Bear fans are generally enthused by the 9-7 record of the 2008 team.
I'll take the other side.
Here's why. That 9-7 record that almost made the playoffs really looked like this-
2 wins against Detroit. 1 against St. Louis. 1 against Jacksonville. 1 against Green Bay. 5 of 9 wins against teams in the bottom 3rd of the league. You should win those games and the Bears did. Congratulations. Whoop-Tee-Do.
The other 4 wins are impressive aren't they ? Well, really not so much.
Win 1 - Indianapolis- Manning had been out for the entire pre-season, Harrison played his first game since week 7 the year before, Jeff Saturday was out, mike pollack was out, Dwight Freeney hadn't practiced due to injury. These things happen. A good win for the Bears but If any of those players is at full strength maybe the win is not a win. 8-8.
Win 3- Minnesota - Gus Frerotte throws 4 INTS, you'd think that would be enough. Great Defense by the Bears Right ? Sort of How often does great Defense lead to a fumble recovered in the End Zone. In this game, twice. A block punt returned for a touchdown. That's 21 points on things you just don't see that often. Minnesota won the Time of Possession, The Passing Yards, The Rushing Yards and had 20 more plays. But lost on 3 plays. These things happen. 6-10.
Win 4 - New Orleans - It was outside, In December. Again the Saints are very similar to the Lions when playing outside in December. Scheduling anomaly. These things happen. 5-11.
Those 4 wins against teams not mired in the bottom 3rd of the league were by a total of 30 points, 16 of them courtesy of the indianapolis game. The Saints game was an overtime struggle. The Kansas City Chiefs beat the Saints by 10 outdoors in November by December they may have had them by 20.
The Bears managed more net yards than their opponents 5 times on the season.
The Defense ranked 21st in the league. The rush defense was 6th overall and allowed only 3.4 yards a rush, but they also allowed plays of over 20 yards. The pass defense gave up the 3rd most yards in the league and allowed QB's to complete nearly 62% of their passes. That defense led by Urlacher, Briggs, Harris, Ogunleye, Brown, Anderson didn't do the corners any favors by getting into the backfield either - they were in the bottom 3rd of the league in Sacks too.
The Offense ranked 26th in the league. 24th in rushing. 21st in passing. When you rank that low in both categories there's only one constant - line play.
What went right ?
Special Teams. Takeaways. Turning those turnovers into scores.
What went wrong ?
The offensive line continues to age, there's still no number one WR, there's still no number 1 QB (hey I love Orton but the Coaching staff has never seemed to hand Kyle the reigns and say "do it" the way they did with Rex).
The Future ?
Let's see Rex Grossman in a Jaguars uniform, Kevin Jones out, Des Clark possibly moving out, Mike Brown looking like a big loss, and fans calling for names like Boldin, Jacobs, Leftwich, Houshmanzadeh, and Peppers.
The real target for this team should be potential Free Agent Jordan Gross at OT. Maybe the injured Dawan Landry at S from Baltimore. Maybe a short term deal for Pete Kendall from the Skins. And Veteran Chris Simms to back up and potentially challenge Kyle Orton. I like Ryan Moats as competition for Garrett Wolfe as the change of pace back too. Big list.
The Draft - should always be about the best player 1st and the best player for your system 2nd. The Bears haven't had a lot of luck with that in recent years.
This year - I'd move down if I could - Because I feel Orton, Simms and Hanie are strong enough at QB, the DE rotation is decent, the CB's are ok when healthy. The key addition should be 1. OLB 2. WR 3. OL in no particular order.
Stay away from Herman Johnson - he's the second coming of Aaron Gibson, Mike Davis, and Leonard Davis (maybe he ate one of them), Andre Smith falls into this category too. I like Jason Smith - former TE- good feet, and William Beatty but I think Gardner from Ga Tech is a solid technician who could be had later in the Draft.
I'd love to see a power blocker like Wisconsin's Keith Urbik worked into the rotation at G.
All the talk at C is about Alex Mack but A.Q. Shipley has some fight in him and is similarly sized to Olin, Ed Williams would be a bigger body.
I like Derrick Williams from Penn State as a WR and this draft has a lot of Big Bodied WR's that could help.
But if the Bears are going with that Lovie Smith style defense the one thing they've been missing since Tank Johnson left is the Tackle next to Harris. Ricky Jean Francois from LSU would be a perfect fit.
AT OLB Jonathon Casillas from Wisconsin, Anthony Heygood from Purdue, Geno Johnson from IU, and Marcus Jones seem like fits (combine and workouts not withstanding) and the Philistin kid at Maryland.
Not a STAR among my guys. I'd rather have football players.
But I'm sure Jerry Angelo has other plans.