Commentary

Flawed Bears should miss playoffs

Even with free agency yet to begin, Bears face significant issues headed into 2011

Originally Published: July 5, 2011
By Ben Fawkes | ESPN Insider
Jay CutlerTom Hauck/Getty ImagesBears quarterback Jay Cutler might be running for his life again in 2011.

The Chicago Bears had a surprisingly successful season last year, winning the NFC North with an 11-5 record and earning a bye in the playoffs before losing in the NFC Championship Game to the Green Bay Packers, the eventual Super Bowl champions.

With a (possible) franchise quarterback in Jay Cutler and a perpetually strong defense, expectations are high in Chicago for this coming season. But should they be?

In reality, the Bears are a deeply-flawed team and last season's success -- including five games won by five points or fewer -- masked Chicago's true deficiencies. This year they will be hard-pressed to duplicate last season, and make it back to the playoffs.

There are several reasons. But they boil down to the Bears' offensive line issues, a lack of offensive playmakers and several intangibles working against them.

Let's go to the evidence.

Offensive line issues

There's really no way to sugarcoat this: Chicago's offensive line was horrific last season. The unit was so awful that it provided the turning point of the season in Week 4, when the New York Giants knocked Jay Cutler out of the game (concussion) with nine first-half sacks. After that game, offensive coordinator Mike Martz finally relented -- realizing that no one was going to be comparing the Bears' offense to the Greatest Show on Turf anytime soon -- and decided to keep a running back or tight end in to block, rather than send them downfield.

Evidence of this move was reflected in Cutler's YPA over the course of the season: In the three games before the Giants game, Cutler's YPA was 9.45; in the 12 games after, it was 6.77.

Martz was forced to rely on short, quick-hitting passes within his adjusted scheme, knowing that the offensive line couldn't hold up long enough for slow-developing routes that required five- and seven-step drops.