MORRISSEY: Bears are one big unknown, but mystery beats misery
BY RICK MORRISSEY morrissey@suntimes | @MorrisseyCST September 6, 2013 11:26PM
There’s no guarantee the Bears will be good, but new coach Marc Trestman is calm and oozes football knowledge. | Jim Prisching/AP
Updated: October 9, 2013 7:40PM
If you’re not good at dealing with the unknown, I would strongly suggest you isolate yourself from all things Bears this season. Put a V-chip in your TV and swear off any contact with the Internet. Earplugs wouldn’t be a waste of money.
The other option is sedation — but enough about last year’s 28th-ranked offense.
Nobody knows what’s going to happen with this team this season. Nobody. If someone approaches you and confidently lays out a vision for it, tell him he’s seeing things.
A new head coach, a new offense, two rookies on the offensive line, Jay Cutler at quarterback . . . who really knows? Nobody, that’s who.
For those of you able to stand a bit of mystery and not in need of the suggested cone of Bears silence, I’m here to tell you to embrace the unknown. This season should be very, very interesting. That happens to be the only thing I think I know for sure, but it’s a good known. Or, at least it’s better than the ‘‘Bears offense sucks’’ known, which we’ve known for far too long.
The Bears begin their 2013 story Sunday at Soldier Field. The opponent is the Cincinnati Bengals. I can’t remember the last time I felt this much anticipation for an NFL season, and I don’t even have a dog in the fight. It is one grand experiment: Can a cerebral man whose only head-coaching experience was in the Canadian Football League tap into the physical talents of a quarterback who is difficult to reach, in the way that Neptune is difficult to reach?
I don’t know. I suspect Marc Trestman and Cutler don’t know either, deep down.
But it is so much better than the alternative, which was what went on the previous nine seasons, when the stubborn (and now ex-) coach wasn’t able to identify an offensive coordinator who knew much of anything about offense. That was Lovie Smith’s killer flaw, the one that made the smaller ones like condescension and clock management seem almost insignificant.
Trestman has a calm to him. He seems to have thought out just about everything that might affect his team. He has fumbled few answers because there are few questions he hasn’t already anticipated. He has pondered most of it before anyone else has. Hell, he wrote a book about what he has learned in his almost 30 years as a nomadic coach. It runs 280 pages and weighs a pound. Who has that much content inside them?
We’re watching the launch of a spaceship here, folks. The astronaut might become untethered during a spacewalk, and the guy manning the controls from the sideline is a little different. Who knows, maybe it works.
But know this: It’s asking a lot for the defense to match the outrageous number of turnovers it accumulated last season (24 interceptions, 20 fumble recoveries), but here is Chicago doing the asking again. Let’s assume there will be growing pains with the offense. That’s a reasonable expectation. The good news is that it implies there will be growth, which would be a big improvement over Cutler’s last four years here. Actually, having one good offensive coordinator would be a big improvement.
In this case, the offensive coordinator is the head coach, even though offensive line coach Aaron Kromer has the OC title. It’s rare that a name-brand quarterback’s fate is so closely tied to an unproven coach. Usually it’s the other way around. But that’s exactly where Cutler finds himself. He’s in the final year of a contract and is hoping to get a bigger deal from the Bears. He’ll need to have one of his best seasons to cash in.
Will he be asked to stay or told to go?
I don’t know. You don’t know. General manager Phil Emery probably doesn’t know, either. But it figures to be compelling theater. And I’ll take ‘‘compelling’’ over what the Bears have served up recently. That’s why so many eyes will be trained on Chicago this season.
The thread that has run through Trestman’s career has been his work with quarterbacks. He was the Oakland Raiders’ offensive coordinator when quarterback Rich Gannon won the league’s MVP award in 2002. Gannon had the two best seasons of his career while Trestman worked with him. The coach also has extracted big years out of Scott Mitchell and Jake Plummer.
Does that translate for Cutler? It’s a complete unknown. Hope you can handle it.