Phil Emery has been the general manger for the Chicago Bears for about 15 months now and his long-term plan for the team is methodically being revealed, though it could be a shock to the system of those who have followed the team for a long time.
Since George Halas founded the Chicago Bears back in 1920, the team name has been synonymous with stingy defense. The most casual football fan knows the exploits of Dick Butkus, Buddy Ryan's 64 defense and even the points put up by the D under Lovie Smith. Old timers will remember Doug Atkins and the feared Monsters of the Midway that brought home the 1963 NFL Championship. If you saw Bulldog Turner play and you're reading this, well, you're one hip geezer.
But if Emery has his way, all of that is going to change and the Bears will be transformed into an offensive juggernaut.
Let's look at the first big move Emery made - trading for Brandon Marshall. This move was a no-brainer, as Marshall was available, the Bears desperately needed a receiver and it teamed Jay Cutler with his old buddy from their Denver days. The move worked and after one season with the Bears, Marshall ranks number 44 in all-time Bears receiving yards with 1,508. If he does that next season, he'll be ranked 13th.
The next big move was to fire Lovie Smith. This should not have shocked anyone, even though the team won 10 games last season. Emery was forced to keep Smith as head coach for a year, and the fact the Bears missed the playoffs last season made Emery's decision easier.
Emery's next big move was hiring Marc Trestman as the new head coach. Trestman has a history of getting the most out his quarterbacks, and hopes are that he can help Cutler get over the hump and become a highly effective helmsman of the offense. Of the 14 candidates Emery interviewed, all but one or two had offensive backgrounds. And one of those interviewed, Mike Singletary, was done as a favor.
Now, let's review Emery's free agent moves this year so far. Multi-year contracts were granted to offensive tackle Jermon Bushrod and tight end Martellus Bennett. On the defensive side, Emery let linebackers Nick Roach and Brian Urlacher walk, franchised Henry Melton, and signed linebackers D.J. Williams and James Anderson to one-year deals. Most other deals have been for depth, special teams contributors and back-ups.
But see? Emery has been investing in the offense, while plugging holes in the defense.
This shift in philosophy makes sense. The rules have been altered in recent years to benefit offenses, and prolific offenses have been very successful in the modern NFL. It's nice to have a stingy defense, but if your team can't put points on the board, you're kind of sunk.
Are Bears fans ready? Are they prepared to watch the team give up yards and points and just get key stops? Will they appreciate a big-boy NFL offense when it comes to their hometown? If it produces results and brings a championship to Chicago, they'll love it.
If Emery's plan fails, this town will skewer him without remorse.