After the 2007 Super Bowl hangover, Chicago Bears General Manager, Jerry Angelo and Head Coach, Lovie Smith had some pretty significant areas to address. Aside from running back, those areas were pretty much ignored as most of the front office believed that injuries were primarily to blame.
The short list of areas to address last year:
Running back (thank God for Matt Forte)
One year later the Bears are two games better in the win column, yet failed to make the playoffs for the second consecutive year after reaching the Super Bowl following the 2006 campaign.
The short list of areas to address this year:
If Kyle Orton proved anything it's that he can be just as frustrating as Rex Grossman to watch. In fact, Orton's up and down year was very much Grossman-like, without the vomit-inducing fumbled snaps.
The college bowl season is over now and as we head into week No. 2 of the NFL Playoffs, there's no time like the present to help the offseasonly challenged GM and Head Coach map out a strategy to salvage the franchise.
So far the Bears have been underwhelming in their scapegoating ways. Apparently, Brick Haley, Lloyd Lee, and Steven Wilks are to blame for the once mighty Chicago defense descending into oblivion.
Only the Bears would blame a horrific defense that could not cover nor tackle on the defensive line, linebackers, and defensive backs coaches, respectively.
If all of these coaches were operating to undercut the mighty cover-two defense, then what role did Defensive Coordinator Bob Babich have? Seriously folks, Babich must have some kind of incriminating video of Smith because there is absolutely no reason this guy should still be employed.
Especially since this is the franchise that ran Ron Rivera out of town after guiding the Super Bowl defense.
What have we (not them, of course) learned in the last three seasons?
1. Danieal Manning cannot play safety—no way, no how. He can be productive at nickelback and even as a kick returner, but the man just cannot handle the position.
2. You cannot play soft coverage and blitz. The three-step-drop slant is just too easy. According to Stats, Inc., the Bears blitzed more than any other team, and they still couldn't get to the quarterback in time.
3. You have to practice tackling. Sounds simple, doesn't it?
4. Dusty Dvorcek is overrated
5. Mike Brown is not a reliable option. I love him to death, but the man just refuses to stay healthy.
Finally, and most importantly: The cover-two does not fool anyone anymore. Evolve, or Darwin will work his magic.
So where do the Bears go from here?
Drafting a quarterback is always a risky idea, one the Bears haven't done very well since Sid Luckman joined the team. This year could prove just as tempestuous as the Bears pick 18th and even the best quarterbacks are no sure thing.
The highest rated quarterback according to Pro Football Weekly's list is 52 overall. Granted underclassmen like Florida QB Tim Tebow and Oklahoma's Sam Bradford haven't made their intentions known yet, but even those two are no sure thing.
The best option at quarterback could be if the Arizona Cardinals decide to part ways with Kurt Warner and turn to Matt Leinart. Warner has about two good years left in him and hopefully that would give the NCAA a couple of years to produce somebody to salivate over.
At offensive line, guard is the most pressing position and possible free agency options include Washington's Pete Kendall and New England's Russ Hochstein. The Patriots have already used their "Franchise Player" tag on QB Matt Cassel, so Hochstein might just be available.
If these players hit the market, they have to be very attractive over drafting and grooming a young player.
At Wide Receiver, there is no clear No. 1 receiver tabbed to be a free agent, so look for the Bears to address this with their first pick. A player like Maryland's Derrius Heyward-Bey would be a great choice here if he's available.
The Bears lacked a pass rush terribly last season and if Carolina's Julius Peppers hits the market, he has to be someone the Bears make a good effort to land.
Safety is another concern as the oft-injured Brown is another year older, Kevin Payne hasn't set the world on fire, and Craig Steltz is an unknown quantity. If Taylor Mays from USC is available at 18, that may trump the wide receiver pick.
However, if I know Angelo, he'll be satisfied with the mediocrity and ignore this position.
All in all, the Bears should have options. Warner and Peppers should be priorities if they hit the market.
Unfortunately, no infusion of talent will suddenly enable the Bears to get out of their own way. Out of all these possible moves, the only one that is absolutely necessary is the one they won't make: Firing Babich.
Smith better hope Babich doesn't become to him what John Shoop was to Dick Jauron.