suntimes
GRACIOUS
Weather Updates

For better or worse, the Bears are decisive

Updated: September 21, 2013 6:25AM



Under Lovie Smith, the Bears never ran out of reasons why J’Marcus Webb should be their starting left or right tackle. Under Marc Trestman, the Bears needed only three weeks and one preseason game to find the one reason why he shouldn’t: They can do better.

And it appears they already have. Jordan Mills, a fifth-round draft pick from Louisiana Tech, passed his first test at right tackle last week against the San Diego Chargers. There are many more tests to pass — the Bears haven’t solved their right-tackle situation yet — but it’s progress. Because even if the Bears haven’t found the right guy, they’re one player closer to finding him. That’s the advantage of moving on quickly.

We don’t know yet if the Bears are a better-coached team under Trestman. But with general manager Phil Emery and the new coaching staff, they are a better-managed team. For better or worse, these guys don’t waste time with evaluations and decisions. Whether it’s Brian Urlacher, Gabe Carimi, Evan Rodriguez, Devin Hester or Webb, they seem to be operating under the philosophy that there’s always a better alternative. If Plan B fails, there’s always Plan C.

Every coaching staff in the NFL insists the best players will play, but some are better than others at finding the best players. Smith was the last one to realize that Rex Grossman wasn’t his quarterback, that Mark Anderson wasn’t an every-down defensive end and that Hester couldn’t be a productive receiver and the best kick returner of all time. The early signs are that Emery and Trestman won’t take so long to make similar evaluations of Jay Cutler, Shea McClellin and the next supreme athlete who craves double duty.

With Emery and Trestman, the Bears seem more open-minded and strong-willed. When they nudged Urlacher out the door with a low-ball offer, the danger was the intangible effect it would have on a defense that followed Urlacher’s dominating lead.

Fox analyst Troy Aikman was the latest to warn that the Bears will miss Urlacher’s leadership. But as it looks right now, the Bears’ defense misses Urlacher only in a sentimental way. The leadership void has been filled — mostly by Lance Briggs but also by Julius Peppers and Charles Tillman. Urlacher is gone, but the Bears’ swagger is as strong as ever.

The point is, the Bears made a tough decision and have moved on. And if you can move on from Urlacher, you can move on from Webb or even Cutler, if it ever comes to that. The Bears lost a third-string quarterback last week and hired two guys to replace him. Emery always seems to have more alternatives than he needs.

It’s not a perfect approach; there are going to be mistakes. Webb’s demotion already casts a new light on the decision to trade Carimi during the offseason. Did the Bears dump the wrong right tackle?

Carimi, who was traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a sixth-round draft pick, looks like a better option than Webb right now. Maybe Carimi didn’t have the work ethic the Bears wanted. But his injury — a dislocated knee — was so complicated and problematic that Carimi still is recovering from it. And now Carimi is acknowledging that he didn’t go all-out last season because he was being cautious about his knee. Maybe the Bears should have been more patient.

But maybe not. Maybe Mills will render that debate moot. Maybe Kyle Long will be so good that it won’t matter. The possibility that unconventional hires Emery and Trestman know what they’re doing is part of what makes this season so interesting.

Victories and losses and will tell the tale, but I like their style so far.

Email: mpotash@suntimes.com

Twitter: @MarkPotash



© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit www.suntimesreprints.com. To order a reprint of this article, click here.