Despite the success the Chicago Bears have had in the past, including a victory in Super Bowl XX, the team has always been viewed as a defensive juggernaut with a little bit of offense thrown in.
The defensive-minded Lovie Smith's time in Chicago ended after the 2012 season, and the organization brought in the offensive-minded Marc Trestman to help push the Bears closer towards the high-tempo explosive offenses that dominate the NFL today.
The quarterback position will be key this season with Trestman's new offense. Despite spending big money last season in free agency on a backup quarterback (Jason Campbell), the team has decided to stand pat with what it has.
Starting Quarterback: Jay Cutler
When the team traded for Jay Cutler in April of 2009, he was expected to be the best quarterback the team has had since Sid Luckman in the 1940s.
While Cutler has gone on to make his mark on the Bears' quarterback record book, he has been little more than average throughout his time in Chicago. Injuries and poor offensive line play have contributed to his lack of success, but with the combination of a new coach and the final year of his contract, 2013 has the potential to be a big season for Cutler.
One of the biggest changes for this season, according to Cutler, will be an emphasis on getting rid of the ball faster, as he told ESPN Chicago:
We don't want to hold the ball. We don't want to sit in the pocket for long periods of time. Obviously there are going to be plays where we're going to have to sit in there and deliver it. But for the most part, we want it gone
Getting rid of the ball more quickly will greatly reduce the amount of pressure he sees from defensive fronts, but it will force him to be smarter with his decision-making. The organization's trade for Brandon Marshall last season gave him a reliable target. With improvements all along the offense line and an offense catered to him, 2013 could be one of Cutler's best.
Backup: Josh McCown
In the last three seasons, Jay Cutler has missed eight games, with the team going just 2-6 in his absence. One of those two wins came from current backup Josh McCown.
McCown has been a bit of a journeyman since being drafted by the Arizona Cardinals in the third round of the 2002 draft. He started 22 games in four years while in Arizona, throwing 25 touchdowns to 30 interceptions. Between 2006 and 2009, he spent time with the Oakland Raiders, Detroit Lions and Carolina Panthers, starting nine games in 2007 for the Raiders.
Because of his familiarity with then-offensive coordinator Mike Martz, McCown joined the team in 2011 following injuries to Cutler and backup Caleb Hanie.
He started the final game of the 2011 season and led the team to a victory over the Minnesota Vikings. He again returned to the Bears late in the 2012 season following an injury to Cutler and was signed to a one-year contract for the 2013 season in late March.
Cutler has not been shy in the past talking about what having McCown around means to him, saying to the Chicago Sun-Times:
There are so many different aspects to what he brings to this team, especially for me, he’s been in a lot of different situations, and he’s been in the league a long time. He’s had success, he’s had down years, and he’s just a positive guy.
While McCown's positivity is a plus for Cutler, it is still unknown whether or not he can have sustainable success if Cutler is injured for any significant period of time. McCown has shown that in a bind he has the ability to make smart decisions, but if the team needs him to go win them a game, it is still up in the air.
3rd-String/Development Quarterback: Matt Blanchard
After impressing the Bears' coaching staff during last year's rookie minicamps, the team signed undrafted rookie free agent Matt Blanchard and placed him on the practice squad to begin the 2012 season.
He was released in early December but was re-signed in January and expected to be the team's third-string quarterback heading into the 2013 season.
Blanchard participated in last week's rookie minicamp. New quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh was impressed by him, saying to CSN Chicago, "He’s got all the physical tools. He’s got mobility, a strong arm and can make plays with his legs. Now he’s just inexperienced so preseason is going to be huge for him."
The team opted not to select a quarterback in this draft, meaning it may have more confidence in Blanchard than initially believed. Training camp and the preseason will be crucial for him if he wants to remain on the 53-man roster. If he is able to have a strong showing, he could be poised to return in 2014 as the team's No. 2 quarterback.