In order for sports organizations (or any organization for that matter) to remain competitive in their current era, Ownership and management have to be both open minded as well as progressive. However, the Bears can be post-season contenders by regression rather than progression.
By that, I mean the style of play going back to past eras gone by. Bears need to find their best 1997 Pittsburgh Steeler impression. Rely on a power running game by bashing into defensive lines with battering ram Jerome Bettis while getting an occasional big play over the top from Cordell Stewart off play action. Keep the ball for long drives while maintaining a lead into the second half. This should have your defense get an anxious opposing offense to force throws into a ball hawking secondary while a ravenous pass rush has their ears pinned back bringing pressure from everywhere with bad intentions for the quarterback.
The Steelers is one example that immediately popped in my mind. One of the reasons why is there are a lot of similarities between this year’s Bears and those Steelers teams. They both have good power running games with power backs and a good interior line paving the way. They also both have a mediocre veteran starting Quarterback who they want to play it safe with and ask only to hit a downfield pass here and there to keep the defense honest.
They also have nondescript playmakers running routes out there. You can even argue the Bears are at least better in that department with the potential from guys like Marcus Wheaton, Kendall Wright, Victor Cruz and Kevin White having resurgent seasons coming off injuries and modest snap totals and targets. You can also make a case for Cameron Meredith as being an ascending talent. So the potential for this wide receiver group is much higher than that of the Steelers roster with guys like Charles Johnson and Yancy Thigpen running routes out there. The Bears also have some firepower at the tight end position that anyone would admit has better options than the likes of 1997 starting tight end for the Steelers Mark Bruener.
Even though the passing game has much more potential than those Steelers teams it’s the mindset as much as anything the Bears need to take from a team like the Steelers back then. Really many teams from that era really. Bash and bludgeon defenses into submission and when they bring up one or more extra defenders to stop getting the ball shoved down their throats out comes the play action pass downfield.
The mindset of the offense also goes hand in hand with the complimentary football concept. Keep the ball more than the opposing offenses limiting their opportunities and forcing them to throw for the Bears defense to feast on. When they do get a chance to rush the passer they need to get home and put on many hits on the quarterback. I mean bone rattling hits. That will affect the quarterback and make them see ghosts. I don’t care how tough or how good they are. That ball will be coming out fast whether someone’s open or not to avoid getting hit. Maybe take liberties every now and again and put that hit on a little late sometimes if you don’t get there quick enough and take the 15.
The Bears have a big powerful defensive line with guys like Aikem Hicks, Jaye Howard and Eddie Goldman on the other side of the line of scrimmage. Intimidation is already a factor just looking at these guys licking their chops to get a chance at hitting guys so hard their future children will feel it years later. Same goes for laying hits on running backs. The Bears have two hard hitting Linebackers in the form of Jerrel Freeman and Nick Kwiatkowski to make things unpleasant for running backs who dare enter their zone. Do not hold back when the chance comes to put a big hit on someone.
Same concept goes for the secondary. The Bears secondary don’t get a lot of positive pub from the media. Setting franchise records for low’s in turnovers in consecutive seasons would be a fair reason why. However, one thing the Bears do have is a big hard hitting secondary in players like Prince Amukamara, Marcus Cooper, Kyle Fuller, Johnathan Banks, Quintin Demps, Harold Jones-Quartey, Adrian Amos, and Deiondre’ Hall who are some of the biggest players you will find on any secondary in the league. All love the physical aspects of the game.
Again, just as with the quarterback and the front seven’s focus on intimidation through the infliction of pain, the secondary needs to follow suit when a receiver runs a route in front of them and extends for a pass. They must make them pay by smashing them with a shoulder pad into their rib cage. Make the receiver think twice about reaching up for that ball again. Bears may have to be a little dirty too. Maybe a split second late hit here, a spear in the middle of the back there. Do whatever they must to let your opponent know you intend to inflict pain on them.
Now, this strategy doesn’t always lead to wins as most Bears fans can tell you. They’ve had some of the hardest hitting most intimidating defenses in the NFL. For example, teams hated to play the Bears when Jim Dooley coached the team. They put more guys in the hospital than a one hundred car pile up on the Dan Ryan. Yet still, they won only one game that 1969 season.
Bears appear to have a better offense than that team had, however. Football has progressed so much since then. In the modern era, it’s become a passing league mainly due to rule changes that give the offense’s passing game all the advantages and really hurt the defense. However, that being the case the game is a game built on violence and toughness and above all physicality. No matter how far the game progresses the game has been and will always be a physically driven sport and in a sport highlighted by physical play the most physical team usually wins.
The Bears need to be that team. The 70’s Steelers and Oakland Raiders. The 80’s Bears and New York Giants. They need to be the 90’s Dallas Cowboys and Steelers. You get the gist of it. The Bears need to send a message to the rest of the NFL that they are the new Bully on the block and they want your lunch money and are prepared to beat you up for it.