By Chris Emma–
CHICAGO (CBS) — Sunshine peaked through the clouds on Saturday afternoon over Soldier Field. It seems to be the perfect metaphor for the Bears this preseason.READ MORE: Chicago Weather: Metra Sets Tracks Ablaze To Combat Extreme Cold
Because for all the excitement for Saturday’s scrimmage along the lakefront and the natural anticipation for a new football season, too many harsh realities still linger around this Bears team.
Bears legend Dick Butkus started the Family Day festivities on the new video boards with a toughness-themed highlight reel. Then, the venerable broadcasting duo of Jeff Joniak and Tom Thayer pumped up the crowd. At last, the Bears took to Soldier Field, drawing considerable cheers from the more than 20,000 fans on hand.
But it didn’t take long for the feelings of Bears misery to return. Jay Cutler completed just one of his five passes in the scrimmage, a few drops followed and the biggest play was just 12 yards on a Cutler pass to Eddie Royal.
Grumbles were heard at Soldier Field.
We want Clausen!
OK, count Aug. 8 — a live-action scrimmage — as the beginning of palpable Bears anger. That’s impressive, considering Marc Trestman’s 2014 team was a self-proclaimed Super Bowl favorite this time last year.
That team won five games, and Trestman was run out of town, as was much of the three-ring, 11-loss circus.
John Fox has rejuvenated the Bears in a different, more refreshing way. He hasn’t declared the Bears this or that, nor has he disassembled the locker room in an attempt to “grow the man” like his perplexed predecessor.
What Fox has brought to the Bears is an established, trusted track record; bright, innovative assistants with whom he holds great trust; and, above all, a renewed, healthy feeling.
“I’m honored to be here,” Fox said on Saturday after his first appearance at Soldier Field in Bears blue and orange. “It’s a storied franchise, one I’m really proud to be with.”
The easygoing personality of Fox is something that has resonated with Bears players — and should with fans, too. He has a history of building teams from the bottom to playoff contenders. Heck, he even did it with Tim Tebow quarterbacking in Denver.READ MORE: Chicago Weather: Black Ice, Frostbite Risk As Wind Chills Drop Below Zero Tuesday
But Fox also understands it’s a process to get there. The Bears have too many square pegs being jammed at round holes, largely thanks to Phil Emery’s mismanagement of the franchise.
Why will Jay Cutler be any different this season? Can the Bears overcome a lack of great depth this season? How will the 4-3 personnel play in a 3-4 defense?
These are among the most pressing questions surrounding Bears camp in Bourbonnais, and all reasons to feel pessimism around this team. USA Today even picked Chicago to endure a 3-13 season, the worst in football. Heck, that first-overall pick in 2016 would be nice, but the Bears aren’t that bad.
Even while an 0-3 start seems in the realm — hello, Packers, Cardinals and Seahawks — the Bears look more like a team with a basement of six wins and the potential to reach 8-8. It’s still training camp, with the first of four largely pointless preseason games to come on Thursday at Soldier Field. But this team has some talented pieces in place.
More importantly, the Bears have what I believe is the right leadership to build something for the future. For this 2015 team, the greatest benefit comes with competent coaching, something that was lacking all throughout last season.
In 2014, the Bears lost total control when problem players infected the locker room, and Trestman — who literally wrote a book on leadership — only added to the dysfunction. The season came to a ghastly finish with Trestman preparing for his next job and the Bears all but quitting on each other.
It seems all of those chemistry problems are gone from last season, and the Bears have embraced their new beginnings in Bourbonnais.
“I don’t know how to explain it,” Bears linebacker Jared Allen said. “The environment is personally is all you want for. All I ask for is a place where I can come to work and try to be the best at what I do. Then you let the chips fall where they do. There are no unrealistic expecations on anybody.”
Nothing is out of the realm in early August. A lot must be decided for the Bears before the games get real.
Of course, all the optimism is training-camp talk because every team is undefeated this time of year. But what sure seems apparent now is the Bears have a healthy culture in place, one with which they can grow. All the horrors of 2014 are in the past.
That’s the Fox effect — the Bears will be better for it.
Follow Chris on Twitter @CEmma670.MORE NEWS: Pfizer Starting Study Of Vaccine Geared Toward Omicron Variant