with No. 54.
Conte and Wright started out playing well but with injuries and a lack of depth hurting them in the long run. If the Bears can nurse Brandon Hardin back, and get Conte back, this unit can hopefully sustain success.
The Bears need to address their in-house free agents, too, including Pro Bowler Henry Melton, who will be looking to get paid this off-season. The team will also have to make decisions on Israel Idonje, Jason Campbell and Nick Roach. All these decisions will play into next season, and making the right ones, could possibly put this team over the top in 2013.
Good luck, Emery. Aside from the paycheck, I’m glad I’m not in your shoes.