Baffoe: Can The Bears Have Sustained Success?
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By Tim Baffoe-
(CBS) After two weekends of NFL playoffs, Bears fans can’t help but lament another season of woulda, coulda, shouldas while their favorite team isn’t vying for the Super Bowl. Among the twelve teams in the postseason were a few familiar franchises—Patriots, Packers, Ravens, Colts. Familiar in that they have almost become synonymous with playoff football. Why is it that in a league structured for parity there are some teams that just keep showing up in January?
Jack Bechta wrote this piece a couple of weeks ago in which he discusses what NFL dynasties have in common. The Bears would not be a team that jumps to mind at the sound of the “d” word. More appropriate “d” terms would be disaster, debacle, death by false starts, dumb mother f—well, some others. Regardless, my mind applied Bechta’s criteria to the Bears anyway because I’m just masochistic like that.
Now of course the Bears are probably not ready to begin a Super Bowl dynasty in 2013 per se, but the five points laid out in the column speak to more than just the black and white of trophy or no trophy. Bechta discusses multiple teams, and since only one team can host the Lombardi Trophy each February, only one team can be in the midst of a possible dynasty at any given time. So I look at his criteria as not only acquiring multiple trophies in a short period of time, but also sustained status as an upper echelon NFL franchise. Not being a “playoffs once every two or three years” type of team, but instead one where the playoffs are generally expected league-wide—so more than just the above average feel of the Lovie Smith era.
So how do the Bears stack up with this template for success?
Bechta’s first quality of sustained success is having a special quarterback, one that “can make plays that other QB’s can’t.” Jay Cutler would be such, despite his underachievement so far. “Like him or not, he can be a special QB based on release and arm strength alone.” Very few NFL QBs can chuck it as hard as Cutler does, and that is very much a plus. Even if you are a Cutler hater, you have to admit he is the most talented guy at the position to ever don the blue and orange… sometimes too much ugly, ugly orange. Top of mind I’m sure for General Manager Phil Emery in his current coaching search is finding a guy that can “figure out” Cutler and hopefully help him to become the elite quarterback he was traded for to be and that so many NFL brains think he is still capable of being.
That leads into another of Bechta’s qualities—coaches who develop young players. Cutler isn’t young, but the clay hasn’t hardened on him yet… I don’t think. Will the 2013 Bears coaching staff be one committed to developing other current young talent? Will Shea McClellan become the beast that warrants him being the 19th overall pick? Can Alshon Jeffery turn into half of an elite receiving duo with established monster Brandon Marshall? As we don’t know who will be wearing the polo shirts on the sidelines next season, the answers to those questions remain to be seen. But Emery did specifically speak to sustained success as a necessity for the Bears moving forward. One would think player development is a major part of that.
The Bears are not mentioned in Bechta’s examples of stability at the top, but I’m more than confident that they can eventually make his list after listening to Emery talk of the future. “The GM and head coach talk often and keep chemistry between coaches and the personnel department. Chemistry in an NFL front office is more elusive than people realize.” I don’t know what communication was like between Emery and Lovie Smith exactly, but I’m pretty sure with the next head coach being Emery’s hire, the line of communication will be quite clear, fluid, and productive. It very much will not be the often bumbling nature of the Jerry Angelo era, where football talk was usually murky and the front office and staff often defensive in their relationship with the media.
Having that kind of environment also parlays with another of the five criteria for a dynasty, and that’s having a great scouting department, system, and philosophy. Emery revamped the Bears’ scouting department in June of last year, creating the largest group of scouts the franchise has ever had and having the first pro and college scouting directors on the team in over two years. (Excuse me, Jerry Angelo? The hell was up with that?) It would be too early to grade a department that has only existed for half a year, but it certainly appears to be part of moving the franchise in the right direction. Couple that with a GM who is comfortable talking a Moneyball style of game, and fans have to at least feel comfortable that this is a big boy operation at Halas Hall.
Which leads to the final aspect of sustained success according to Bechta—an owner committed to winning and not just profits. The McCaskey family has long been stereotyped negatively because of a random comment Mike Ditka made forty-five years ago about Virginia McCaskey’s father, George Halas: “He tosses nickels around like manhole covers.” Since then the family has been associated with cheapness, and that’s unfair. The McCaskey family is very much committed to winning, and they’ve given full control of football decisions to Emery, something that is vital for a general manager to have in order to bring about success.
While I can’t say the Bears are likely to become a dynasty in the near future, it does at least look—and forgive me for sounding Wannstedtian here—like the pieces are in place, or will be when a head coach is hired, to become an organization like the Packers and Patriots. Teams expected to be around in the postseason and not just lucky to be there. Teams with sustained success. That’s a fair consolation right now.
Tim Baffoe attended the University of Iowa and Governors State University and began blogging at The Score after winning the 2011 Pepsi Max Score Search. He enjoys writing things about stuff, but not so much stuff about things. When not writing for 670TheScore.com, Tim corrupts America’s youth as a high school English teacher and provides a great service to his South Side community delivering pizzas (please tip him and his colleagues well). You can follow Tim’s inappropriate brain droppings on Twitter @Ten_Foot_Midget, but please don’t follow him in real life. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. To read more of Tim’s blogs click here.