By Adam Hoge-
HALAS HALL (CBS) You never want to be fooled by “coach speak” in June.
Jay Cutler says this is the best receiver group he’s ever worked with. Brandon Marshall is not surprised the offense is clicking already. And Lovie Smith is raving about the progress that has been made in all three phases of the game.
But if you listen beyond the same propaganda you hear every year — and of course see the upgraded talent on the field — it’s easy to buy into what the Bears are selling.
The players and coaches are obviously going to say the offense is clicking already, but actually, it really is clicking more than last year. The players are much more comfortable because they are no longer being asked to do things they can’t.
In other words, Mike Tice is definitely not Mike Martz.
After Tuesday’s mini-camp practice at Halas Hall, Jay Cutler raved about how his new offensive coordinator actually listens to the players and accepts their input.
Minutes later, unsolicited, Mike Tice talked about why that’s the case.
“The communication between the coaches and the players has been phenomenal,” Tice said. “I’ve always found that sometimes the players have great thoughts, especially when they are focused like our players are right now.”
In other words, instead of insisting on running outdated offensive philosophies like Martz did, Tice is listening to what Jay Cutler wants and is adapting the offense to his quarterback. To help, the Bears also brought in quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates, who previously worked with Cutler in Denver.
“It’s stuff that I do well, stuff that I know,” Cutler said about the new offense, which blends some of Tice’s philosophies with a lot of Bates’ playbook. “I don’t know if ‘tailored’ is the right word, but it’s stuff that as a quarterback, you want to be in the same offense over and over and over again so you get a good feel for it. So you know all the nuances. This offense, I was in three years in Denver and now this is my fourth year in it so it’s something I’m very comfortable with.”
In other words, it’s not Mike Martz’s offense.
“We’re going to make sure we are going to put our players in position to do well and not ask them to do things that we don’t believe as coaches or their body language is telling us that they don’t like or they can’t do well,” Tice said.
You mean body language like Cutler looking at the sideline and saying “Tell Martz I said f*** you”?
And remember all those seven-step drops that probably shaved some years of Cutler’s career the last two seasons? Well, what do you think the No. 1 priority is for the offense before the season starts?
“We want to get rid of the ball. The ball’s gotta be gone,” Cutler said. “We want to get it to the playmakers. We want to get the ball to Devin (Hester) and Brandon (Marshall) and Matt Forte and get it out my hands as fast as possible. I think that’s something we are going to work really hard on in training camp and preseason games to get that done.”
And guess what the Bears did Tuesday at Halas Hall? They practiced audibles. Seriously.
“That’s the word,” Cutler said, referring specifically to the word “audible” (which Martz is currently looking up in a dictionary).
Now, all of these non-Martzian concepts are great, but the Bears still need to block. Unfortunately with the new rules, the offensive linemen have not been able don pads and actually show what they can do. Cutler said that is making the lineman “frustrated”.
“To be quite frank, you’re not going to find anything out about your offensive line until you put the pads on,” Tice said. “So to sit there and say, ‘Oh yeah this guy is going to be the answer to the problems,’ is silly.”
And that’s where Bears fans should be careful about completely buying into all of the positive developments that have unfolded in one of the better Bears offseasons in recent memory.
As the Los Angeles Kings’ Dustin Brown said Monday, “That’s why we f****** play.”
But what is 100 percent apparent — and it should lead to positive results on the field — is that everyone is happier in the Bears organization because Mike Martz is gone. There are other obvious factors as well — the biggest of which is Phil Emery taking over for Jerry Angelo — but there is no question one of the biggest additions the Bears made in the offseason was the subtraction of Mike Martz.
Clearly, it was an easy move to make.
Adam is the Sports Editor for CBSChicago.com and specializes in coverage of the Bears, White Sox and college sports. He was born and raised in Lincoln Park and attended St. Ignatius College Prep before going off to the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he earned a Journalism degree. Follow him on Twitter @AdamHogeCBS and read more of his columns here.