By Dan Bernstein-
CBSChicago.com senior columnist
(CBS) The best thing about the NFL regular season starting is that the Bears’ miserable training camp and preseason are over.
The oddsmakers in Las Vegas had to have known something I didn’t when they set the Bears win total at 8 1/2 those many weeks ago, but there’s no way they could have foreseen exactly why the future appears so much more precarious now. Or could they?
It all seemed so good after Phil Emery’s spending spree in March, when the additions of Lamarr Houston, Jared Allen and Willie Young instilled confidence that last year’s historically ineffective defense would be at a minimum something other than that. The prolific offense would continue to evolve under Marc Trestman’s direction, blossoming into unstoppability with the entire starting unit back for more.
That win total looked like a sucker’s bet. It may end up that it was, but for reasons unclear to me at the time. If current trends don’t magically reverse when this all goes live Sunday, you are reading the thoughts of a sucker.
First the 2014 draft class provided a collective shrug, then Kyle Long was sick with some unspecified virus and then he was hurt. The fully healed foot of Jordan Mills proved to not be, and then first-round pick Kyle Fuller turned his ankle. Tim Jennings hasn’t been able to stay on the field either, and Shea McClellin gave us the social-media unveiling of his transformed physique that looked like that of a college swimmer. Soon he got back to showing us that he still plays football like one, too. Mel Tucker has never proved to be a capable leader of a defense, but he’s still in charge of this one, making his angry face on the sidelines more than doing anything else readily apparent.
Martellus Bennett went berserk during a Bourbonnais drill and got exiled temporarily from camp to learn some kind of lesson. Explanations surfaced that he had been loafing in practice for some time, and now the garrulous personality has decided he’s going to tone it down to focus on playing. Meanwhile, Brandon Marshall is now a national TV commentator and will be flying to New York on his off day to have the chance to make all kinds of headlines with capricious, over-emotional opinions. So that should go well.
There is still no answer at safety. Still. How is this possible?
An unwanted free-agent wide receiver was passed over for a soon-to-be-cut nobody after a tryout, but then he was brought back and signed out of desperation. Now that guy is also the starting punt returner, as nobody else could do it. That Santonio Holmes has a track record of moody unprofessionalism is probably why Trestman didn’t watch his workout in the first place, yet he’s wound up becoming a critical piece.
The special teams are a hot stinking mess in absolutely every aspect. The exhibition season has been full-blown clown college for coordinator Joe DeCamillis, missing only the blaring calliope music as the soundtrack while his coverage units get gashed, punts are misdirected, field goal attempts miss and returns go nowhere. Patrick Mannelly’s retirement left a void at long snapper to be filled by the firm of Rempel, Hartson and Cain.
You don’t remember the pre-Mannelly era, do you? I advise you to not try. I can recall the days of Harper Le Bel, and they were not good days. Losing games due to incompetent long-snapping isn’t fun.
As all this goes on, it was fine with Trestman for Lance Briggs to skip out of practice to fly to California for the grand opening of his barbecue restaurant, despite the fact that one would think the owner of a business could decide to schedule its opening on an off day. Whatever.
Seeing Briggs after he returned from his shoulder injury last year and watching him try to run this summer, we should be happy enough that he returned instead of staying to eat up all the brisket and hush puppies and bathe in a vat of warm gravy.
But it’s a process, we’re told, over and over and over again by Emery and Trestman as an answer to everything. It’s part of the process, it’s where they are in the process as they go through their various processes that make up the process of the process. Competitive systems of football and processes of concepts to grow the process of the system of the concepts.
Whatever this bizarre, unsatisfying process is, it needs to look a whole lot better in a mere five days.