The Chicago Bears found the right man when they hired Lovie Smith to become a head coach for the first time in his NFL career. Smith worked his way up on the defensive side of the ball, coaching linebackers, defensive backs, and then defensive coordinator for a couple of seasons. In Smith’s nine seasons, the Bears reached the playoffs three times, made a Super Bowl appearance, and Smith won a Coach of the Year Award. Chicago being the 3rd, Smith ha coached four NFL teams and eight before coaching at this level. He is one of the coaches that helped develop the Tampa-2 defense, and he was a defensive coordinator for the St. Louis Rams when they made a Super Bowl appearance. By the way, that was his first defensive coordinator position, where he turned the league’s worst defense into the 7th-best.
Chicago also appeared to have hired the right man in Marc Trestman, after naming him a head coach for the first time in his NFL career. Trestman was actually out of the NFL for seven years. Hs last stop was his first head coaching role, for the Montreal Alouettes in the Canadian Football League (CFL). That is where the Alouettes reached the championship game in three straight years, winning the two consecutive championships, and Trestman also won a Coach of the Year Award. After an offensively promising first season, the Bears took a step back and Trestman was out after two seasons. A former quarterbacks and running backs coach, Trestman worked his way around eight NFL teams to become offensive coordinator and assistant head coach. In his first season with the Bears they won eight games, the most by a Chicago rookie head coach since 1956. In that 2013 season the Bears scored the 2nd-most points, racked up the 5th-most yardage, and it resulted in breaking a few offensive team records. Unfortunately, Smith had a better era and the plug was pulled on this offseason.
The Denver Broncos and John Fox parted ways, and the Bears hope they found the right man. Joining his 8th NFL team and nine before that, Fox’s path consistent of defensive backs to defensive coordinator, and this will be the 3rd team he will be a head coach for. Fox has the most experience of the last three head coaches, which goes to show that they believe in the talent but it needs discipline. There has been a lot of turnover on the roster in recent seasons, as many of the key players from their Super Bowl run has moved on. Reflecting on his first two stops as a head coach, Fox took each team to the Super Bowl. That’s an appearance for the Jake Delhomme and the Carolina Panthers, as well as Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. The same Broncos that made the playoffs and beat the Pittsburgh Steelers with Tim Tebow at the helm.
What we do know, is that Fox will improve the secondary, and that Matt Forte will be the focal point and deservedly so. I strongly believe we can see Jay Cutler bounce back, but that’s if he gets the Bears do what the Dallas Cowboys did for Tony Romo. All signs point towards Fox predicating the offense on the ground, and Forte is an elite running back, but this will also ease Cutler’s pressure with play-action. Last time I checked, Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery are an elite tandem at wide receiver, with Martellus Bennett in his prime. Chicago changed their strategy by bringing in a seasoned leader with previous success. The Bears believe they can put a band aid on the locker room, return to the playoff picture, and hope Fox can take his 3rd team (as head coach) to the big game like he did his first two.
To take a quick glance at the NFC North, all teams return with their front offices and coaching staff in tact. Green Bay has won the division the last couple of years and consistently reach the playoffs, while Detroit have a couple of recent playoff appearances. Another season with Mike Zimmer fine-tuning the defense, I really like Minnesota’s future, especially if Adrian Peterson is part of it like he should be. The Bears will have their work cut out for them in the NFC North, let alone the NFC, because the larger scale shows a strong NFC West with the NFC East on gradually on the rise again. Then you have to believe that Drew Brees or Matt Ryan start challenging Cam Newton again for the NFC South, and after all, Lovie Smith in Tampa Bay will make themselves heard at some point too. All the Bears are looking for is that balance, so it will be interesting to see who Fox brings in at offensive coordinator. Fox has the role of getting the defense back on the radar like Smith once did, help groom and maybe find leaders in the locker room, and a play-caller that can get the offense going like Trestman started to.
Drawing from his overachievement with the Panthers, I expected more with the Broncos just like GM John Elway did. This is a great fit for both the team and coach, and I expect to see an improved team in the playoff hunt, at least in early December. The Packers should be the favorite. I don’t think the Lions will keep their elite defense together, but they did install some offensive structure with the addition of Jim Caldwell. The Vikings don’t know how to win together yet. The door is open, maybe Randall Cobb leaves GB in free agency, we’ll find out soon enough. The offense just needs staff leadership and discipline to trickle down, so that player roles can be identified and carried out. The offseason should reveal a focus in defensive talent for Fox to work with, even more so is Charles Tillman and Lance Briggs are the next exiting veterans.