It’s always a curious time around the NFL when the draft ramps up, Chicago Bears fans being no exception.
Mock drafts are made, remade and endlessly debated back and forth, and every would-be GM tries to figure out just what it would take in their minds to make their favorite team better. Sometimes, fans really do know best (We should take Randy Moss, not Curtis Enis!), and other times, they show just exactly why they are fans, and not GMs (Devin Hester? Why the hell did we draft him? We just drafted a kick returner in Danieal Manning, and Hester doesn’t even play a real position! We’re screwed!).
And at the end of the drafting process, fans have already begun distancing themselves from guys they liked picked up by other teams, and talking themselves into loving who their team did pick up. But the Chicago Bears aren’t the fans, and they can no longer afford drafting mediocre talent and elevating just because they, like the fans, are trying to talk themselves into loving their draft choices.
This is a make or break year for the Chicago Bears, and it all starts here. Green Bay has a swath of talent, and the Bears are at a crossroads, one where they can as easily crash and burn as they can elevate and contend with Green Bay for a shot at the Superbowl. And the Bears know this – if they are to compete this year, they need not just an ok draft; they need a stellar one.
It’s the reason why there have been a number of changes in the organizational front end at Halas Hall when it comes to the drafting process, something which was made crystal clear by the joint Jerry Angelo – Tim Ruskell press conference. That in and of itself is news; Jerry is the GM, so why is Tim there? Much also was made of the changes Tim Ruskell brought to the process, including the greater emphasis on top round talent, rather than Angelo’s “play it safe” mode of operation by looking for gems in the lower rounds. Listen enough to Jerry, and it seems like Ruskell is really running the whole show when it comes to on-the-field talent. That’s because, he is.
Tim Ruskell was one of the first of the major changes made to the Chicago Bears well-documented failing drafting practices. While Tim is hardly a top end GM, he is an improvement in the talent evaluation department from Angelo, who’s hand has always been much better suited for the more organizational parts of the general manager position. In this way, the Bears have emulated the Bulls’ Gar-Pax, and have Angelo as the face, with Ruskell as the new brains behind personnel.
Other potential changes will be a lot more subtle in how the Bears will approach the draft. As it stands now, the Bears have an excellent evaluator of Offensive Line talent in Mike Tice, and Martz is no slouch either. Both are men with plans and firm ideas in their minds as to how they want things done, and exactly what they like in a player. This is a marked departure from Ron Turner’s spahghetti style of picking up players and hoping they stick, with no real plan for them and no vision of what he wants to do and how to accomplish it. By having such visionaries in the war room, it can only help the Bears chances.
At the end of the day, the Bears can’t afford to mess this up. They need help along the offensive line, a new 3 Technique, they need to bolster the WR corps and try for a difference maker there, they need help on the corner, depth at linebacker, and the ever ongoing search for better safeties. And despite all that, they were a game away from the Superbowl.
The Bears need to land it this go-round. They are at a crossroads, where the right decision can put them in Superbowl contention for years to come, and the wrong decisions here can set the franchise back and likely be remembered as the beginning of the end for the current Bears regime. They know the stakes, and it will be interesting to see if come draft time, it’s the same old Bears, or if its a new beginning.
Chicago Bears, you are now on the clock. Go get em.