MORRISSEY: Phil Emery’s O-line oversight makes Bears a tough Super Bowl sell
BY RICK MORRISSEY firstname.lastname@example.org October 29, 2012 9:22PM
Jay Cutler and his receivers have the stuff to get the Bears to a Super Bowl, but an undependable offensive line could ruin their shot. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
Updated: December 1, 2012 4:26PM
There is one reason the Bears aren’t the powerhouse NFL team they should be. Or there are five. It depends on how you want to assign blame.
You can find five culprits by going down the offensive line and pointing a finger at each stop. That would be the easiest route.
Or you can find general manager Phil Emery and ask him if his schoolmarm glasses failed him when he was scouting linemen during the offseason.
I’ll go with Emery’s incredible blind spot.
His team is 6-1, and that’s a debate-ender for the Bears: The record is everything. But unless we’re talking about a seven-game season, the discussion has to keep going. The goal is the Super Bowl, right?
It has been obvious to anyone who has watched these Bears the last several years that the line play has been substandard. It’s sort of like a house: If the foundation is faulty, you don’t want to be standing on the second floor. We saw that in the Bears’ ‘‘victory’’ Sunday against the Carolina Panthers.
How Emery couldn’t identify the weakness of the offensive line coming into the season is almost beyond belief. Again, it could be a crisis of eyewear. If I had been him, I would have studied whatever predecessor Jerry Angelo did and done the opposite.
For the last few seasons, we’ve praised Mike Tice for working miracles with a weak line. But why does it have to come to that? And if this season ends in rubble because the Bears don’t have a serviceable line, who cares if Tice can turn nothing into something? Bears fans want everything, and they deserve it after sitting on the sidelines since the 1985 season.
A team can win a Super Bowl without a great quarterback. The Baltimore Ravens’ title with Trent Dilfer is an example, as is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ with Brad Johnson. But without a good to great offensive line, that doesn’t happen. That’s the maddening part of this.
Nobody wants to hear why Emery didn’t get the line some help, whether it be a dearth of quality linemen in free agency or the McCaskeys’ legendary cheapness. How often are we told this is a ‘‘bottom-line business’’? The bottom line is that Emery didn’t get it done.
This situation certainly didn’t tiptoe up on the Bears. We’ve heard the sound of rushing defensive linemen the last couple of years, followed too often by the sound of a quarterback being driven into the ground. After last season, everybody knew the Bears needed disaster aid on the offensive line. Then, nothing.
The line isn’t getting much help from Jay Cutler, who is holding on to the ball too long. But you’ll never hear a peep about that from the Bears, whose motto is, ‘‘Hey, Shut Up About Jay.’’
I don’t know if Cutler is a ‘‘franchise’’ quarterback, but he’s good enough to get a team to the Super Bowl, provided he has weapons. He has Brandon Marshall, Matt Forte and Alshon Jeffery (when he’s healthy). He doesn’t have an offensive line. That’s a crime.
The NFL has pushed back its trade deadline from Tuesday to Thursday because of Hurricane Sandy, but don’t look for the Bears to introduce a new offensive lineman.
Until Sunday, the chatter around town had been about the progress the Bears’ offense was making. I couldn’t locate the source of that optimism. It couldn’t have come from watching a decent, not great, Cutler. It probably came from the narcotic known as ‘‘winning.’’ It masks pains.
The Bears finally got it together Sunday when the Panthers went brain-dead, deciding they weren’t going to let Cutler beat them deep, even though the wind was howling and Cutler hadn’t beaten anybody deep all day. (It was similar thinking that had them not kicking to Devin Hester, even though Hester hasn’t been Hester for about two years.)
The Panthers gave Bears receivers plenty of space, and Cutler played a game of catch with them. If you want to describe that as fourth-quarter heroics from a clutch quarterback, be my guest. But you’d be wrong.
Most of the Bears’ offensive problems fall on the line, the tackles in particular. J’Marcus Webb has gotten beaten too often, and Gabe Carimi has gotten too many penalties while trying to avoid getting beaten. Cutler was sacked six times in the first half Sunday.
‘‘No such thing as an ugly win,’’ coach Lovie Smith said.
No, but there are ugly offensive lines and, worse, ugly personnel decisions.