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What is the Bears Offense?

| November 17th, 2014

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Tweeting in-game is growing on me. Not only do I enjoy expressing joy and frustration in the moment but going back and looking at those Tweets can often tell the emotional story of a football game. Here is a Tweet from well-into the Bears victory over the Minnesota Vikings:

This offense means nothing to Cutler. He makes no plays in rhythm. Idea that changing offense will impact him is fallacy.

I don’t remember the play that spawned this comment but, quite honestly, couldn’t it have been all of them? Many individuals, including myself, have argued the Bears changing the head coach at the end of the season would be a detriment to Jay Cutler because it would be yet another system change for a player whose career has been marred by a lack of consistency in the playbook and on the field. But watching the Bears offense, even when it is performing well like Sunday, left me asking a singular question: what is the Bears offense everyone is so passionate about not changing?

I know what it’s not.

It is not about a commitment to the running game and more specifically the running back, who happens to be the Bears best offensive player. Forte had 3 carries in the Bears first 15 plays or so Sunday and on 4th and goal from the 1 the Bears chose to unleash their secret playbook weapon: the Cutler sweep left.

It is not about the rhythm passing game Trestman was lauded for in Oakland. Look around the league at the most dynamic passing attacks – Green Bay, Denver, New England – and chart how many passes are delivered within a second or two of the ball being snapped. Always to an open receiver, almost always while the receiver is moving in the direction of the desirable end zone. Rodgers, Manning and Brady quite often know where they are going with the football before the ball reaches their hands, keeping defenses off balance and limiting the opponent’s opportunity for pass rush. The only times Cutler delivers the football in rhythm he is usually throwing it behind the line of scrimmage on a bubble screen. This is the offense you’d expect a team to run when they are attempting to hide a rookie quarterback or when they’re starting Kyle Orton.

So what is it about?

Sunday’s win against Minnesota was about Jay Cutler’s big arm. It was about Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery using their size and strength advantages to make plays when they were not open. It was about Matt Forte gaining yards when there seemed no yards to be gained. Sunday was about a victory for talent, not scheme. For players, not coaches.

While it’s in vogue to kill Jay Cutler for everything from his facial expressions to his methods of childcare, one thing was clear to me watching the game yesterday: most quarterbacks in the NFL don’t attempt either of the Brandon Marshall touchdown passes. Don’t. Attempt. Them. Cutler trusts his receivers to make plays. At times it’s a strength. This year it may very well be his signature flaw.

Dan Pompei credited the head coach: “Marc Trestman and his offensive staff did a nice job of creating matchups that were favorable to the Bears.” Really? They did? Exactly who in the Vikings secondary would not have been a mismatch for Marshall and Jeffery? What makes the offensive talent of the Bears unique is the fact that those two men are a mismatch for every defensive back in the league. But what does Trestman do to get the ball in their hands, outside the far too often screen? When do Marshall and Jeffery have easy catches down the field? The answer is rarely.

The Bears are twenty-six games into Marc Trestman’s offense and the only thing I definitively know about the system is it features the tailback in the passing game. Sometimes it throws a bunch of screens to receivers. Sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it features the tight end. Sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it tests the opponent vertically. Sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t.

One would have no issue arguing that system stability is a key to sustained success in the NFL, especially on the offensive side of the ball. But when one looks at the performance of the Bears offense, what system do they see? Other than terminology, what would be so different if the Bears replaced their head coach at season’s end? Wouldn’t any coordinator with a working pair of eyes understand Forte’s value in the passing attack and see the two star wideouts are bigger than the fellas being asked to cover them?

What is the Bears offense? What does it do today that you, as a fan, would be afraid to lose in a post-Trestman system? What does it do today that differentiates it from the dozens of other offenses across the NFL? What does it do…period?

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