Bernstein: Bears Still Playing With Fire

By Dan Bernstein- Senior Columnist

(CBS) Last year, they hedged their bet. This year, they’re doubling down.

The Mike Martz offense – the real bells-and-whistles, 7-step-drop, full route-tree one – proved unsustainable when they couldn’t keep opponents from ripping Jay Cutler’s limbs off and taking bites out of his head.

So with nine weeks remaining in the season, you’ll remember, a conservative, sensible bloc intervened.

Using some combination of hypnotherapy, water-torture and duct tape, they convinced Martz to scale things back, balance the play-calling and ask less of a leaky offensive line. The nearly-even run/pass ratio that followed worked well enough to propel them to seven wins in their last nine games and a run to the NFC title game.

Yet, as they ready for their first preseason game of 2011, they have gone back to what didn’t work.

Prototypes have been rounded up to once again attempt to replicate the dreamy diagrams that dance through Martz’s head. The linemen are enormous, the new wideout familiar, and the jumbo tight ends will be asked to block pass-rushers by themselves.

What the Bears appear to be thinking is this: our problems last year were only a matter of personnel, and we have better parts in better places. We can run this system the way it was meant to run, last year’s struggles be damned.

The steep risk/reward gamble is back, with Martz using the term “quantum leap” to describe his expectations for the ramped-up plan being installed at an accelerated pace.

We’re told Cutler’s footwork is perfect – drops exact, knees bent, shoulders flat. We’re told Roy Williams will return to his Pro-Bowl form. We’re told that a line of blockers made up of five guys in unfamiliar spots will be ready to go.

I’m sure it all looks swell in walk-throughs. Let’s see how it looks at real speed, and whether or not this is just another hopeful miscalculation.

Cutler’s mechanics – like those of any QB – tend to break down under duress, reverting to old comforts. A receiver has it free and easy when sprinting around in shorts, but he finds the going tougher when the cornerback drives an elbow into his neck after the snap.

(The latter point must be considered as we experience the familiar groundswell of love for Dane Sanzenbacher, the latest Bear wonderboy to play the role of Great White Hope/Grinder/Undrafted Everyman.)

We did this last year, raving about everything and everybody on offense until they actually started playing. Then the sacks came in bunches, the line had to be reconstructed and the restrictor plate was finally arc-welded onto Martz’s cerebrum.

He’s thrown it off now, ready for the whiz-bang Rams re-creation project to pick back up.

That team played a decade ago, which feels even longer in the world of the ever-evolving NFL. Martz was a hire of last resort, with teams too aware of both his complex, rigid system and his previous clashes with head coaches.

The Bears were forced to try to make it work, and this is how the process goes. Install it, uninstall half of it, then add some new hardware and reboot it, with fingers crossed that it won’t crash.

This offense is undoubtedly explosive. When blocked and executed, it can rack up points by stretching and stressing defenses and exploiting favorable matchups.

But that also means it can blow up in your face.

bernstein 90x130 Bernstein: Bears Still Playing With Fire

Dan Bernstein

Dan Bernstein has been the co-host of “Boers and Bernstein” since 1999. He joined the station as a reporter/anchor in 1995. The Boers and Bernstein Show airs every weekday from 1PM to 6PM on The Score, 670AM. Read more of Bernstein’s blogs here. Follow him on Twitter @dan_bernstein.
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More from Dan Bernstein
  • Larry Horse's Arse

    But what about “The Passion?”

  • Ramo Geezus

    I’m not against any moves they’ve made so far, lets see what happens. The last time I checked, going to the NFC championship game when predicted by most to go 6 – 10 isn’t a sign of decline.I’m just sayin…….

  • Noots

    I hope that’s not the case, Dan. I hope it’s just preseason, which is usually a poor tell for what is to come. I think about so many preseasons where Bear tight ends were featured only to go missing from the offense when the regular season rolled around. Let’s hope, that if what you say is indeed true, that Mike Tice is allowed to intervene prior to mid-season by threatening to relieve the pressure from Mike Martz’s pulsating brain in zit-popping fashion.

    • Murphs Upper-Lip

      If things are a clicking, the tight ends won’t be “missing” from the offense, but if you’re looking for something on the stat sheet you’ll be disappointed.

  • Murphs Upper-Lip

    And what were they predicted to finish last year? (Not jumping on any Bear bandwagon. I’m just sayin……..)

    I’ve got more hope in this team than I should, in all reality, and I’m not quite sure why. I usually lean more towards the fan with his cup half empty, always trying to find the reason why things will fall apart eventually, but I seem to have more optimism with the ’11 Bears than I should. A lot has to do with the NFL as it stands today, I suppose, where it seems most anything can happen in the most unpredictable of ways. But….

    I’m drinking the Cutler kool-aid; loved when the Bears signed him, consider him one of the elite QB’s in the NFL, and think his off-season conditioning is a great sign. If you haven’t been paying attention, don’t think for a second the negative response towards his injury in the playoffs hasn’t been eating at him; he’s already admitted as much. With an offensive line that I truly believe will be much more consistent; another year of Tice (and Martz to an extent) is gonna help, as is the loss of Kruetz. I’m sick of the outrage from his departure; great at one time, but not any more. I think the Bears are VERY lucky he turned down $4 million, much better ways to allocate.

    The new tight end formation will help tremendously with pass blocking; I love it. Roy Williams, for the money he signed for and only one year, great upside, very little downside. That is the essence of buying low. No more Tommie Harris to “hope” for; great LB’s, OK with the line, and I’m used to saying “Wah?!?” to the defensive backfield.

  • Jeremy Carnahan

    I can’t disagree entirely with what Dan’s saying considering what they’ve done with the offensive line, but picking up a power back like Barber that can get those get you those 1 and 2 yard bursts is going to make or break us on the goal line this year. Adding butterfingers and Hurd should prove interesting, possibly even useful.

    And as far as those offensive line moves…Isn’t Chris Spencer in his 7th season? He’s started the majority his career, but he can’t grasp this absolutely incredible, zomg so hard to understand, Mike Martz offense? Is Garza really that much better at Center than he is at Guard?

    I was at camp on Sunday night and the Sanzenbacher crowd was out, folks! I can’t figure out whether I think he’ll end up as more of a Devin Aromashadu or one of the many other training camp heroes of the past… He looked good in camp, but it rarely transfers to gameday with “those types” of players.

  • Michigan Bear Fan

    Looking at the schedule they could go 10-6 fairly easily–assuming they beat Oakland and Denver on the road and the Vikings twice—and then squeak into the playoffs just to get beat in the wildcard round.

    Welcome to mediocre hell Bear fans…..

  • Danial Ramirez

    Martz better hope that the O line is capable of doing what Martz thinks it can. If not, here’s hoping that Lovie Smith has the will to tell his mad scientist OC to scale back his offensive prototype. The idea of Cutler taking sven step drops with a make shift O line makes me a tad nervous and makes me wonder if we’llbe seeing more images of a battered Cutler ala the Giants game last year. It would be nice to be the greatest show on the lakefront but if the pieces aren’t there to properly run this scheme than the Bears have to be who they are and not who they want to be.

    • Murphs Upper-Lip

      “If not, here’s hoping that Lovie Smith has the will to tell his mad scientist OC to scale back his offensive prototype.”

      Already proved last year he can and will.

  • Lil Jabba

    So Mike Martz makes the personel fit the system not vice versa.
    Mike Martz is stubborn.
    Good work…

    Boring article aside, Dan’s imagery is forced and his attempts at comedy are poor.
    These blogs are not what they once were now that Dan is a “senior columnist”.

    • Larry Horse's Arse

      He negotiated that title so he could get the “senior discount” at Denny’s etc.

    • Spoon

      The problem, is that he’s just repeating himself over and over again. We end up having our own conversations while using his blog as a subforum of the website. I think he’s got too much time to think these through only posting them twice a week, rather than having to pull one out of his nether regions on a daily basis.

      • Larry Horse's Arse

        precisely correct good sir


    It’s simple, for me.

    If Martz doesn’t understand that we don’t care how the offense scores, as long as it does. As long as it finds the endzone, at least, three times a game. As long as Cutler isn’t put into a teenage slasher picture, as long as he doesn’t cough up game breaking turnovers, the fans don’t care what plays were used.
    If Martz can’t make those things happen for an entire season, he’s gone.
    Martz has already used up his fairy tales, and he has no get out of jail free cards left. He’s either giving us a victory press conference or cleaning out his office.

  • Bronzo

    The Bars ranked #30 in total offense last year ….I think playing hardball with Kreutz is going to blow up in their face. His talent level had dropped off some but his intangibles…leadership,calling the blocking schemes will not be replaced.

    In shor, if Martz wants to back to being pass happy Cutler is going to get killed.

    • mike in davenport

      So…… the Bears should have kept Kreutz because he was good at calling the blocking schemes that didn’t work?

      The Bears are at fault, but not for letting Kreutz go. They are at fault for not having anyone behind him, ready to take over.

      • Bronzo

        Mike you missed the point…he was the unquestioned leader on the TEAM and the o-line. Yes he called the schemes it wasn’t his fault that rest of the line were running around like a chinese fire drill.

        He’s far from all-pro but as you said they have no real replacement.. I hope Garza does well.

      • Spoon

        Yet it was his fault when most of the people he was ‘blocking’ ran through him like he wasn’t even there and blew the play up in the backfield. He got thrown 4 yards back in the NFC title game more over and over again, by that logic I can go play center as long as I can make the blocking assignment calls.

        By Olin’s comments to the Saints media, HE choose not to return, and declined 200% market value to go somewhere else.

  • Bronzo

    The Bears not Bars

    • Larry Horse's Arse

      thought you were from Kentucky for a minute there

  • Murphs Upper-Lip

    Seems they’re trying too hard to keep this site “fresh” and yet the complaints directly from their consumer, i.e. us posters, are brushed under the table. Boo.

    • Larry Horse's Arse

      totally agree with you M U-L

    • Spoon

      We’re more like cattle, as long as we come here and click on things, and misclick on ads, they make loot.

    • Denver Deadite

      That’s corporate mind-think for you.

      As a friend likes to say: uncreative people making creative decisions.

  • mad as hell fan...

    You have to take that risk though. This is who they hired. jDan, you talk all the time about the Bears needing to get into the now of the NFL where passing and scoring a bunch of pts is usually essential. Why have Jay Cutler and Mike Martz working together without at least trying Martz’ explosive offense, they absolutely should. If they decide to go “lovie conservative” and play balanced, work the clock, grind out possessions, get good field position…then they shouldve hired a different O-coordinator. If the offense does “click” with Martz then the Bears could be one of the best teams in the NFL. You should take the risk/reward, it is worth it.

  • Johnny Hatelak

    Man thats a lot of words to say this is a high risk high reward offense.

  • Denver Deadite

    Am I the only one who’s tired of the Ginger-Haired Bears Apologist?

    • Murphs Upper-Lip

      He is the Bears mouthpiece, can’t “diss” his boys. Grow some nads – or stick with TV sportcasting; that’s the watered down sh!t he’s giving us.

      • Larry Horse's Arse

        But, otherwise, he is a valuable contributor to our knowledge of the Bears…after all, I don’t get their press releases or talking points on my fax machine or email.

  • Murphs Upper-Lip

    Great c.r.a.p. Brewmeister.

  • Dr that Doesn't Help People

    There IS a Denver crazy going on, believe me, I live in Den. It seems like everyone has taken sides. Either you fall down love Tebow, or you hate him. No one seems to like Ortman. Poor poor Ortman.

    • Denver Deadite

      It is Orton. ;)

      But yeah, the stuff Orton has gone through, in both Chicago and now Denver, is unfortunate. He’s by no means great, but he is a solid QB.

      Tebow is not an NFL QB. That’s been the truth since he first appeared at Florida.

      • Fletchguy

        Being from Denver maybe you don’t get the Ortman thing lol Its intentional. Orton is a great guy and a solid QB I wish he was still here in Chicago but the broncos are nuts if they let him go for Tebow. That means years of bad football in Denevr if it happens.

  • Gentleman RaRa

    Bernstein, do NOT go see 30 Minutes or Less.

    Because I saw a commercial for it last night that featured two guys in a car screaming “WHHHHOAAAAHHHHH!!!!”

  • Murphfan1138

    Geez, why does Bernstein hate the “Everyman/Grinder” type athlete so much? Like it or not, the majority of sports fans relate to the “Grinder” type athlete more than they ever will to the “Superstar” athletes you love so much.

  • vetdana

    What songs are they going to sing at Jays funeral ?

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