Chicago football fans have the expectation that the Bears are in Super Bowl or bust mode, which could mean this a make-or-break season for Lovie Smith. He needs to win the Super Bowl, or at minimum, make a deep run into the playoffs to secure his job as the Bears’ head coach. Anything less than a trip to the NFC title game should be considered a disappointment and justify a change in the Bears’ coaching regime.
The “Super Bowl or Bust” mentality is not far-fetched, and should actually be encouraged amongst Bears fans considering the core of talent in Chicago.
However, if the Bears fail to live up to expectations, there are concerns about making major transitions at this point.
The Bears have found a franchise quarterback in Jay Cutler. But unfortunately, Cutler is 29-years old, leaving a four to five year window for the Bears to make a run with Cutler at the helm. He is currently at the physical and mental peak of his career, but how long will that peak last?
Peyton Manning is considered one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time, certainly far above Jay Cutler’s level, and people are questioning whether he can remain elite at the age of 36.
Cutler’s window may be bigger; it may be smaller. Unfortunately there’s no way of knowing how long he can produce at a high level before his skills regress, so Chicago has to plan for the worst.
The window of time it would take to transition from Lovie Smith's personnel to a new coaching staff could be a three year process. Meaning 2013-2015 would be used as transition years, essentially wasting the prime years of Jay Cutler’s career.
This takes into account drafting new players and allowing those new players to get up to speed in the NFL (typically three years). Three years means Jay Cutler would be 33-years-old before the Bears could potentially be competitive with a new head coach.
This scenario leaves the Bears with a two or three year window to win with Jay Cutler as their franchise quarterback. If the Bears are unable to win a Super Bowl during the last three years of Cutler’s career, then they will have to consider drafting a new franchise quarterback and start the process all over again.
Consider if the Bears were to decide to transition into a 3-4 defense from their current one gap Tampa-2 scheme; Brian Price is the only defensive lineman who fits into a 3-4 defense where he could potentially play the 0-technique two-gap nose tackle. Aside from Price, the rest of the defensive line would have to be replaced to fit the 3-4 scheme.
The transition would be just as harsh with the linebackers, corners and safeties as well, where players would have to be brought in who fit the scheme.
The conundrum for the Bears front office becomes, do you waste the next three to five years of Jay Cutler’s career to transition into a new coaching philosophy and scheme?
The Bears' front office faces a precarious situation with the players and coaches currently in place. Phil Emery could not justify a complete overhaul and rebuild the franchise starting with a 30-year-old QB, neither can he justify keeping Lovie Smith if he doesn't meet minimal expectations for the 2012 season.