Friday, September 11, 2009

Sunday Is the First Day of the Rest of Our Lives



Sunday night, around 7:00 o'clock pm central time, the 2009 Chicago Bears will take the field against the Green Bay Packers. The moment I've waited my entire Bears-fandom for, through all of the PT Willis's, Will Furrers, Steve Stenstroms, Rick Mirers, Cade McNowns, and Jonathan Quinns, will arrive when Jay Cutler, NFL quarterback takes the field for the first time in a regular season game with an orange C stuck on his helmet. Rick Morrissey would have you believe that I'm salivating over my mistaken belief that the Bears will win the Superbowl this year. What I'm salivating over is that they have a chance. This year, and next year. And every year that Jay Cutler takes the snaps for this team.

I'm not a huge fan of Chris Collinsworth (no matter how hilarious the comment about Cutler, Olsen, and Olsen's wife being a threesome was), but I have to agree with what he said during the Denver game, when he said "There are a lot of ways to win games in the NFL. You can win with defense, running games, field position, but the easiest way to win is with the quarterback." I hate Brett Favre more than any athlete currently playing (Bonds is involuntarily retired, so Brett wins), but I saw him take plenty of Packers teams that had less than stellar talent on offense and defense to the playoffs damn near every year. Granted, once he got there he usually was the reason they lost, but fuck that, I'm making a point. Name me one franchise quarterback who didn't make his team vastly better. Hell, Carson Palmer willed the Bengals to 11-5 once. It's time to put the Bears in that category. No more "if Rex Grossman can just play smart football and not lose games...", no more "if Kyle Orton can just manage the game and make a few plays...", no more "If Cade McNown would just fall off a cliff and die...". None of that. It's in the past. From now on its "The Bears may have some issues _____, but with Jay Cutler under center they can never be discounted."

I've got more faith in this year's defense than most, but I also think that even if they struggle, this team's still in the playoffs, or at least playing for a playoff spot the last week of the season. Since the day I was born this team has been 164-171. Considering the first thing I really remember is Wannstedt's first season, they've been 120-136. Say goodbye to that.

I realize some people are screaming that Cutler is 17-20 as a starter and obviously a quarterback isn't the Only thing you need, to which I wonder what record any previous Bears quarterback would have managed with the 29th ranked defense in the NFL. 8-8 is an outstanding accomplishment at that point. There will be down years with Cutler at quarterback. But an 8-8 "down year" is acceptable. Just knowing every year that they may only need to add one or two players to be right back in Superbowl contention feels good. Knowing that those one or two players won't include a quarterback is priceless.

But beyond Cutler, let's focus on some important things about this game-

-The defensive line- Everybody's healthy. Including Tommie Harris. If that, and all of Marinelli's work, doesn't result in a pass rush, nothing will. They'll get Rodgers on the run.

-The secondary- The Bears are playing it coy with Tillman's injury, but Lovie may have accidentally hinted at Peanut lining up at corner on Sunday. With that said, this is still beyond the scariest part of the team. If the defensive line doesn't get a rush, then hope that Cutler's experience with shootouts will come in handy.

-The linebackers- Everyone's claiming that Urlacher looks healthy again, which I'll buy when I see that. Pisa Tinoisamoa is a huge upgrade over the Hunter Hillenmeyer/Nick Roach combo used at that position last year. Lance Briggs is as good as it gets. They're going to be called upon to do a lot in coverage on Saturday. Still, if there's any part of the defense you can feel good about, it's these guys.

-The offensive line- The Packer's first round pick, defensive tackle BJ Raji, is doubtful with an injured ankle. This should hopefully bode well for the Bears run game. If Forte can get on track early, the rest of the offense will flow through him and Jay Cutler will make one hell of a first impression.

Honestly, this has been the longest offseason of my life. The loss against Houston wrapped up a disappointing season that left this team with far more questions than answers. No one knew where the hell this thing was going. Then April 2nd rolled around and Jerry Angelo told the team that it was time to win. On Sunday they get their first crack at it, and its about damn time.

Go Bears.