That was the thread I read this afternoon on the Chicago Bears message thread.
I understand the frustration of many Bears fans with the bleak current outlook of the 2010 season. With so many glaring holes and needs, its hard for even the most "unattached" Bears fan to say that there is anything to get overly excited for going into the Draft next month.
However, I will say is that there is hope for a competitive "season" (mind you that I did not say 2011+; which is an entirely different can of worms) if the Bears management can "pull a rabbit from a hat" in several key areas.
1.) Secondary-- The Cover Two system that the Bears employ has been missing a free safety since the oft-injured Mike Brown. Mike Brown has great football instincts and will make a fine coach one day. When he was on the field the defense clicked and played more instinctive and with a different vigor. When he was not there, the Bears defense suffered and big plays were had often. Is there a Mike Brown-like player in FA or the draft? There are some names in FA that are available and their are some late round "true" FS that are available, but the Bears have to be committed to getting one. Danieal Manning had the athletic ability to be a great FS, but I think management's intent to get him on the field playing as soon as possible by lining him up all over the field might have caused him some confidence issues as well as consistency at position. Mike Brown was ultimately going to be axed by Angelo for his inability to stay on the field, but Manning needed to be walked into the position; not rushed. Bears have to address this position in order to make their C2 system work in 2010. Its a must.
2.) Offensive Line-- I think the high rish/high reward mentaliy that the Bears have taken with the OL over the past 3 years has to end in 2010. You can't keep playing players who are past their prime, out of their natural position, or better served in a mentoring capacity at one of the key positions for this football team. Just by location alone, Chicago is better suited for teams who can run the ball effectively and play good defense. The play action pass is the "cherry on the top" for a high profile defense in Chicago. Point of emphasis: Everything works from the ground in Chicago football. That being said, you have to make sure you're putting your players where they are most effective and addressing needs at your pressure points on the line. In 2010, the Bears need to severe ties with Orlando Pace from a starting OT perspective and have him mentor young Chris Williams and Frank Omiyale at the tackle positions. The experiment with Omiyale at Guard needs to end and was probably predicated on Orlando Pace's arrival in Chicago. Move Omiyale to tackle and find a Guard in Free Agency. Bobbie Williams of the Cincinnatti Bengals is available this year and could be had for a modest salary (certainly not cheap) and a guaranteed starting position. According to Football Outsiders, Williams was one of the best run blocking guards in the NFL last year (ranking no. 3, I believe) and would be a good compliment to C. Williams on the left side of the line. Williams is the best lineman available in FA (in my opinion) and Guard is not as talented as other positions in the alter stages of the draft where the Bears will be making selections. The Bears HAVE to get something done outside of the draft in this position and not wait til TC cuts to pick up needed pieces.
3.) Find out if they really have a pass rushing DE in Mark Anderson?-- They can't continue to overlook the fact that a consistent pass rush is needed from one of their DEs. Alex Brown is a good run stopping end and I don't think they want to lose that in the starting lineup, but they have to find someone who can get pressure on the QB. Aaron Kampman is a name I like and I think would be a good fit on that DL. Kampman is coming off of a year where he was asked to play DE/OLB in a 3-4 in Green Bay and an injury the year before that. He was a force two years ago, but how that transcends to today is anyone's guess. Mine is that he can perform at a high rate if given a strong rotation. And one thing Chicago does have-- defensive lineman. If not, Aaron Kampman, they need to find someone to be a speed rush specialist behind Anderson in the lineup. There are some names in the draft that are intriguing, but all this shores around what type of commitment the Bears are going to make with Anderson.
If these three things are done, then I just see it being a thing of chemistry and timing before it pans out. I'm not disenchanted by the receiving corp as I think there is enough talent there. I think if Cutler comes into camp determined to put in work and make the necessary progress in his game he can potentially duplicate his pro bowl season in Denver, and I think the coaching staff has had some failures, but they have also had some past successes.
I know... I know... That's a lot of "if's", but I think they are not unattainble. Here's to a "competitive" 2010! Go Bears!