There’s plenty of joy around Chicagoland about the Bears and there should be, but hiding behind that is doubt on whether what we’re seeing is real or imagined. At 3-0 the Bears are on top of the NFC North and the only undefeated team in the NFC. Could we have all been so wrong?
The first thing that jumps out at me when I look at this team, is flexibility. The Bears coaching staff is showing the ability to adapt and adjust. They have already put players on notice about performance: Chris Harris, Marcus Harrison, Zach Bowman, Devin Aromashadu and Tommie Harris have all been either benched or deactivated in lieu of other players who Lovie Smith feels like have a better chance to win. Here’s what he said when talking about Harris and Bowman specifically.
“You have decisions…we have good players on the sideline right now, one game situation. We’ll go to practice next week and see who gives us the best chance to win then” Smith said.
This has been a prevailing thought since the season began. Player accountability has been one of the biggest criticisms of Smith since he began with the Bears. He is a ‘players coach’, but in a year when his job may be on the line, you’re seeing Smith taking complete control of his 53-man roster. Smith is being more micro than macro. He’s coaching to win the next game hoping the cumulative effect will be a playoff team.
Mike Martz and the offense have adapted too. By nature, Martz is stubborn, but you’ve seen him use the talent available to run his system. He’s effectively fitting square pegs into round holes. We often hear about coaches trying to put players in position to succeed, but Martz is actually doing it. Look at what he’s done with Greg Olsen. Olsen doesn’t quite fit what Martz has done in the past, but he’s made him a big weapon for Cutler.
Cutler talked about how both Martz and Olsen each bought in to the idea of making it work. Olsen couldn’t be happier that he is getting an opportunity.
“Coach Martz has done a great job. We’ve had a great relationship since he got here.” Olsen said. “Tonight (game vs GB) was a good example of that. First couple of games we tried to do different stuff and it didn’t work out for whatever reason, but we kept at it and tonight we were able to connect for some big plays.”
I don’t know who sent the message that things have to change, but it has apparently that message has gotten through. Through three games, this coaching staff is looking more than respectable. At 3-0 and looking at the next four games, Bears fans have a reason for optimism. That’s all that a fan wants, a reason to believe. They’ve seen change in a staff that was the definition of ridgidity.
Lovie Smith deserves credit, Jerry Angelo deserves credit and if pressure was applied from higher up, then the Bears brass and Virginia McCaskey deserve credit. There’s an old saying that goes: “Pressure bust pipes”, but pressure also turns coal into diamonds.