When the media were given an opportunity to watch the Chicago Bears practice during voluntary minicamps a month ago, the first thing that stood out was the tempo of the session. Under new head coach Marc Trestman, it was an up-tempo affair, with players being shuffled from drill to drill, spot to spot, with no time wasted.
When compared to the laid back practices of the Lovie Smith era, seeing the high-speed Trestman sessions in person was a bit of a shock. Yet that's why GM Phil Emery hired Trestman in the first place: because he's everything Smith isn't. From the way they speak, coach and practice, to the emphasis in personnel, Trestman is nearly the exact opposite of Smith.
This is especially so in their respective areas of expertise. Smith's focus was always the defense. In fact, his inability to find a decent offensive coordinator is the main reason he was fired. With Trestman, the offense is entirely under his control. If this team can't score points, it will be his fault. NFL scoring has reached record levels and Emery isn't going to allow the Bears to be left behind.
The spread offense, developed and perfected mainly at the college level, has taken over the NFL. Up-tempo systems that run tons of plays on offense are the soup du jour. It's the reason the Philadelphia Eagles were willing to break the bank to pry Chip Kelly from Oregon.
It's hard to predict Trestman's new offense, as he hasn't coached in the NFL since 2004, but based on the pace of his practices, it appears he's adopted the up-tempo philosophy sweeping the football landscape.
To further this point, look at the two offensive linemen Emery selected in this year's draft. First-round selection Kyle Long played for Kelly at Oregon, while fifth rounder Jordan Mills was a four-year starter at Louisiana Tech, a program that runs a spread offense similar to that of the Ducks.
"Because of their system, it's very interesting watching Louisiana Tech's tape. You're exhausted by the end of the day," Emery said. "I mean they average well over 100 plays a game. I watched them against (Texas) A&M and there might have been 110 (plays); Houston there might have been 106 (plays). When you break down, let's say they have three or four players on offense, and you watch that many plays, you're a tired puppy at the end of the day."
At Oregon, the offense runs so many plays that they are forced to rotate offensive linemen to keep them fresh.
"I had only taken snaps at left tackle when I got to Oregon," Long said. "It was clear that there was going to be a rotation. Coach Graywood put an emphasis on getting my film together. That was 45-50 snaps a game. Since we got 95 snaps a game, he could afford to rotate."
Emery believes that Long's time spent playing at Oregon will help speed up his transition to the NFL, as he's already comfortable with a non-stop offensive scheme.
"It's great that he has developed in that type of system, up-tempo, so I would say that's similar and that's a good thing," said Emery. "Run and pass blocking, he's had a lot of experience in both."
The CFL plays by different rules than the NFL, so it's very hard to translate Trestman's offense with the Montreal Alouettes to what he'll run with the Bears. But based on what we know so far, of both Trestman's coaching style and the type of offensive linemen he covets, we can expect Chicago's new offense to function more like the prolific fast-paced teams of the college ranks, rather than anything Mike Martz or Mike Tice put together.
Hold on to your hats Bears fans. This isn't your father's offense.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.