By Laurence Holmes-
CHICAGO (WSCR) It’s supposed to be easier than this.
During the truncated preseason, the Bears kept talking about how being in the second year of the Mike Martz system would bear fruit. Against the Falcons, things seemed to click, but since then the Bears offense has been filled with problems. They’ve had protection issues, timing issues, route running issue, decision-making issues, penalties, dropped passes, poor run-blocking and poor game-planning. It leads to the Bears offense being broken.
When asked if the Bears can win with the offense continuing to play like this, Jay Cutler had a telling response.
“We’re 0-2 doing this, so it’s not looking very good.”
The Bears lack consistency. They also don’t have an identity on offense. Who are these guys? When I asked Cutler about stripping away some of the bad elements of their offense and focusing on what they’re doing well, he offered another telling answer:
“It’s so hit and miss of what we’re doing well and what we’re not doing well that I don’t even know where to begin there.”
Martz has a specific offense in mind. We all know what it’s about. It’s designed to be a timing scheme with deep routes that put pressure on the defensive backs. The quarterback is expected to throw to a spot and trust that his protection will give him time and that the receivers will get there. Perhaps it isn’t tailored to the personnel.
May I suggest that they begin with a true assessment of the talent they actually have. Martz’s system doesn’t seem to be a fit. Cutler is an athlete who has had Pro-Bowl success when all his skills are being utilized. He’s a quarterback that can make plays with his feet. He likes to run and gun. There aren’t many opportunities for him to do that in this system. He’s got seven years in the league and in this system isn’t even allowed to check out of a play that he knows is going to fail.
“I don’t audible. You’re going to have to ask someone else about that. I don’t do the game-plan,” a frustrated Cutler said.
Leaning on Cutler’s experience and talent may make this offense go.
When you start looking at the Bears receiving corps, you see a lot of speed. Devin Hester and Johnny Knox have the type of wheels that make opposing coaches nervous. Technique-wise, they could still improve, but is this the best system for them? These are two guys that can make things happen when they have the ball in space. The idea is to get it to them more often and let them make plays. Mental errors, bad routes, drops and breakdowns aren’t allowing them to do it.
“The frustrating part is that we know we have the ability to make those plays as a receiver. We left plays out there that should’ve been made. We’re not broken cause we show glimpses of greatness. One or two plays just destroys the momentum. One guy misses his assignment, it shows on all eleven,” Hester said.
So does that mean they need to be on the field less or that they aren’t being given the best chance to succeed? Either way, the mistakes need to stop.
Besides Cutler, the Bears best play-maker is Matt Forte. He got 16 touches against Green Bay. That’s not nearly enough.
“We just gotta find ways to get him the ball. Get him rushes. Get him touches. Get him going. Cause he’s an explosive player and I feel bad for him right now. He wants the ball. He wants to help out and we’re not giving him a lot of opportunities,” Cutler said.
Last week, Lovie Smith and Martz discussed offensive philosophy. It seemed that the conversation centered around the idea of balance. Wrong conversation. Today’s NFL is about getting the ball in the hands of play-makers more often. It doesn’t matter which way you do it. As Roy Williams correctly pointed out yesterday, it’s not about run/pass ratio.
“I don’t believe in balance. New England don’t believe in balance. They throw the ball all across the field and they win,” Williams said.
Smith needs to look at the tape, look Martz in the eye and figure out how the Bears can do more with what they have. What Martz has tried to implement isn’t working. He’s not getting the best out of his players and their confidence is beginning to waiver.
It may seem like it’s a Martz problem, but it’s not. This is Smith’s team and it’s time for him to take it over. The Bears head coach is respected around the league for his defensive coaching. So how about some reverse engineering to fix his offense. Look at it from an opponents perspective and answer this question: If you were coaching against the Bears offense what would scare you? Figure out what those things are and have Martz make the corrections.
The pieces don’t fit what Martz wants to do. He isn’t going to change unless he is pushed to do so. That’s Smith’s job. He can’t sit by like Emperor Nero fiddling as Rome burns. The defense has six players that are 30 and above. If Smith truly believes he has a championship defense then you owe them an opportunity to compete.
Take the next two days and deconstruct the offense. See what you do well. Do more of it. Look at the things you can’t do and eliminate them. Start from scratch if you have to, but build an offense around your talent, not the visions of sugar plums dancing in Martz’s head.
For more Bears coverage, follow Laurence on Twitter (@LHolmes670).