Footballs sits on the goal line before a preseason NFL football game between the Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans, Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Updated: October 2, 2013 6:38AM
Finally, sports fans, after a long summer in purgatory, there may be a team worth watching.
Next Sunday, the Chicago Bears will take to the gridiron for their first regular season game, mercifully putting an end to watching the Sox and Cubs for all but the masochistic.
Yes, I know the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in June. That was great. But that was hockey, which shouldn’t be played in the summer.
And the only time people focus on hockey, outside of Canada, is when their basketball, baseball and football teams have no chance of winning anything.
This Bears team has shown promise in the exhibition season, but the truth is we don’t know how good they’re going to be. But at least there is hope.
Here’s hoping that our hometown football heroes are aggressive. I want to see them attack on offense and defense. I’m tired of the Lovie Smith-era, bend-but-don’t break defense.
It worked, more often than not. And it was fun to see “Peanut” Tillman punching the ball out of opponents hands. However, those of us old enough to remember the 1985 Bears Super Bowl champs remember what a great defense looked like.
Quarterbacks had no time to drop back and survey the field. Wide receivers who dared to come over the middle were hit so hard their eyeballs are still rolling around in their heads.
When Bears fans saw a third-and-nine coming up, they didn’t worry about the opposing team making a first down. They smiled in anticipation of a fourth-and-20.
That’s the sort of defense I want to see again in Chicago.
As for the Bears offense, while the New Orleans Saints, Manning-led Colts, Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers marching up and down the field on their opponents in recent seasons, the Bears have been trying to figure out if the forward pass is legal.
Quarterback Jay Cutler was supposed to bring an end to the era of three yards and a cloud of dust, and in some ways he has. Since Cutler arrived, the Bears have become a drop back and wince offense.
Admit it, every time Cutler steps back to pass, you hold your breath because you figure he’s going to get sacked. And if he doesn’t, he’s going to get rid of the football in a hurry and throw it to a defensive back.
That’s supposed to end this year with new head coach Marc Trestman, who’s hailed as an offensive genius. He’s going to have Cutler unleash passes at the speed of light. Opposing defenses aren’t going to have time to get to him.
Receivers are going to be running timing routes, meaning Cutler’s going to hit them on their breaks and defensive backs won’t know what’s happening.
This is a complex offensive system that’s going to give Cutler a lot of options and make opposing teams weep.
Hey, didn’t we hear all that a few years back, when offensive genius Mike Martz was hired by the Bears? I’m sure I read the same stories word-for-word and heard TV analysts make the same sort of claims.
It all turned to grass on Cutler’s helmet when the offensive line couldn’t block and his receivers couldn’t get open and, when they occasionally did, they dropped the football.
Well, we’ve replaced every offensive lineman since that time. Cutler’s got a whole new group of receivers, including a tight end who, it is claimed, can catch the ball (although there’s little evidence of that so far).
We’re all hoping for great things. We’ve got to.
But the Bears are starting two rookie offensive linemen. For those who claimed the incompetence of the offense was all Lovie Smith’s fault, you ought to think about that.
The offensive line last year, like the year before and the year before that, was arguably the worst in the NFL. Starting two rookies proves it.
Rookie right guard Kyle Long, son of TV announcer and NFL Hall of Famer Howie Long, looks and acts like a Bear. Now we’ve got to hope he can stop defensive linemen from getting to his quarterback during a regular season game.
Playing next to him is rookie Jordan Mills at right tackle. I know nothing about him except that he can’t be worse than what we’ve had.
On the defensive side of the football, there’s another exciting rookie in Jon Bostic, a middle linebacker who hits people ... hard. Brian Urlacher he ain’t, but maybe that’s not such a bad thing.
The Chicago Bears have been as short on exciting players as they have been on real offensive linemen in the past few years.
Everybody in Chicago wanted to like Cutler. Heck, fans in this city have been waiting their entire lives for a quarterback who can throw the football the way he does.
Unfortunately, he whines a lot, points fingers at his teammates and rarely seems to come up with the key play at the key moment that turns a game around. He’s a hard guy to like.
In his defense, he hasn’t had an offensive line or wide receivers until Brandon Marshall arrived last year, and he also has been asked to run about a dozen different offensive schemes, none of which have worked.
That said, if I were to tell you that your team is down a touchdown on its 20 with less than 2 minutes in the game and you have to choose an NFL quarterback to lead them to victory, I think most Bears fans would name at least 10 different quarterbacks before Cutler.
It’s hard to even fantasize about the guy taking the team on his shoulders and leading them to the promised land. But I’m trying real hard. I want to believe. And this is Cutler’s contract year. The smell of money has a way of motivating people to greatness.
Most of all, however, I am looking forward to the Bears season because of Trestman. He doesn’t seem like the sort of guy who is going to tolerate mediocrity.
I get the feeling he wants to keep other teams on their heels, wondering what the Bears are going to do next on defense and offense, instead of allowing the opposition to dictate the pace of the game.
I don’t expect perfection. I’m not anticipating a Super Bowl. But I am looking forward to some fun. Let’s win a few games by 24 points. Score in the first quarter, get the lead and pour it on.
Defensively, I want to see more blitzes that pin these pass-happy quarterbacks back on their ears. At least let them feel some heat when they sit in the pocket, even if it means they get lucky and connect for a touchdown once in a while.
If you can score, if you have confidence in your offense, you don’t have to play it safe on defense. Unleash the Monsters of the Midway.
Man, I’m fired up now. Just one more week and it’s football season.
And, you know what, I’m a baseball guy.