Matt Trowbridge: Bears need to simplify offense
Our biggest sports legends seemingly did everything. Michael Jordan led the NBA in scoring 10 times and made first-team all-defense nine times. Babe Ruth pitched and hit. Jim Thorpe dominated track and college football and played baseball in the majors.
But they are legends for a reason. Normal mortals can’t do it all. We don’t want Shaq shooting free throws, much less 3-pointers. Bo Jackson, the only All-Star in both baseball and football, made commercials saying he could do anything, even play hockey and jam with Bo Diddley, but he couldn’t.
Bo’s legend far exceeded his results. He may have been far better, in either football or basketball, if he had picked just one.
Less is often more in the sporting world. The best wrestlers rely on just a few pet moves. Shaq dunks. Jared Allen rushes the quarterback. Peyton Manning stays in the pocket. Albert Pujols doesn’t bunt. Even Jordan seldom shot 3-pointers.
They do what they do best. And they keep doing it. It’s time for an underwhelming Bears offense to do the same.
“If we’re doing too much, we’ll cut back, and obviously we are, because we’re making too many mistakes,” offensive coordinator Ron Turner said Sunday after Chicago beat the Browns 30-6.
Sounds good. Except head coach Lovie Smith wants to stay balanced, even when balance isn’t working.
“We’re committed to the run as much as anything,” Smith said. “Even when you are not getting yards, sometimes you have to stay committed to it, which we will do.”
Running when you’re not getting yards doesn’t wear anyone down except your own punter. Even after doubling their season average with 170 rushing yards Sunday, half of them on quarterback scrambles and garbage-time runs by Garrett Wolfe, the Bears are tied for 26th in the NFL in rushing.
It’s time, as Turner hinted, to give up the dream. Everyone wants to be the Saints, who rank fourth in rushing and sixth in passing. But the Bears can’t look like the Saints any more than your neighbors can look like Megan Fox and Hugh Jackman. The Bears can’t run. What they can do is build around Jay Cutler.
Cutting back won’t be enough. The Bears must cut back to the right stuff. That means switching to a shotgun offense.
Matt Forte can’t find holes to run through? They’ll be easier to see on draw plays out of the shotgun
Jay Cutler doesn’t have time to throw? He’ll have more time with the shotgun; his two longest passes Sunday — 28 and 31 yards — both came out of the gun.
And if a switch to the shotgun means the Bears start throwing two-thirds of the time, all the better.
There is no disgrace in fielding a poor running game in today’s NFL. Look at the standings. The three worst rushing teams in the NFL — the Colts, Chargers and Cardinals — all made the playoffs last year, and all have winning records this year. The unbeaten Colts, No. 30 in rushing, may be the NFL’s best team. The Cardinals were last a year ago and almost won the Super Bowl, while the Colts were 31st and won 12 games.
Only one of the five leading rushing teams in the NFL has a winning record, and that’s the Saints, who are also No. 6 in passing. The top 16 passing teams are all winners, including a 38-12 mark from the top seven.
That includes the Bears at No. 15.
“Somehow, we’re not quite getting it,” right guard Roberto Garza said of the offensive line. “We’re obviously doing some things right, but we still have a ways to go.”
The easiest way to go there is to pick the things the Bears are doing right and do it more often. Simplify the offense, but do it the right way. More runs up the middle will just make things worse. More Cutler, and more time for Cutler, is the only hope. For the offensive line. For the running game. And for Cutler.
Rockford Register Star Assistant Sports Editor Matt Trowbridge can be reached at (815) 987-1383 firstname.lastname@example.org.