To most normal people, the first week of the NFL season is a time a wide-eyed hope and good thoughts for the future; "every team is 0-0" and whatnot. Of course, for at least 50% of those puddinheads, any peaceful easy feeling they might have had about the year goes down in nightmarish flames in the first couple weeks, usually taking at least three starters to Injured Reserve in the process. But you see, that sort of thing rarely happens to me, because I'm not normal people, and I know better. And I know that the recent history of the Chicago Bears is the same every year: Show just enough to make people think they might be good next year, squeak out some ugly wins over losers, get blown out by all the real teams, somehow manage to split the series with the Packers, then either go somewhere between 7-9 and 9-7, missing the playoffs, or go 11-5, then lose in soul-crushing fashion in a game that counts. But when comparing last year's off season to the one that just happened, and especially after watching the Colts game, holy crap, dudes, something actually seems different this time. I'm pretty sure that at some point either earlier this year (or maybe even late last year when the Bears' season was over while still having games left on the schedule) I made reference to Roy Williams or someone like that being pretty much the Symptom of the Chicago Bears, in as much as he was a living example of everything that was wrong at the time. (As opposed to the Symptom of the Universe, which is a love that never dies.) As a shitty player that everyone knew was shitty but got signed anyway, because he was cheap and willing and because he had played some small part in a coach's (real or imagined) past success, it was all right there in one big human ball of shit. And holy hell, with Jerry Angelo gone, a new GM around, and me making the mental leap to stretch a few performances from Sunday into an indicator of the future season as a whole, it's even more apparent that the Roy Williams era of Chicago football may have finally died a terrible death. Because when I think to the way the Chicago offense played, it suddenly hits me that all of the new guys they signed, drafted, or traded for and put into major roles affected the team in a positive way, and none of them were directly tied to Lovie Smith or Mike Tice in the past. And not only this, but to put a big-ass damning spotlight on the way the team used to be run, almost all of them were brought in to replace someone who was supposed to make everything better last year. To sum shit up all nice-like, it's looking an awful lot like the Bears are actually going after players that might logically help them, rather than just settling for Senor Spielbergo and their cheaper, non-union equivalents.
The most obvious of all was Brandon Marshall, the guy you've all heard of, who looked goddamn near uncoverable at times, like a slightly smaller, way slower, but still fairly unstoppable Calvin Johnson. The Bears finally have a true Number One Receiver™ for the first time since... Hell, I dunno, Marcus Robinson and Marty Booker were both really good for like a year apiece, I guess? Harlon Hill? Christ, like ever, maybe? Barring injury, the dude is almost a lock to break every meaningful single-season team receiving record, not to mention that the gaggle of slot guys and deep threats the Bears usually have masquerading as the main guy might actually get open once in a while. Most importantly, a real receiving threat forcing opponents to actually drop people back into coverage on any given play means that they can't just tee off on the Bears still pretty makeshift offensive line with seven or eight guys at a time. It's a crazy-ass development that as a Bears fan, I still can't quite wrap my head around, because outside of a one year wonder or two, the wide receiver position has been a complete dead zone for this team for almost my entire life. Crazy. The thing is, under the Old Ways, Roy Williams was the guy who was supposed to do and be all of these things. Roy-ass Williams who had been forgotten for years and only remember to be the subject for a joke. And I know, Marshall is no sure thing with the kind of past that guy has had, but you have to admit, no matter how many times his brain has flipped the script and he and his wife have decided to headbutt each other over the side of a mountain or whatever, it's never affected what he's done on the field. Not to mention that unlike all the other head-case wide receivers that litter the NFL, Marshall's borderline personality disorder gives him the street cred of being legitimately messed-up in the head, as opposed to the Randy Mosses of the world who just saw Jerry Maguire too many times and decided to try living out their stupid Cuba Gooding Jr. pouty superstar fantasies. Marshall has reasons for the weird things he's done; Roy Williams and dudes like him are just assholes.
And Brandon Marshall wasn't the only case like that who I saw Sunday. The guy I noticed the most was rookie fullback/tight end/h-back/executive chef/forklift driver/whatever Evan Rodriguez, who took over for gritty, hard-working fan favorite Tyler Clutts, and seemed to be right there plowing a path for every time Matt Forte and Michael Bush made positive gains. Last year, the Bears just plucked Clutts off someone's practice squad and made him a starter at the last minute, and the dude was a mess. He had a blocking technique that consisted of just madly flopping around like a catfish that had been sprayed with mace; just diving at whoever was in front of him and missing a good seven-eighths of the time. Of course, the eighth time when he actually knocked a guy over, the announcers would just freak out, telling you his whole harrowing journey through the Arena league and wherever else he had come from, because they had those note cards right there, and they had to get that out of the way eventually. Mostly, he just ended up with his dick in the dirt, while Forte fought valiantly to juke the dude he was supposed to have been blocking. Now, he's been traded to Houston, and I suppose they'll like him there, because I figure that's a place where they're real sympathetic to below-average, blond white dudes who just lost their job because their boss figured out that they could get the job done cheaper and more efficiently with a guy named Rodriguez. Then, there's Michael Bush at running back, doing the job that Marion Barber was supposed to do last year, taking all the short yardage, smash-people-in-the-face runs and adding a couple years to Matt Forte's career in the process. Not to mention Eric Weems, taking over the special teams, all-around utility WR role that Sam Hurd was supposed to have last year, except that Weems is also a kick-ass return guy who can screw with teams trying to kick away from Devin Hester. Not to mention that he's not pushing keys of coke on the side. That's kind of important. Overall, what I'm seeing is that the Bears approached the off season with a plan for any sort of future, rather than the old way of doing things. Last year, it was like this was a Madden franchise that had run out of cap room and still needed 9 new starters before the computer would let them play a game, so they just said "Well, that guy there, he only wants $600,000 and he exists. Suit him up." Now, it's like they're actually thinking and getting the guys they want, rather than just struggling to hit the magic number of 53 dudes.And hell, add in Alshon Jefferey as Marshall's twisted little Mini-Me and you've started adding new pieces to the machine, instead of just replacing the broke-ass old ones all the time. Such is the way of champions, probably.
But really, enough about all that. The Bears stomped all over Peyton Junior and the Colts, but really, it was just one game, it was just the stupid Colts, (Weird to think of the Colts as a dismissible team after the last decade-plus) and it's over now. There's bigger issues at hand, and those are the Green Bay Packers. Really not sure what to think of this one, as I'm not sure what to think of the Packers right now. I know, the 49ers beat up on them pretty good, and people are acting like this is some perfect storm of opportunity, where the Bears and their fancy new offense are going to steam into Lambeau and assert their new-found dominance over the NFC North the old country way. But really, I don't buy the Packers as a team in shambles so much as it was a case of the 49ers being that ridiculously good right now. And the Bears are more vulnerable than the Colts game would make them appear, with a lot of "yeah, but"s attached to the win, with the biggest being that it was a game against the Indianapolis Colts. The Packers are going to be pissed off and unwilling to drop to 0-2 against their biggest rival, and there's Charles Tillman's playing tonight, but there's no guarantee he'll be in there all night. If Andrew Luck's rookie ass was able to put up big numbers against the side of the Bears secondary that didn't have Tim Jennings on it once he went down, what will Aaron Rodgers do? Behind Tillman and Jennings, the Bears have no secondary to speak of, and things could get really bad if Rodgers remembers that Kelvin Hayden exists. Of course, the Packers themselves won't have Greg Jennings, (I guess he's not gonna put da team on he back this time.) so if Tillman does play, chances improve drastically. If you shut down the pass, you shut down the Packers, because that's really all they have. Of course, if you can apparently go 15-1 that way, it might be all they need. The big difference this time is that if the Packers do wild out and start scoring points all over the place, the Bears might actually be able to shoot back a few times. So as much as I'd love to sit here and tell you people that the Bears are going to devastate and destroy the Packers so hard that they have to disband the team, and that Cedric Benson will literally have his soul ripped out of his body by the dreaded Uberklaw, and that Clay Matthews Jr. will be so utterly destroyed by the Bears suddenly-competent offensive line that his children shall weep, for they will never again see their dear father's face, the reality is that it probably won't happen that way. I'm guessing it'll be a long and ugly game, but rather than ugly in the Bears vs. Packers way, with running and defense and all, that it'll be ugly in more of a 21st century NFL Lawyerball way, where quarterbacks go nuts, a brand name is plastered to every surface, and physical contact of any kind will be subject to heavy financial penalty. And a lot of points will be scored. And since I'm feeling pretty positive right now, looking more to embrace a destiny than accept a fate, I'm saying the Bears win.
PREDICTION: BEARS 38, PACKERS 31
Just sucks that I'll probably have to be in bed before the second quarter starts. Fuck Thursday Night games.