Thank you NFL Lockout: Just how good can the Bears be?
The NFL lockout is a fixture for football fans right now and has dominated much of the conversation when it comes to talking about our favorite sport. If you read a lot of what’s being written right now, you will see that many writers using the phrase “depending on how the lockout turns out” or “when the lockout ends”.
Truth be told, the lockout has control over everything that happens in the NFL this coming season. Its impact is much bigger and much broader than most people realize and it’s going to have a gigantic effect on just how well teams do in 2011.
Even if the lockout ended right now things would still be problematic for the 2011 season.
Using the Bears as our example, let’s see just how the lockout is going to affect this team and their potential performance for the upcoming season.
Offseason Workouts-As much as players complain about these three day long events they do help get the team chemistry put together, especially when there are new players (such as free agents or draftees) involved. If there are new wrinkles that the offensive or defensive coordinator wants to put in they typically do it during the offseason workouts.
And that’s not going to happen this offseason.
Perhaps the most important aspect of these off season workouts is getting rookies up to speed. Rookies come into the NFL with some idea of what they can expect to start but they have no idea of how they will fit and play in their new system. They will get a playbook but that playbook means nothing if they don’t have the terminology figured out and don’t have time to work with the coaching staff to learn the playbook.
Individual Time with Coaches-This was eluded to previously as rookies especially need to have some individual time with the coaching staff to learn the system and get ready for their roles. There may be some other players, in particular players that are projected to be starters next year or any new players that were acquired before the lockout that need to learn the new system as well. The lockout is clearly putting them behind in being able to help the team in 2011.
There are some Bear’s players, especially guys like quarterback Jay Cutler, who need to get with their coaching staff to start working on things for next season. There is a huge benefit to Cutler working with offensive coordinator Mike Martz and not having that time in the offseason is going to hurt the Bears offense when things finally get going.
Gabe Carimi is another perfect example of someone that needs time with the coaching staff to help get him ready for his first season. Offensive line coach Mike Tice would be able to help get him better prepared for the coming season and might even give him enough help to allow him to work at the left tackle position in 2011.
Yet another negative product of the NFL’s lockout.
Training Camp-I am sure that you have heard that players hate training camp. It’s long, it’s usually hot and for veterans it’s usually redundant. But it does have its value. Training camp allows for younger players, in particular draftees and undrafted free agents, to learn the system, work with the veterans and find their place on the team.
Its value cannot be underestimated.
So will the Bears or any other team for that matter be able to have a good season in 2011 with the restrictions that have been placed on them by the lockout?
The offseason is used by every team to prepare for one thing and that’s to win a lot of games the next season. Everything is geared towards making sure that they put the best players on the field in a system that works as well as it possibly can. They can get a good look at their players working together and the preseason games allow them to see how all of their players work against actual opponents. They also get to look at what some of those “fringe” players look like.
An abbreviated preseason would give the Bears less time to get things put together, not allow them to find out what they have in their players and not have much time to look at (and much less sign) undrafted free agents. This will decrease the quality of play in 2011 and quite possibly hurt the Bear’s chances of making the playoffs.
Needless to say the Bears may not be getting back to the playoffs in 2011 but then it’s hard to predict just which teams might. They are all in the same situation the Bears are in.