I picked up My Chicago Tribune today, and right there on the Sports front was the ferocious Bears logo wearing a New Year’s Eve hat with a noisemaker shoved into its roaring mouth over the headline “Playoffs or Bust.’’
Dang, we have to fill out what we call a correction form and run an explanation of our mistake on Page 2 of the main section.
Because the headline was wrong. Oh, our Bears boys Rich Campbell and Dan Wiederer did a terrific job of playing point-counterpoint on why the Bears could make the playoffs or not. That was their assignment.
The problem was the assignment. I’m here to fix that because, as is known around the world, I’m a pleaser, not a teaser. The assignment should’ve been Super Bowl or bust.
Because that’s the only acceptable outcome. That’s the object of the exercise. It’s why the Bears play the game.
I don’t much care that Vegas set the Bears futures line at 8½ wins. Vegas isn’t handicapping teams. Vegas is handicapping money bet on teams. If Bears fans had pounded their team the way they are known to do, the line would’ve moved to, I don’t know, 9½ or 10 wins, based on money, not Jimmy Clausen’s viability as a backup.
Speaking of that position, I don’t want to be reminded that Jay Cutler said last year a new offense takes three years. Nope. Can’t. Shut up. You got your massive contract this year. Earn it.
Look, Jay, you had a season with Marc Trestman -- well, part of a season, what with your reguarly scheduled injury -- and you got to experience modern offensive thinking. Modern and mind-blowing. I mean, Trestman was Steve Jobs in navy and orange.
Cutler, then, should’ve learned what the offense can and cannot do. That’s also true for the coach who wrote the playbook. If Trestman is as smart as he looks, then he has burned the pages that don’t work.
*Cough* Red zone. *Cough.*
And there you go, one of the most explosive offenses in the league becomes better. With a stud such as Brandon Marshall, a better Alshon Jeffery, a Pro Bowl Matt Forte and the revelation that was Martellus Bennett in September, one of the most explosive offenses becomes downright scary, like Reggie Herring’s outdoor voice.
You know what else makes this offense scarier? The new defense. Specifically the defensive line. That’s where it all starts because that’s where it immediately ended for the Bears last season.
Look at that: The Bears have a big-boy defensive line, starting with Hall-of-Fame pass rusher Jared Allen. Lamarr Houston will plug up the middle or terrorize on the other end. Jeremiah Ratliff says he’s healthy, and maybe Stephen Paea isn’t a stiff or hurt again.
Which means the Bears won’t be the absolute worst, most embarrassing run defense. Which means they have earned the right to rush the passer. Which means they will improve on their utterly pathetic, totally inept pass rush. Which means the dead pool that is the safety position will be protected, if not hidden completely.
The defensive line is where the Bears spent almost all of their free-agent money. Houston and Willie Young signed early, Allen signed late, and just like that, Bears general manager Phil Emery orchestrated along the defensive line the kind of miracle he managed last year on the offensive line.
The Bears saw the same messes you saw the last two seasons. The Bears addressed those messes the way you would’ve, as well. I haven’t heard anyone say “all the pieces are in place,’’ but most of them are. They have to be.
The NFL is not a league in which you build. It has become a league in which you go for it. Now. Don’t give me the Patriots. They haven’t won a Super Bowl since that fat gasbag Charlie Weis was the offensive coordinator in 2004.
The NFL has become the league where half the playoff teams on average fail to qualify the next season. Just look at Lovie Smith’s Bears. They lost the Super Bowl and missed the playoffs the next three years. They lost the conference championship game in 2010 and still haven’t qualified for the postseason.
It’s not a matter of taking steps. This isn’t daycare. Think about it: If the Bears get to the NFC championship game and lose again, is this season a success?
No. Didn’t think so. Now you’re with me. Football Yoda says win the Super Bowl. Or do not. There is no try to make the playoffs.