A Bears expert — one of hundreds pontificating 24/7 on local airwaves — offered hosannahs to Jay Cutler’s improved body language during the exhibition season. We listeners immediately felt better about the upcoming NFL campaign.
No more pouty-face? Hey, it’s something.
There’s a new coach — a two-time Super Bowl participant, mind you — a new general manager, a half-roster of new players, new offensive and defensive schemes, even new food items on the menu at Soldier Field. And rarely, if ever, has the buzz accompanying the start of a Bears season been quieter.
Good thing it’s the Packers as the opponent, or Sunday’s opener might be relegated to tire-ad territory in the back pages of the morning dailies.
Heh-heh. Just seeing if you’re paying attention.
The car trip that included the Cutler body-language observation lasted 20 minutes, long enough for two other experts to weigh in on the essence of the modern NFL. It’s a coaches’ league, one declared with absolute certainty, only to be contradicted by an equally firm assertion that quarterbacks deal the cards.
If I’m a Bears fan, I’m hoping the first guy is right.
But whatever happened to ‘‘defense wins championships’’?
Amid the airwaves’ endless enticements for fantasy-league fortunes, so many experts offer so many opinions that they tend to run together. Thus you listen for the few who stand out. Ol’ Dan Hampton is still around to remind us how it was in ’85, and to suggest we drive a Chevy. Venerable Hub Arkush comes across as a religious elder, chosen for direct communication with the football gods and charged with interpreting their wisdom for us mortals. When Zach Zaidman gets rolling, I think back to Jules Bergman covering space shots for ABC News in the ’60s: awestruck wonder at the spectacle he’s witnessing.
And now Brian Urlacher is joining the chattering class. Hoo, boy. It’s always amusing when an athlete who was disdainful of media interaction changes colors and becomes one of us.
It can’t be the money . . . can it?
Not to put anybody out of work, but you don’t need an expert or an insider to convey one immutable truth about the 2015 Bears: They don’t have enough good players to improve upon the 5-11 showing of last year that brought about drastic regime change.
Oh, John Fox might sneak up on somebody here or outscheme somebody there — he went to the tournament and won a playoff game with Tim Tebow at quarterback, remember — but this group looks to have more in common with the Bobby Douglass Bears than it does Jim McMahon’s.
I was 2,000 miles away from the force of nature that was 1985, involved with a team that came to regard winning as its birthright. But I didn’t need the Bears’ men-among-boys run through that season’s playoffs to know they were a scary-good team. In all the years they mattered, nobody manhandled the San Francisco 49ers the way those Bears did in a 26-10 mauling at Candlestick Park on Oct. 13. Nobody ever.
Excellence, though, is harder to sustain than it is to achieve, so I’ve always been dubious of the ‘‘greatest ever’’ talk that remains a given in local folklore. It has been 30 years, but those swaggering Bears and their in-your-face aura had such a profound effect on Chicago’s psyche that we still want to believe this coach or that player is all that’s needed to restore the magic.
With the bottom so clearly in sight, maybe the narrative changes.
Or maybe not. The road to 1985 began with George and Mugs Halas’ realization that a rapidly evolving game/business had passed them by; thus their willingness to turn over all things football to Jim Finks. That was the last time the Bears had a true football guy, one of the best, as their top decision-maker.
Since Finks lieutenant/successor Jerry Vainisi was fired in 1987, there always has been a McCaskey or Ted Phillips looking over the top football guy’s shoulder. Isn’t it scary that they thought Phil Emery was a good idea, not to mention Marc Trestman? And they’ll be passing judgment on how well Fox and Ryan Pace clean up the mess McPhillips has bequeathed them? The clown car is driving in circles.
Time for a recall and a recalibration. Blow it up and start over, like the Cubs, who for more than a century have dealt almost exclusively in hope. Now, after a complete makeover, they’re about to deliver something that was worth the wait.
Thirty years is a hiccup by comparison.