From Worst to First: Fixing the Bears

Joe WillettSenior Writer IMarch 5, 2008

The Chicago Bears had a great season in 2006 as they headed to the Superbowl.

They looked to be on track towards another great season, with most of their starters returning and a young core of players they were poised to have another great season.

Things fell apart when they started to actually play.

Rex "My Play Sure Is" Grossman played worse than he did at the end of '06.  He was benched, but none of the other quarterbacks on the squad showed to be anything different, and they ended where they began, with Grossman.

The running game was non-existent, and the defense was shredded on a consistent basis after their dominating '06 season.

The lone bright spot seemed to be Devin Hester, who had 5 more return touchdowns and got involved in the passing game by running streaks galore, letting the opposing team know that they couldn't keep up with him.  He had over 200 yards in very limited action.

The problem with this Bears team is this - will they even have enough people to fill the roster?  They lost Bernard Berrian, Mushin Muhamad, Fred Miller, and Ruben Brown, and they haven't re-signed Brendon Ayanbedejo yet, he might leave through free agency as well.  They have only added 32 year old Marty Booker, meaning that we have now officially lost nothing in the 2002 trade.

So what steps do the Bears need to take to get back in to contention within the next few years?

Have a strong Draft

They need offensive linemen, and that is the route that I would take in the first round, in my mind Jeff Otah or Chris Williams would be the best suited for the job. 

In the second round they need to find somebody to fix the quarterback position.  A one-year deal for Grossman means that if he doesn't perform as we hope for him to, he is gone.  Without a replacement, we could be in place for the Orton era, and that just scares me.  Chad Henne would be ideal and he should be available in the second round.

Find offensive skill positions

Cedric Benson has spent plenty of time on the injury report since coming into the NFL.  And when he does get in to play, he doesn't seem to play with the drive that somebody of his size should play with. 

Adrian Peterson is a career back-up who can't carry the load for a full season, and Garret Wolfe is not the next Warrick Dunn. 

They missed on Michael "The Burner" Turner, but Marion Barber is still technically available.  The Bears should make a push for him and see if they can get him without giving up too much.

At wide receiver, they have nobody.  After signing Marty Booker for his second stint with the Bears, the top three receivers look like Mark Bradley, Booker, and Hester. 

The Bears need an established #1 receiver who can draw double coverage and make everybody else around him stronger.

I was pleading to anybody that would listen that the Bears should go for Randy Moss, then he re-signed with the Patriots.

Then I learned that Javon Walker was made available.  My hopes soared, the Bears wouldn't let this one slip through.  They did, and now Walker is unavailable.

They need to get a top receiver, likely through a trade, that can take this team to the next level. 

Decide what Devin Hester's role is offensively

Devin Hester has one of two players written all over him.  He is either a faster Steve Smith, or a more jukey ( it means able to get away from defenders by juking out of the way, I made it up, so don't get on me Anonymous) Dante Hall. 

Either way the Bears need him to find an identity.  If he isn't cut out to be a receiver, don't risk him often offensively so that he can keep his playmaking ability as a returner.  If he is Steve Smith, make sure you utilize his abilities with routes that can get him separation or in position to make players miss after the catch. 

But his one year learning session is up.

Re-energize the defense

The 2007 defense had most of the same players as they did in 2006, besides Darwin Walker, who was recently released, and Adam Archuleta, who was benched.  This can mean only one of two things. 

Either the defense forgot how to play shutdown defense after the 2nd week of the season, or the more likely reason, they just got worn out by trying to carry the offense to yet another post-season. 

They knew it wasn't worth it.  They gave one of the best defensive performances in the last decade against the Chargers in week 1, allowing Ladanian Tomlinson only 25 yards running.  In yet another shutdown performance in week 2, Larry Johnson couldn't do what he usually does against the tough Bears defense. 

We need to motivate the defense and let them know that it isn't all on their shoulders this season.

These changes probably won't happen, because chances are slim to none that Jerry Angelo is sitting at his computer caring what a 16-year-old has to say about the Bears.

But that facts are that the Bears dropped off tremendously in 2007, and the drop-off will likely be greater in 2008.  They haven't made a major move in free agency.  (I don't consider Lance Briggs a major move because he was already with us.  He didn't improve anything, he just avoided worsening.)

We are stuck with Cedric Benson because it is unlikely that anybody will touch him with a 10-foot pole because of his over-sized contract and injury-prone nature.  So, we have that to look forward too.  His tears at the 2005 draft were probably because he was hiding his laughter that a team took him so high.

We probably won't obtain a #1 receiver because we don't have many tradeable players, and most of the good free agents are already taken.

So, we'll just have to deal with another bad season for the Bears.

I'm Joe W.


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