Lesson learned: Offense wins
CHICAGO – Before he embarked on a coaching search that has included more than a dozen candidates in two countries, Phil Emery outlined the Bears’ main problem.
“We have had defensive excellence,” Emery said. “We have had special-teams excellence. We have not had consistency on the offensive side of the ball.
“We have gone through a number of coordinators. We have searched for answers.”
The next answer should be a head coach who can unshackle the Bears’ offense.
As for who that coach should be, it’s tough to say without sitting in on every interview. Thirteen coaches have been linked to the Bears’ vacancy, including seven offensive coordinators, a Canadian Football League head coach, four special-teams coaches and Hall of Fame linebacker-turned-Vikings assistant Mike Singletary.
Fortunately, no penalty exists for too many men on the interview list.
Although Singletary’s rants would be wildly entertaining – “Cannot win with them! Can’t do it! I want winners!” – he would be the wrong fit for a team in need of an offensive mastermind.
And while special-teams coaches have proved to be successful head coaches in the past (Mike Ditka in Chicago, John Harbaugh in Baltimore), the Bears need someone with a successful track record as a play-caller.
That leaves eight offensive-minded coaches who have been linked to the Bears’ job opening, if you include former NFL assistant and current Montreal Alouettes coach Marc Trestman. More recognizable candidates include Indianapolis’ Bruce Arians, Denver’s Mike McCoy, Houston’s Rick Dennison and Green Bay’s Tom Clements.
Then again, Emery was not a big-name candidate when the Bears hired him to replace Jerry Angelo a year ago. He could hire a coach with similar under-the-radar credentials such as Tampa Bay’s Mike Sullivan or the well-traveled Trestman.
Regardless, Lovie Smith’s replacement must deliver a jolt to a long-dormant offense. If the Bears want to win the Super Bowl, they first need to cross the goal line.
Maybe it’s not a controversial point, but it’s one worth exploring.
By his own admission, Emery is a numbers guy. He thinks that statistics can be a valuable tool to identify league trends and determine strengths and weaknesses.
With that in mind, take a look at the eight teams that remain alive in the playoffs.
Seven of eight remaining playoff teams finished in the top half in total offense during the regular season. The only exception was the late-blooming Seattle Seahawks, whose offense finished one spot out of the top half at No. 17.
The Bears’ offense lagged far behind at No. 28, fifth from the bottom.
Hey, at least the Bears’ offense covered more ground than the Jacksonville Jaguars and, uh, the Arizona Cardinals. That has to be worth something, right?
Meanwhile, all eight remaining playoff teams finished in the top half in points scored during the regular season. The Bears finished No. 16 in points scored thanks to nine defensive touchdowns, but they trailed every team remaining in the playoffs.
None of this is to say that defense is irrelevant.
The Denver Broncos are the favorites to win the Super Bowl because they have a stout defense to go along with a terrific offense. And, yes, the Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers have dynamic quarterbacks and hard-nosed running backs, but no teams allowed fewer points than those two during the regular season.
But let’s face it. A good offense has become a requirement to win big in the NFL.
Emery seems to understand this reality.
His next hire will tell us for sure.
• Shaw Media sportswriter Tom Musick can be contacted at email@example.com.