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Will Bears ever have another great offensive line?

Updated: August 13, 2013 12:30PM



Just once more before I die, I’d like the Bears to have a lockdown offensive line. That’s all I’m asking. Not that there would be peace on earth, a cure for the common cold or a winning Mega Millions ticket in my immediate future.

Just that the Bears have an offensive line free of doubt, chaos and untalented endomorphs.

NFL coaches say they love to see competition for starting jobs during training camp, claiming it brings out the best in everyone. And who in our free-market society can argue with competition?

But competition is only good if you have good players. Otherwise, it looks and feels like reality-show tryouts. Trust me, the Bears would be a whole lot happier if there were no competition at right tackle. And those of us who have endured the Bears’ offensive-line woes for years would be happy to the point of tears if the team ever fielded a championship-worthy line. I can’t even imagine what Jay Cutler’s emotions would be. Profound feelings of compassion toward
the media?

Cutler has his own problems, of course, but some of them are directly related to the men who have blocked, tried to block and contemplated blocking during the previous four seasons. And now it looks as though he won’t have J’Marcus Webb to bump into angrily anymore, to which the chorus of Bears fans sings, ‘‘Hallelujah.’’

But for we long-suffering O-line observers, the celebration is muted because we have no idea whether Webb’s replacement, 2013 fifth-round draft pick Jordan Mills, is any good. It’s fair to say that the phrase ‘‘2013 fifth-round draft pick’’ doesn’t necessarily portend the instant arrival of happy days.

And that’s the biggest frustration. The Bears just can’t seem to get the offensive line right. As long as that’s an issue, we never really will get a definitive answer about whether Cutler is the franchise quarterback so many people desperately want him to be. It’s like trying to judge the talent of an artist who uses defective brushes.

I still don’t know whether Cutler can be a star in this league. I do know that as long as the offensive line struggles, his backers will have a built-in excuse for him.

Phil Emery will tell you that he has all sorts of duties as the Bears’ general manager. In my mind, though, he has had only one from the day he was hired 18 months ago: fix the offensive line. Everything starts and ends there. He made a big move during the offseason by signing Pro Bowl left tackle Jermon Bushrod. But as it stands now, Emery has two rookies starting on the right side of the line — Mills and guard Kyle Long, the Bears’ first-round draft pick. Long looks like an athletic talent, but nobody knows for sure.

Wouldn’t it be great to know for sure that he’s a player? Wouldn’t it be great to know for sure that the Bears have a good offensive line? What does this city have to do to know for sure about anything Bears-related?

All I know is that fans shouldn’t have to go back to Jimbo Covert, Mark Bortz, Jay Hilgenberg, Tom Thayer and Keith Van Horne to scrounge up a warm feeling about offensive-line play in Chicago. That seems a bit historically distant, don’t you think?

Webb was a starter for most of the last three seasons, playing both tackle positions not very well. He seemed to have it all backward from his first day. He referred to his social-media followers as the JWebb Nation ($30 T-shirts available), and his management team routinely sent updates about his various activities around town to the media. Becoming a good player first might have been the better way to go.

But this again falls on Bears management — not just on the people who drafted him (hello, Jerry Angelo) but also on the people who continued to run him onto the field with the first unit. The argument that they didn’t have a better option was an indictment. It’s the same argument for re-signing Cutler, and it’s not a good one. A good personnel department has quality replacements in mind. That the Bears haven’t been able to find someone superior to Webb, who collects offside penalties and sacks allowed like loose change, is ridiculous. Where are the Bears’ analytics people?

Here’s hoping that Mills works out. But just remember that Webb was a recent seventh-round pick when he moved into the starting lineup as a rookie.

Feeling better, folks?



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