Criticism of the Bears' offense has been harsh in recent days. Kyle Orton has been pegged as a merely average quarterback who may not be able to lead the Bears back to Super Bowl glory.
Ron Turner has been referred to as an inferior play caller with "no imagination." And many fans are one step away from threatening mutiny if the Bears don't draft a wide receiver in the first round of this year's draft.
Aren't the Bears a team that "comes off the bus running?" Isn't their proud rushing tradition a big part of what makes the Bears the "Pride and Joy of Illinois?"
For everybody wanting to see the Bears' offense use big-play receivers and a super-athletic quarter back to essentially metamorphosize into that of the New England Patriots, I offer you a much better comparison: the Baltimore Ravens.
The present-day Baltimore Ravens are everything the Bears should be. On the defensive side of the ball, Baltimore finished the 2008 regular season ranked second in total defense, a position the Bears held in 2005.
But the offensive side of the ball holds a model for something that the Bears could easily mold themselves to become.
Joe Flacco's short NFL history needs no retelling. Neither does Kyle Orton's. Flacco, however, was showered with praise and admiration throughout his rookie season, while Orton has been subjected to harsh criticism for the past several months.
Flacco is much better than Orton at delivering the deep ball; there's no need for discussion about it. But lets look at the 2008 statistics. Orton passed for 2,972; Flacco passed for 2,971 a difference of one yard.
Orton's 18 touchdowns were four more than Flacco's 14. Both quarterbacks were intercepted 12 times, and their difference in QB rating was less than one point.
Baltimore should be perfectly happy going forward with Flacco, but a significant number of fans in Chicago are ready to cast Orton aside?
Sure, Flacco was likely working from a limited playbook, and his skills are going to improve over time. The point is, if fans want to pigeonhole Kyle Orton as average, the 2008 incarnation of Joe Flacco is not far off.
And the 2008 Joe Flacco led his team to the AFC Championship.
The comparisons don't stop there. Mark Clayton and Devin Hester had statistically similar seasons. Derrick Mason's numbers were similar to Bernard Berrian's in 2007.
Obviously, the Bears need another solid 1,000-yard-per-season receiver. But is a big-play receiver more important to the Chicago offense than the offensive line?
An offensive lineman may not be as flashy as a wide receiver, but Baltimore's offense often times marched to the line in obvious rushing formations this past season—and won.
Both Baltimore and Chicago finished the year in the bottom half NFL's passing echelon. But while the Bears were the 24th-best rushing team, Baltimore finished fourth.
Looking at the running game of the Ravens, it is obvious that the Bears need to get back to good old-fashion smash-mouth football. Baltimore boasts a fast, agile feature back, a physical change of pace back, the best blocking fullback in the NFL, and lots of big, ugly offensive linemen.
This year's draft may offer the perfect opportunity for the Bears to expand their rushing and blocking potential.
The Bears need to improve their offense to win ballgames. But flashiness and complexity doesn't guarantee more victories than simplicity and brute force.