Will The Bears Roar This Season?


Jim Larisson via Flickr

New head coach, John Fox, will need quarterback Jay Cutler to perform if the Bears want to contend this season.

Christian Gralak, Online Editor


Is a phrase every fan has heard of, but it hasn’t been used the way it should be over the last few seasons.

The last time the Chicago Bears made it to the Super Bowl was in 2006. Despite their season record of 13-3, the Bears lost to the Indianapolis Colts by a final score of 29-17. Their last appearance at a conference championship was in 2010 where their rival Green Bay Packers defeated the Bears 21-14, eliminating them from the playoffs. The team that was noted for their prized defensive skills began to crumble. Two seasons later, Coach Lovie Smith was sacked and replaced by Marc Trestman.

Trestman was hired to fix the teams woes and solve the riddle of quarterback, Jay Cutler. Coming from the Canadian Football League (CFL) where he led the Montreal Alouettes to two consecutive Grey Cup Championships (2009,2010), the Bears’ front office believed Trestman was the guy to lead the Bears to glory. The Trestman years brought new life to an offense that statistically proved to have a hard time producing in the past.

Chicago is a sports city that thrives on emotion. The burning passion to win was missing from its most beloved sports team. The coaching staff responded calmly to losses and there was nothing to show the city that change would come.

The CFL experiment didn’t work out the way it was planned. While Trestman was well intentioned, he just wasn’t fit to be the one who would shuffle the Bears back to glory. The fans wanted to move on, and this time, management heard their cries. After two seasons, and a record of 13-19, the front office decided not to continue with Trestman’s contract. The team finished the 2014 season 5-11.

Now, days before kick off, the Bears will enter the season having undergone a complete overhaul. Just one day after being interviewed, management hired 37-year-old Ryan Pace, director of player personnel from the New Orleans Saints and made him the Bears’ general manager. Despite his young age, Pace has 14 years of experience, all gained by working for the New Orleans front office.

Pace went to work right away, hiring John Fox as the Bears’ new head coach. Fox is a proven NFL leader, having coached the Denver Broncos from 2011-2014 with an overall record of 46-18 and finishing in first place all four years in the AFC West. He also coached the Carolina Panthers from 2002-2010 and took them to Super Bowl XXXVIII (38) in his second year as coach.

The Panthers didn’t win that game, but it showed that Fox brought positive change to a team had gone 1-15 two seasons prior to Fox’s arrival.

After getting their head coach, the Bears hired Adam Gase from the Broncos and Vic Fangio from the San Francisco 49ers. Gase was hired as offensive coordinator, while Fangio for the defensive side.

A change Fangio will be bringing to the Bears is a 3-4 base defensive. Known for always having a 4-3 defensive formation, the Bears are looking to try something new, which will make them better when defending against teams who like to use different spread offenses. Explaining 3-4 and 4-3 defenses can get technical, but the basic differences are in the setup.

The new 3-4 scheme will have three bigger players on the defensive line consisting of a nose tackle in the middle of two defensive ends. Four linebackers then back up the defensive line and the secondary consists of two cornerbacks at the flanks with a strong safety closer to the front, and a free safety deeper in the backfield. The 4-3 setup is switched to having two defensive tackles in the middle at the line of scrimmage with two defensive ends on the sides next to them. Three linebackers are used to back up the defensive line.

Along with a new defensive formation, the Bears picked up new faces via free agency and the 2015 NFL draft. Below are the biggest names to know:

  • Linebacker Pernell McPhee was signed to a 5-year, $40M dollar deal. Said to be coming into his prime, McPhee ranked second on Bleacher Report’s top 3-4 outside linebackers of 2014.
  • Safety Antrel Rolle was signed to a 3-year, $11.25M dollar deal. A three-time Pro Bowler, Rolle’s reputation as a leader with the New York Giants should be an upgrade over former safety Chris Conte.
  • Wide Receiver Eddie Royal was signed a 3-year deal. Royal is a veteran receiver who can help fill the hole caused by the loss of Brandon Marshall. He played on the Broncos with Cutler back in 2008. If the two can reconnect, they should be able to light up some defenses.

The Bears also took advantage of the draft and signed players they hope will be key to bringing back the glory to the franchise. Among these is wide receiver, Kevin White. The Bears’ top draft pick suffered a stress fracture in his left shin and was declared out for the season. Recently, the team changed his status from physically unable to perform (PUP) to Reserve/PUP. This means there may be a chance the rookie debuts later in the season should his recovery process go according to plan.

Despite the changes they’ve made, the Bears aren’t expected to perform well this season. One of the biggest reasons for this is the amount of injuries the team has recently endured. Backup quarterback Jimmy Clausen has a concussion and linebacker Sam Acho was listed as probable, as he was dealing with an illness. Among the notables are safety Ryan Mundy and running back Senorise Perry. Both have been listed as season-ending injury reserve.

Right now the Bears are 2-1 in the preseason. Some of the players making big impressions on the coaching staff are:

  • Linebacker Pernell McPhee, who has shown he can be the Bears’ effective pass-rusher they have been longing for.
  • Linebacker Sam Acho, who has had one interception, one forced fumble, five combined tackles, two sacks and two passes deflected in two games.
  • Safety Adrian Amos, who was promoted to first-team safety because of the Mundy injury.
  • Running back Jeremy Langford, the rookie out of Michigan State whose been averaging 5.2 yards per carry. He has one touchdown and 98 yards on 19 attempts through three preseason games so far. Some say that Langford could be the future running back for the Bears, once Forte departs from the team.

It can also be noted that quarterback Cutler had no interceptions through the three games he’s played, but he hasn’t thrown any touchdowns either.

While the pre-season doesn’t count for anything, the Bears are showing that they may not be as bad as everyone is expecting them to be. A strong season from veterans Cutler and Forte will be key if the Bears want to contend for the playoffs, and the defense will have to have a smooth transition into it’s new 3-4 style.

“Da Bears” and “Bear Down” phrases may not have as much meaning now, but they might soon. The Bears kick off their season at home against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, September 13, at noon CT.

This article was written prior to the Bengals game where the Bears defeated Cincinnati 24-0, ending their preseason at 3-1.