By Steve Silverman-
(CBS) Here’s something that Marc Trestman knows down to the core of his being.
No matter how well-thought-out his gameplan is and no matter how creative he gets with his play-calling, it won’t matter a bit if his offensive line can’t do the job.
That’s something that every great offensive mind in football has known for generations. Paul Brown knew it when he was building a dynasty with the Cleveland Browns – a very long time ago.
Sid Gillman knew it when he was being credited as having the game’s most creative offensive mind in the 1960s.
Bill Walsh knew it as he built the prolific San Francisco 49ers offense with Joe Montana and Dwight Clark, and then later perfected when Jerry Rice came on the scene.
The Steelers’ dynasty? It never would have happened without their offensive line.
The Patriots’ long run in this century has largely been the result of Tom Brady’s accuracy and Bill Belichick’s genius, but where would they be without a competent offensive line?
Trestman is charged with leading the Bears’ offense up several levels. It’s not just about giving the Bears’ a competent look, it’s about excellence. Getting to that point from where they have been is not going to be easy, and it’s not going to be quick.
The main reason for that is the Bears’ offensive line. This unit has been substandard for years, but the addition of ex-Saint Jermon Bushrod at left tackle and former Jet Matt Slauson at left guard should give the Bears a solid base to work from.
Bushrod is the best blocker on the line by a wide margin. He went to the Pro Bowl after the 2011 season and he knows how to pass block like few Bears have demonstrated in the last seven years. It doesn’t seem to be a big deal, but Bushrod has already been sidelined by a calf injury.
Bushrod said his injury was nothing crazy, and Trestman tried to put it in a positive light, saying that it gave backup Jonathan Scott a chance to get in his reps and show what he could do. But it’s not a positive at all. The Bears need Bushrod to be the dominant player on the line from Day One. They need him to set the tone and play hard in training camp. They need to raise the standards on the line and they need Bushrod to carry the load.
The offensive line is not a one-man gang, but if rookie Kyle Long is going to see how a professional offensive lineman goes about his business, he needs to follow Bushrod.
A day or two on the sidelines is not the end of the world, if that’s where it ends. But if a nagging calf muscle lingers throughout training camp and Bushrod does not practice a lot this summer, it will not be good news for Trestman and quarterback Jay Cutler.
Offensive line has been a weak spot for the Bears for too long. Today’s game is about consistent offense, and that means throwing the ball with a purpose. If you have a top-level passing game and a decent defense, you can win.
The other way around hasn’t been a successful formula in a long time. Cutler and the Bears’ offense is only going to perform as well as the offensive line executes.
Under the best circumstances, it regularly takes a year or more. If Bushrod can’t stay on the field consistently, these will not be the best of circumstances.
Steve Silverman is an award-winning writer, covering sports since 1980. Silverman was with Pro Football Weekly for 10 years and his byline has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Playboy, NFL.com and The Sporting News. He is the author of four books, including Who’s Better, Who’s Best in Football — The Top 60 Players of All-Time. Follow him on Twitter (@profootballboy) and read more of his CBS Chicago columns here.