The last few years have been rough on the Bears offensive line and quarterback Jay Cutler. For some time, the line has been maligned as one of the worst in the NFL, and it came to a head last year when Cutler went down (some might say FINALLY) for the season.
Out went Mike Martz and overcomplicated blocking schemes, and in came Mike Tice.
Tice looked at the roster and decided it wasn't the talent level which was lacking, but the system.
He simplified blocking schemes. More importantly, he ditched the seven-step drop.
Don't underplay how vital this could end up being. Next to Chris Williams or J'Marcus Webb becoming the next Jason Peters/Joe Thomas, nothing will have a bigger impact.
Seven steps is an eternity in football terms. An eternity.
That's not even hyperbole. Ask any defensive lineman. Ask the experts on NFL Live.
The longer an offensive lineman has to block, the more things can go wrong. The longer they have to sustain a block, the less margin for error they have.
In short, the longer the steps, the more the danger to the quarterback.
We're not even talking about what the quarterback is doing after the drop. Scanning the field, reacting to the defense and receivers, avoiding defenders.
All that takes time, and time allows more of those defenders he's already trying to avoid.
The game of football is a game of split seconds, the difference between a successful play and a disaster often measured in milliseconds.
In a game like that, seven steps is insane. Add in the five man protection schemes that Martz used, and it's a wonder Jay Cutler actually didn't miss a dozen games in their years together.
Now that it's a quicker drop back, guards and tackles have to hold the defenders for less time, and if there is a weak spot on the line, there is either less time for it to be exposed or less time the rest of the unit has to assist the weak link.
Adding in some extra help—tight ends, fullbacks and running backs—will help as well., either by reinforcing those weak spots or assisting when the defense rushes six or seven defenders or overloads a side.
I still feel there are some really talent-oriented issues on the Bears offensive line. However, dropping the seven-step drop will dramatically increase the team's ability to cover any talent deficiencies as well as just make the offensive line's life easier.
It's going to give defenses less time to react, keep Cutler safer, make sure it's not patently obvious whether the play is run or pass and just simply make the offense more effective.
That's not hyperbole. That's fact.
In a game of quick moments and quicker decisions, this one by Tice and head coach Lovie Smith could be the one which has the largest impact all season.