The Chicago Bears offense. That’s the same kind of phrase as “The French Army,” or “The Devil’s Blessing”. (Sorry for the offense to the French, but I think everyone pretty much gets it). And the 2008 offense may well take the cake in this regard.
For the record, I hope the 2008 Chicago Bears shock the world. I hope Kyle Orton becomes the next Kurt Warner, Matt Forte wins Offensive Rookie of the Year, the offensive line pulls together and shows unbelievable resilience, and the aging/overrated/never proven receivers all have career years. But sadly, I don’t see this happening.
Here are my observations and predictions, broken down into position:
This will be Ron Turner’s fourth year in his second stint as offensive coordinator of the Chicago Bears. I was very excited by the prospect of his return. In 2005, I thought he brought sanity back to play-selection after three years of John Shoop and a year of the totally over matched Terry Shea. His simple power runs and high-percentage slant patterns seemed to suit what the Bears’ personnel needed. In 2006, a stong offensive line, solid runners and flashes of a competent Rex Grossman had Turner in line for head coaching interviews. But 2007 brought Turner’s reputation back down to Earth, proving he’s only as strong as his personnel. And in 2008, his personnel does not look to be good. One of the reasons I was so excited about Turner’s 2005 return was his offense’s 1995 performance. Then I realized that the Bears’ 1995 offense–clearly their best since the 1940′s–was only as good as an average Green Bay Packer offensive season over the last 15 years. Sad.
Kyle Orton being named the 2008 starting quarterback to me is a bit like purchasing a used 1992 Buick. It may be different and the prospect of change is temporarily exciting, but you know what you’re getting. And it’s not flashy. We’ve all heard it: this is not the Kyle Orton of 2005. He’s a better quarterback and the offense will not be scaled back. But he’s still going to be a game manager and will lack Rex Grossman’s big-play ability. He will also hopefully lack Grossman’s interception-throwing ability. So in that regard, I’m satisfied to know it is what it is, and is not going to change. I still find it interesting that one of the two offensive captains may very well be benched by mid-season. And Calib Hanie fans, take note that the Bears starting three or more quarterbacks in a season is a very distinct possibility.
Chris Williams, the exciting first-round pick at left tackle, is out until Novemeber, if he’s even back by then. Opening day starters will be John St.Clair at LT, unproven and short Josh Beekman at LG, the always-scrappy but possibly declining Olin Kreutz at center, journeyman Roberto Garza at RG, and aging John Tait at RT. The offense’s fortunes will depend on the play of the line.
The Bears tight ends, for once, may be deeper than any other team in the NFL with Desmond Clark, Greg Olsen and rookie Kellen Davis. Wide receiver is another story. Marty Booker, Brandon Lloyd, Rashied Davis, Devin Hester and Mark Bradley are either unrealized (Hester), overrated (Lloyd), unproven (Bradley), or over the hill (Booker). Davis is a bit of an enigma. He can make the tough catch but was rather invisible in 2007, without great physical skill. At best, let’s hope the Bears receivers will keep the offense in games. At worst, the unit overall could be completely ineffective. But I still believe Bernard Berrian was not worth $42 million, and a team should never buy a wide receiver until they have the other pieces of a solid offense. Which the Bears don’t currently have.
I’m excited about rookie starter Matt Forte. Hell, I’m excited simply that Cedric Benson is not on the roster, even if the Bears didn’t have Forte. I’m glad the Bears added Kevin Jones, after Lovie Smith declared they wouldn’t. I hope Garrett Wolfe progresses and is used correctly, not on runs up the gut. What a shame that Thomas Jones could be playing another 5 years as a solid back, and the Bears gave him away and handed the keys to Benson in 2007. More of this same old story. And this one.
Again, I certainly hope the Bears will defy all odds offensively in 2008, but I don’t see that they’re capable of doing so. This offense reminds me of the 1997 or 2003 versions, unfortunately. A line in flux, little talent at receiver, potential but no experience at running back, and as always journeymen at quarterback.
I will hope for an offense that surprises in a few games, plays solid in a handful and only has a few bad games. But I’m afraid all season it will be very close to falling apart.