NFL Draft Advent Calendar-Door #12: The Bears

We’ve already started opening the doors on TFQ’s NFL Draft Advent Calendar!  This is our Christmas – when NFL teams get to decide what sort of new toys they get under the tree to play with next season.

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Door #12 – The Bears

Bears

2012 finish: 10-6; missed playoffs

TOTAL PICKS: 5

ROUND 1

20

ROUND 2

20 (50)

ROUND 3

no selection

ROUND 4

20 (117)

ROUND 5

20 (153)

ROUND 6

20 (188)

ROUND 7

no selection

It’s not much of a stretch to argue that the Bears are in the midst of a transitional period as a franchise.  Long known as a defensive-oriented team during eras such as The Monsters Of The Midway and the dominant D of the mid-1980s, those periods were all too often also defined by offensive ineptitude.  Sure, fans of Chicago’s team can look back in time and boast two of the best running backs in NFL history in Gayle Sayers and Walter Payton, but their identities as prolific stars were never part of an overall offensive persona.  Da Bears have generally been about Da D – look no farther than the list of starting quarterbacks in Chi-Town from 1980 until the team traded for Jay Cutler:

Vince Evans Jim McMahon
Bob Avellini Steve Fuller
Rusty Lisch Greg Landry
Steve Fuller Doug Flutie
Mike Hohensee Steve Bradley
Mike Tomczak Jim Harbaugh
Peter Tom Willis Will Furrer
Steve Walsh Erik Kramer
Dave Kreig Rick Mirer
Steve Stenstrom Moses Moreno
Shane Matthews Cade McNown
Jim Miller Chris Chandler
Henry Burris Kordell Stewart
Rex Grossman Craig Krenzel
Chad Hutchinson Jonathan Quinn
Brian Griese Kyle Orton
Jay Cutler  

Sorry about that list.  One of the QBs on it, Henry Burris, currently struggles in the Canadian Football League.  That’s actually where Marc Trestman earned his stripes as head coach of the Montreal Alouettes – until Chicago hired him as their head coach this offseason to replace Lovie Smith.

The Bears players – especially on defense – were very emotional upon learning of Smith’s departure.  (You can bet WR/DB/PR Devin Hester isn’t too pumped, given that without his biggest supporter as coach, Hester has lost the WR part of his role.)  But even though the defensive-minded coach was a favourite within the locker room and had experienced a fair amount of success during the regular season (9 wins or more in 5 of the last 8 seasons), he guided this franchise to just one playoff appearance since their Super Bowl trip in 2006.  In this what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league, that won’t cut it.  Neither will revisiting the Bears’ long-standing reputation of disappointment on offense during the current era of passing dominance.

Enter Trestman, who rides the crest of an already-building change in focus towards offense in the Windy City.  After a big trade for Cutler and the drafting of RB Matt Forte, the team took a risk on a troubled wide receiver, Brandon Marshall, who is a beast of a physical specimen and had his best years with Cutler in Denver.  While Forte has been up and down (with injuries exacerbating the situation), the Cutler-Marshall investments have paid dividends thus far.

It will be very intriguing to see how Trestman’s skills as a quarterback expert will translate to head coaching in the NFL.  Despite coming from the CFL, he’s no stranger to productive NFL offenses.  He entered the league as an out-of-nowhere offensive coordinator for the Niners during the Steve Young-Jerry Rice regime, and both Hall Of Famers have publicly stated that they expect Trestman to be successful coaching the Chicago offense.  But perhaps they assume too much.  Even though the Bears have a talented set of triplets at the core of the offense, the O-line was atrocious last season – so much so that Cutler deserves a Purple Heart for the job he’s done behind it over the last two seasons.  (Mind you, he’s not been the coolest cucumber in the process, with outbursts of frustration, like the time he shoved J’Marcus Webb after the left tackle kept grinning like a complacent boob while letting Cutler get abused by the Packers pass rush during prime time on Thursday night last season.)  Marshall is on equal footing with Cutler, putting up 118 catches, 1,508 yards and 11 touchdowns while being the only consistent option in the passing game.

Given this situation – and a load of potential pressure on Trestman to make an early impression – it would be easy to predict that Chicago should look to the offensive line in this years’ draft.  But unless a higher-ranked prospect like North Carolina’s Jonathan Cooper somehow falls to the Bears at 20th overall, they’re best served waiting until the second or fourth round to try and add to their offensive line upgrades that started with the free agent signing of tackle Jermon Bushrod from the Saints.  Bushrod is a risk at five years and $39.9 million, but he elevated his play in the French Quarter under Aaron Kromer, who is Chicago’s new offensive coordinator.  That being said, even if Bushrod amazes while protecting Cutler, the team needs more help there.  Period.

Ironically enough, this offensive-swinging team needs to prioritize defense in the draft with its top pick (or two).  A lot of their scouting has likely been determined by whether new defensive coordinator Mel Tucker plans to stay with the Tampa Two defense that Smith favored, or another scheme.  Either way, linebacker is a serious need with iconic Bear Brian Urlacher having been released, and the departure of Geno Hayes ad Nick Roach – not to mention the age of Lance Briggs.  Georgia’s Alex Ogletree or Kansas State’s Arthur Brown are the safest choices at 20th overall, should either of them still be available.  But the controversial Manti Te’o could also be a fit in Chicago; that depends on the style the team plans to play.  The defensive line also depends on which strategy will be employed – it’s a unit that lacks the depth it used to have in the early years of Smith’s coaching tenure with the Bears.

Some argue that a speedster at WR could also be possible as a first round selection by Chicago, but even though that would follow the trend toward offense – as evidenced by the signings of Cutler, Marshall and Trestman – it’s the defense that needs some help too.  That side of the ball isn’t the darling of the team that it used to be, but neglecting it with one of its first two draft picks would be ill advised.

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STAY TUNED FOR THE REST OF THE DAYS LEADING UP UNTIL THE 2013 NFL DRAFT.  WE’LL TAKE A LOOK AT EACH TEAM, AS WE OPEN THEM UP IN THE ADVENT CALENDAR.  WE’LL ALSO BE DOING A LIVE TWEET-UP DURING THE DRAFT.  

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