The 2013 Bears are a great unknown
BY RICK TELANDER email@example.com | @ricktelander September 3, 2013 11:01PM
Updated: September 4, 2013 1:28PM
It has been a long time since the Bears’ first-team offense and defense have played for real — 12 days to be precise, not since the third preseason game at the Oakland Raiders. (The fourth preseason game, as we know, was just for TV-revenue and cutting-down purposes.)
By the time the regular season opens at Soldier Field on Sunday against the Bengals, it will have been almost 21/2 weeks since the Bears played like a team. And even that wasn’t legit because the first teams didn’t play the whole game against the Raiders, nor did coach Marc Trestman show his hand with the offensive blueprint.
‘‘We were able to keep it relatively simple,’’ Trestman said Monday. He added that closed practices have been the most ‘‘informative’’ part of advancing his new offensive system. We’ll have to take his word on that.
Trestman did say that the semi-real competition against the Raiders was a relief and insightful: ‘‘The positive thing is we were able to take a road trip and go out for 30 minutes on an August night and execute some football over a 30-minute period, which allowed us to get a sense of what it was like to go against an opponent other than ourselves.’’
The guy has a way of talking, doesn’t he?
During Monday’s chat, he actually replied to a media questioner, ‘‘What you said is very reasonable.’’
Not just reasonable. Very reasonable. Like totally unique. Like, completely not moronic.
Those of us still ringing with Lovie-isms can’t recall when former coach Lovie Smith ever implied a reporter was anything other than an NSA spy or a bearer of plague.
So this communications change is interesting.
But the main point here is that beyond obvious and profound change at all levels on the Bears, we have no idea what to expect when the real games begin.
Ten rookies? Only 22 of 53 players remaining from two years ago? Eighteen out of 24 new players on offense in?
The turnover alone is remarkable, though not unexpected in a sport in which age is measured in mouse years and new bodies clamor to take the beatings that have broken their elders.
Trestman and general manager Phil Emery not only have cleaned house, they have bought new furniture and drapes. At least in the offensive room. The defense, even without forever-middle linebacker Brian Urlacher, is still loaded with Lance Briggs-Charles Tillman-Julius Peppers old-timers. But the offense has been rebuilt to resemble something Chicago has never seen: an attack that puts the defense on rest.
There’s quarterback Jay Cutler, running back Matt Forte, wide receiver Brandon Marshall — and a bunch of new guys. Plus, there’s Canadian Football League star Trestman himself, as new as anything in U.S. football.
The Bengals are a good team, not a struggling foe like the Colts were in last season’s opener, when quarterback Andrew Luck was fresh out of college and replacing Hall of Famer-to-be Peyton Manning.
The Bears have won three consecutive season openers and four of their last five, so fans might be used to getting off to a happy start. It’s for sure Trestman doesn’t want to stink up Soldier Field on Sunday and get ripped with a lot of ‘‘The Bears went 10-6 last year, dummy!’’ attacks.
But the first game might have no bearing whatsoever on the final season record because everything is new, everything is being learned and assimilated and put into play. We will hope for the best. Yet it’s obvious this could be the end of the Cutler era and the start of the I-will-pick-my-own-quarterback era for Trestman.
Cutler was brought in by another regime, one that has been ousted. And new empires like their own generals.
Emery laid it out there when he said Monday about his priorities, ‘‘No. 1 is we want to develop or have more offensive weapons for the quarterback.’’
That means the pressure will be on Cutler, with his new line, new tight end and young receivers, to show he can get past the Aaron Rodgers monolith in Green Bay.
What else did Emery say? Oh, yeah. The Bears are going ‘‘to become a quarterback-centered team,’’ which means Cutler better respond swiftly to his exalted status or, one must suppose, another quarterback will be drafted or traded for, and away we go.
I can foresee a time this season, after all the injuries that are mandatory in this brutal sport have taken effect, that we will watch a Bears team on the field that is virtually unrecognizable from two years ago. It will remind us that we don’t really care about individuals in the NFL, but that we root, as the saying goes, ‘‘for laundry.’’
Da Bears. Who are they?
Nobody can say.