What’s the Real Difference?

Rick Telander at the Chicago Sun-Times quotes cornerback Tim Jennings in a moment of candor when asked about the “new” Bears offense:

‘‘‘Let’s see how the season starts, let’s see how [head coach Marc Trestman] gets things going, how he reacts to pressure, when bodies start flying and everything starts to be real. I’m real curious to see how he manages the offense, and manage the whole team as well.’’’

‘’‘It’s very intense,’ said Jennings of the offense he watches from his DB position. ‘It’s up-tempo, and they’re working so hard.’’’

“But he added, ‘I can’t really tell the difference from last year, because all offenses kind of look the same to me. But the way they get in and out of the huddle, there’s intensity.’’’

I can’t tell the difference, either. Not exactly.

Oh I know there’s a difference between good offenses and bad offenses. Anyone who watches the San Francisco 49ers can tell. Any one who watched the old 49ers with their classic West Coast offense under Bill Walsh can really tell. But the question is “What’s the difference?” Like Jennings, I think they all more or less look the same with some variations.

Jennings seems to think it might be about “intensity”. But perhaps “concentration” would be a better term. The guess here is that if we’re going to see an improved Bears offense this year, it’s going to come down to execution. That’s both on the level of the individual player and how they work together as a team as a whole.

Yes, we talk about the X’s and O’s. General manager Phil Emery talks about how former offensive coordinator Mike Tice didn’t use the middle of the field. And that did hurt. But, really, the single biggest reason the offense failed last year was because quarterback Jay Cutler lost faith in his other receivers and fed the ball to Brandon Marshall in the air when he wasn’t handing it to Matt Forte on the ground. All 11 guys weren’t working in harmony with the coaching staff in a coordinated offense. If the Bengals come out in man coverage and the receivers can’t get open again, it’s not going to matter what Trestman does.

My guess is that it’s about keeping 11 guys all on the same page doing their jobs and limiting mistakes. One weak link and the whole process falls apart. That seems kind of obvious but it really isn’t. And even assuming you accept that, how you accomplish that goal is a whole different issue. Increasing the intensity with which you concentrate on what’s going on and what you are doing is probably a good place to start. But that’s certainly not where it ends. As Jennings reaction to the question demonstrates, the difference is a fine line that’s dependent on a lot of factors. No one can really tell if you’ve crossed it or not until you are actually under fire. That’s where the Bears offense will be on Sunday.

It’s been a long time since we’ve seen a good offense in Chicago that wasn’t an opponent. It hasn’t happened in my lifetime. And yet it’s fascinating that a veteran Pro Bowl cornerback who has been around the league and pretty much seen it all is as clueless as I am as to exactly where the Bears offense is at this point. Like Jennings, we’re all just waiting to see.

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