In an offseason that involved the Bears firing longtime general manager Jerry Angelo, hiring new GM Phil Emery, firing offensive coordinator Mike Martz, conducting a solid draft, and trading for Pro-Bowl wide receiver Brandon Marshall, the hiring of new quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates flies under the radar.
Bates, an assistant in the league since 2002, is best known for his two years serving as Jay Cutler's quarterback coach in Denver during the 2007 and 2008 seasons.
During Cutler's tenure with Bates as his QB coach, he put up 8,023 yards and 45 touchdowns combined in his two seasons before being traded to Chicago.
In both 2007 and 2008 then-Broncos receiver and now current Chicago Bear, Brandon Marshall, averaged more than 1,200 yards and 100 catches in each season with Bates coaching Cutler.
Despite Mike Tice being named new offensive coordinator for the 2012 season, Bates' impact on the offense should be evident.
"His history with Jay was a big thing," coach Lovie Smith told the team's website. "And not just history with Jay but a good history, a productive history with him helping Jay as a quarterback."
Tice is likely to rely less on five- and seven-step drops that were so prevalent in the Mike Martz offense and utilize quick dropbacks, play-action, bootlegs, and will likely move the pocket, all aspects of Cutler's game that were undervalued by Martz but used abundantly in Cutler's successful years in Denver under Bates.
Bates will likely capitalize on Cutler's athleticism by rolling the pocket and allowing Cutler to give his receivers a chance to create space or also pick up some yards with his feet. Brandon Marshall immediately becomes a better receiver when given the opportunity to create space between himself and the defender, which is why he was able to put up such great numbers with Cutler in '07 and '08.
With Marshall creating space and demanding more attention from defenses, Earl Bennett, Devin Hester and rookie Alshon Jeffery all will become better weapons in the new system.
Bates and Tice will also be more willing to allow Cutler to utilize audibles instead of solely able to adjust hot reads in the Martz offense. Martz was often too set in his ways and didn't afford his quarterback the option to change plays after surveying the opposing defense.
Changes in the offense itself and a desire to utilize more of Cutler's attributes other than his great arm will all immediately help the Bears offense, but the familiarity that Cutler has with Bates will afford him the opportunity to be more relaxed on the field—and most importantly, allow Cutler to trust those around him to make the right decisions.