How Good Are They?
Expect major progress from offense
As a reporter, even as a columnist, I don't root for teams. I root for stories, good quotes and, on occasion, quick games.
But as I drove to the Detroit metro airport on Dec. 30, 2012, after the Bears narrowly defeated the Lions to finish 10-6, I was rooting for the Minnesota Vikings to beat Green Bay, and thus end the Bears' season.
While a playoff run is ultimately good for No. 1 -- that is to say, me -- I knew the Bears, who fell from 7-1 to 8-6, weren't a real playoff team. They were a fraud and change was needed to finally fix the offense, or in some sense, create one.
That's why I think the Bears will be better than 8-8 this season. The offense will be a whole lot better. Even with an expected learning curve and some unforeseen bumps that will show up along the way, we're going to see some major progress.
The defense, with the same verbiage, the same philosophy and many of the same players, will remain a positive constant. If D.J. Williams comes back and helps buttress the linebacking corps, the defense will be fine.
But it's always about the offense. I don't expect Jay Cutler to turn into Rich Gannon circa 2002, but I think Marc Trestman's confident, knowledgeable approach will produce real change, especially come November and December.
While the offense has been tough to digest, it should click as the season progresses. It's a West Coast-based scheme that calls for quick decisions that produce efficient throws. Cutler will get his chances to air it out, but I think he'll be successful moving the chains. The offensive line is a question because two rookies will start on the right side, but I like what I've seen so far. Better to have inexperience than inability.
The Bears won't get off to a blazing start again, but I see an efficient run back to 10-6.
Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com
Nine would be reason to celebrate
First-year coach Marc Trestman inherited enough talent for the Chicago Bears to win nine games.
Can they do better?
Maybe. But at first glance, the Bears' schedule looks be tougher than last season, when they feasted on bad opponents en route to a 7-1 start. The Bears subsequently lost five of their next six and finished out of the playoff picture at 10-6, which ultimately led to Lovie Smith's dismissal.
The Bears seem destined for 9-7.
But don't take that as a negative. A nine-win season for Trestman in 2013 would be reason to celebrate. It's difficult for a first-time NFL head coach to walk into a locker room with established veterans loyal to the ex-coach and make it work. Trestman is genuine. He appears to have a handle on all three phases of the team, with the most important one being the offense.
The Bears' roster is still stocked with Pro Bowl-caliber players such as Brandon Marshall, Charles Tillman, Lance Briggs, Julius Peppers, Matt Forte, Tim Jennings and Henry Melton. Newcomers left tackle Jermon Bushrod and tight end Martellus Bennett are huge upgrades over the players at those positions last season, and the rookie class led by right guard Kyle Long could be one of the organization's strongest in years.
Don't get me wrong, there are still issues that need to be straightened out. But unless the Bears suffer a slew of injuries to key players, the team should be in the playoff hunt.
Does this mean the Bears are guaranteed to knock off Green Bay, San Francisco, Atlanta or Seattle? No. The Bears need to prove they can beat the NFC's elite before they're elevated to that status.
But does a 9-7 regular-season record and a wild-card berth sound reasonable in Year 1 of the Trestman era?
Jeff Dickerson covers the Bears for ESPNChicago.com