Bears Offense May Have Set Bar Too High In 2013
Warning: For all intents and purposes, I want it to be known that this article is not meant to bash the Chicago Bears in the least. In fact, it is a testament of praise, lightly seasoned with a dash of skepticism and a pinch of realism.
You’re still reading this? Awesome.
The 2013 Bears offense was an absolute marvel of an awe-fense. We saw the elevation of WR Alshon Jeffery to superstar status to pair with his already amazing partner-in-crime, Brandon Marshall. The Black Unicorn - for all of you shamefully unaware, TE Martellus Bennett - made an extremely strong case that he could be one of the stronger options at his position for years to come. QB Jay Cutler looked better than he has in years. And then there is Josh McCown. What can be said about that glorious man that hasn’t already been said?
When Cutler went down with an injury, McCown made the offense his own. He knew where to place the ball, led his receivers open and even made the occasional dash for it. But most of all, he is the one who brought Jeffery to where he is. If not for McCown, Jeffery would likely have not gotten the credit he deserved.
Now, many of you will likely disagree with me on this. Jeffery always had the talent and Bears fans knew that. But there was a problem. Quarterbacks tend to pick and choose the targets that they have the most chemistry with. Before being sidelined by injury, Cutler was passing to Marshall or Bennett most of the time. It was almost an unspoken rule that Cutler ignored targets that he didn’t know well. And it makes sense. If you don’t trust a guy to be where he is supposed to be, you go to the guy that you do trust.
And so we saw Jeffery come forth, a miraculous testament to the depth Chicago has at wide receiver. The offense put up some gaudy numbers.
Which brings us to now.
With how exceptional the offense was last season, I can’t help but look to the statistical principle of regression towards the mean. This is likely something you have heard of since it is brought up every so often by the talking heads. For those of you without a grip on theoretical statistics, though, regression towards the mean essentially looks at the significance of variables. If an outcome is “extreme” on its first measurement - either high or low - then it is likely to trend closer to the average on its second measurement.
So, to put it in practical terms, the Bears were so good last year that it is more than likely that the unit won’t be as good this coming year. Now, keep in mind, I’m not saying that the offense will be bad or even that it will be average. I'm just saying that in Trestman’s first year, the offense could be considered to have functioned as a theoretical extreme. In a sense, the offense is still going to produce and produce well. It just may not be to the ridiculous levels achieved during the 2013 season.
This regression will likely focus on how a few key players produce, and I’ll do a short breakdown of each of these players and how they’ll contribute.
Under the more offensively-minded Trestman, Cutler showed that he is definitely a strong quarterback; his only issue is consistency. While he was making great throws last year, there was also the issue of not really having chemistry with Jeffery at the beginning of the year. If Cutler can develop chemistry with the rest of his weapons to the same degree that he has with Marshall, this squad is in a good place for success.
Jeffery’s breakout year has led many to question who the top wide receiver on the team is. Jeffery brings a large skill set to the table, which is only aided by his youth. With Marshall getting older, it will only be a matter of time before Jeffery takes over the lead role. With that said and the league now aware of Jeffery’s success, can he achieve on the same level as last year?
We all know how dominant Marshall and Jeffery can be as a tandem. Over the offseason, Wilson spent plenty of time learning from the dynamic duo. With a year of being in an NFL system under his belt, it may be his time to step up and take what defenses give the Bears when they’re trying to take out Jeffery, Marshall, Bennett and RB Matt Forte. If Wilson can capitalize, this offense can be dominant.
So, as you can see, there are reasons for hope and there are reasons to expect the offense to not do as well. We’ll have to see what happens, but if the offense has even 75 percent of the success that it had last year, we should consider it a success.
Teams will eventually figure out Trestman’s system and how each player acts in it, but the offense will still be good. Very good.