For as long as I can remember, I’ve felt like a broken record as a Chicago sports fan when it came to our team needs. Ever since Michael Jordan took his final shot as a Chicago Bull in 1998, the Bulls have needed, and never landed, a quality shooting guard. For as long as I’ve been alive (and even longer), the Bears have never landed a star quarterback or wide receiver. Any stars that have come our way have come via surprising trade (Jay Cutler) or luck of the ping pong balls (Derrick Rose, and to a lesser extend before him, Jay Williams).
A year ago, Phil Emery made his mark as the new Bears General Manager by surprising all of us with a trade for Pro Bowl wide receiver Brandon Marshall. We’d never gone out and gotten that big number one guy. Someone we can count on to make catches, score touchdowns, make big plays. We were tired of trying to make sense of Devin Hester as a number one guy, and frankly, so were the Bears. And now, Phil Emery has done it again with the signings of free agent tight end Martellus Bennett and left tackle Jermon Bushrod. The Bears have needs. Emery went out and got them. Within the first three hours. Imagine that. Major upgrades at two of the positions the Bears have been severely lacking.
Which leads me to two points. One – two years ago, we thought, okay, Jay Cutler just needs a number one receiver. Bam. Brandon Marshall. And Marshall played well. Extremely well. The first game of the year the Bears offense exploded, leading all of us to think this was the start of something we’d never seen before, a Bears team that’s an offensive threat. But the wheels slowly started coming off at mid-season. The Bears only had one real threat. They had once again become a one dimensional offense. Everyone knew where the ball was going. Where was the help? Devin Hester was never really a receiver, and was always used better as a decoy. Earl Bennett, once Cutler’s go-to guy, dealing with injury and then never really integrated as part of the offense. Alshon Jeffrey, who showed flashes, still an unproven rookie. And a tight end who seemed to think the object of the game was to get the ball as close to his hands as possible without actually catching it. Okay. So Jay needed a weapon. He got it. But he had no protection, and while he had a huge weapon in Marshall, he still only had one weapon. He had no protection. So what did Phil Emery do today? He got him a great left tackle and a great tight end. What more can Jay Cutler ask for? Cutler has continued to fall short in leading this Bears team, and up until now, it was easy to point the finger elsewhere. But now with an upgrade at tight end, what looks to be only the first in an upgrade to the offensive line, a pro bowl WR1 and RB1 behind him, a new coach and a new offensive coordinator behind him, the fingers have nowhere left to go, but Cutler. This is so clearly a team built around him, and if we’ve let him off the hook long enough, time for him to deliver. Anything less than a trip to the NFC title game is a major disappointment in my eyes.
Secondly – given the Bears lack of money right now with so much of it tied up in their other assets, at what cost did they sign these players? As of today, Brian Urlacher, Lance Louis, Israel Idonije and Nick Roach are all Free Agents. How much does it help us to get two new offensive weapons, if it potentially causes us to lose 4 of our best defensive ones? Is there a plan? For now, the Bears have yet to counter the offer for Urlacher and I’ve heard no word on negotiations with the others. Yes, offense was a major need, especially in today’s NFL. But look who was in the Super Bowl last year…Defense-first teams. Are the Bears about to make a shift in identity? This is what we wanted, right? We shall see….