With reports that the Chicago Bears will not apply the franchise tag to Alshon Jeffery and Jay Cutler mulling retirement, the offense is headed in the WRONG direction.
Do you remember when the Chicago Bears offense had a breakout 2013 season with the offensive-minded Marc Trestman at the helm and a team LOADED with talent at all of the offensive skill positions? Jay Cutler and Josh McCown combined for 32 touchdowns and just 13 picks while amassing 4450 yards.
Top wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery totaled over 2700 yards and 19 TD’s between the two of them. Martellus Bennett had 94 catches and 5 TD’s. Matt Forte added almost 2000 yards from scrimmage with 74 catches and a total of 12 TD’s.
The offense ranked 2nd in the league in scoring and 8th in total yards, the best offensive rankings since the Super Bowl XLI season of 2006. Of course, the defense was abysmal and things quickly fell apart in 2014 as Trestman was found to be better suited to coach in Canada than the NFL.
In 2015, John Fox and Ryan Pace were brought in to turn things around. Since they arrived, the dismantling of the offense has been abrupt and thorough:
Some of the changes were dictated in the name of changing the culture. That’s why Marshall and Bennett were sent away to the AFC East via (some would say) very lopsided trades. Matt Forte, on the wrong side of 30, was let to walk away in free agency.
This offseason, the changes keep coming. It’s expected that the Bears will part ways with longtime quarterback Jay Cutler, while recent reports indicate that they will not apply the franchise tag to Alshon Jeffery. That will complete the move to turnover the core of their 2013 offense and press the reset button on the offensive side of the ball.
The 2017 Bears offense has some pieces to build around, but there’s a lot of uncertainty. Cody Whitehair and Kyle Long seem solid, but those guys are interior linemen. Cameron Meredith had a breakout campaign in 2016, but does he replace Alshon? Kevin White has the draft pedigree, but hasn’t been able to stay on the field. Zach Miller is a nice tight end, but his injury history doesn’t give you confidence he’ll be available for 16 games.
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Running back Jordan Howard had a terrific rookie season while racking up over 1300 rushing yards and 7 total touchdowns. Is he legit number one, three-down back? Howard reminds me a lot of Anthony Thomas, another Bears rookie that took the league by storm in his rookie campaign. He racked up almost 1200 yards and 7 TD’s in his rookie year. He barely crossed the 1000 yard mark again once in three more seasons with the Bears.
The biggest scary about the 2017 Bears offense is the quarterback position. I know all of the Jay Cutler haters out there will be cheering his departure, but what do you really have? In a perfect world, the Bears would have drafted a mid-round prospect within the last couple of years to serve as Cutler’s understudy and get groomed as his successor.
If you draft a quarterback in the first round, history tells us he’ll need to take some lumps before he’s ready to consistently win games. Even if you do draft one of the big three in the first round, you’ll still need a veteran around either to start or mentor your young signal caller. Who’s that going to be? Does Brian Hoyer excite you? Is Matt Barkley the answer?
The Bears are not good enough to let productive players keep walking out the door, especially when you haven’t been filling the coffers behind them. By letter Jeffery walk, the Bears created another hole on a team with a number of holes already.
History tells us the most successful Bears team had top-10 offense to go along with solid defense. The 2006 Bears, most known for their defense and special teams, had a top-5 offense. Same with the 1985 team. Maybe you’ve heard of them? While the defense was the best in the league, the offense was quite underrated, finishing the season as the second-ranked scoring offense.
The way it’s shaping up, the Bears should double down on making the defense dominant and make Jordan Howard the focal point of the offense. Get a game manager to bridge the gap until you can can some day solve the quarterback position.