Suddenly, offense part of Bears football
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With Bears head coach Marc Trestman on the sidelines, the offense has a chance to join the 21st century attacks employed throughout the NFL.
Phil Emery would like to make the playoffs this season.
But the difference between this Bears GM and his predecessor is that the actual goal is to win the Super Bowl, and Emery's roster this season suggests winning it all in the next few years is more important that sneaking into the playoffs one time — or every three or four years.
And that is a refreshing change.
It's representative of a different kind of process than one Bears fans endured for a decade.
Jerry Angelo believed in floors and worst-case scenario. Emery believes in finding players with a high ceiling and imagines the best possible outcome.
It's not as safe, certainly, but the risk suggests a much greater potential reward.
Emery also gets rid of underachievers — even if they are his own acquisitions — while Angelo and Lovie Smith believed in loyalty and getting their players to love them.
So far, Emery and Marc Trestman appear more interested in winning than making friends.
The old philosophy resulted in just what you'd expect, and mediocrity was a hallmark of that administration.
With their personnel decisions, Emery and Trestman are taking more chances, understanding it may cost them in the short run, but giving them an opportunity to be much more than average in the future.
So this year won't be easy for the Bears in a lot of ways. On top of a new head coach, new offensive philosophy and many new faces, there are several young players in a position to contribute immediately.
The two rookies on the offensive line — Kyle Long and Jordan Mills — have looked great so far, but that was the preseason and Sunday they'll be facing one of the best defensive lines in the NFL.
"The world's going to change dramatically come Sunday," Trestman said, with honesty Bears fans are unaccustomed to hearing. "(Long and Mills have) been extremely productive during training camp and during the games, and have picked it up each day. I said those weren't small steps they were making. Those were big steps they were making through training camp. And now we'll see.
"It really does all change a little bit come Sunday, but they have been practicing against some very good defensive linemen for the last five weeks and that should help them going into this game."
It's a realistic approach. Trestman — unlike Smith — won't insult your intelligence by suggesting they'll be perfect from the start. There hasn't been any holding hands and skipping rocks in this Bears camp.
All of the young kids on the roster are going to make mistakes, including middle linebacker Jon Bostic, but the Bears aren't going to win the Super Bowl this year, so why not give them playing time and let them develop?
It's the same reason the Bears kept so many young guys throughout the roster. This is a development year, whether or not the Bears will say it out loud, so let them develop.
It's why they're not afraid to start two rookies in the opener on the offensive line for the first time since 1983 (Jim Covert and Rob Fada).
"What I want to see is performance. That's what I expect to see and I think that is their expectation level," Emery said. "They want to see themselves perform at a high level and our team win games."
The Bears will win some games this year, with most people suggesting nine or 10 is likely. It's the NFL, where anything is possible, but the pick here is 8-8, and that wouldn't be bad at all.
Only three head coaches have ever won the Super Bowl in their first year with a team, and those circumstances were demonstrably different, with all those teams already in a position to win.
George Seifert ('89 Niners) and Don McCafferty ('70 Colts) had been with their teams a significant period of time, and Jon Gruden ('02 Bucs) inherited a playoff team. Gruden had also been an NFL head coach for four years, having taken Oakland to the playoffs his last two years.
Trestman is arriving from Canada, installing a new offensive scheme, adding numerous assistants unfamiliar with Bears personnel and coaching an unpredictable quarterback with whom communication is often an issue.
It doesn't mean the Bears can't make the playoffs. It just seems unlikely considering the huge transition taking place in a single off-season.
But much will be better this year. The offense should improve considerably and so should Jay Cutler. The offensive line can't be any worse and Alshon Jeffery could be a star if he can stay on the field.
The defense figures to take a hit. There will be subtle changes in scheme and age has to catch up with this group eventually, though we've been hearing that for years and it hasn't happened yet.
Add it all up and this season will feature growing pains from Trestman all the way down to the newest players on special teams, but the Bears should be much more entertaining as they join the 21st century and include the offense as part of the football team.
After ignoring that side of the ball for so very long, that's considerable progress already.
•Hear Barry Rozner on WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.
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