In less than a month, the Chicago Bears will kickoff training camp for the 2013 season. With a brand new coaching staff, plenty of questions will be answered during the team's three weeks in Bourbonnais. Yet the answer most fans are looking for revolves around the offense and, in particular, how improved the unit will be under head coach Marc Trestman.
To review: Trestman was an offensive coach in the NFL from 1985-2004. He served as running backs coach for the Vikings, quarterbacks coach for the Buccaneers, QB coach and offensive coordinator for the Browns, QB coach for the Vikings, QB coach and OC for the 49ers, QB coach for the Lions, QB coach and OC for the Cardinals, QB coach and OC for the Raiders and assistant head coach for the Dolphins.
Trestman has worked closely with legendary quarterbacks Bernie Kosar, Steve Young and Rich Gannon. In 2008, he became head coach of the Montreal Allouettes of the Canadian Football League. There he coached Anthony Calvillo, professional football's all-time passing yards leader, to MVP seasons in 2008 and 2009.
It was Trestman's pedigree with quarterbacks and successful offenses that landed him the head coaching gig in the Windy City. For that reason most believe the Bears' offense, which has struggled mightily the last few seasons, will make a dramatic turnaround this year, especially considering the weapons at Trestman's disposal.
Yet those lofty expectations might leave a lot of Chicago fans disappointed this season. Historically, even the brightest NFL minds need more than one season to turnaround fledgling offenses.
When Mike McCarthy became head coach of the Green Bay Packers, he inherited an offense that finished 22nd overall and 7th in passing in 2005. In 2006, the offense stagnated, again finishing 22nd overall and dropping to 8th in passing. Only in 2007, in Brett Favre's final season in Green Bay, did the Packers' offense finally jump to the elite level, finishing 4th overall and 2nd in passing.
Consider Andy Reid's tenure in Philadelphia. From 2004-2011, Reid guided an Eagles passing offense that finished in the Top 10 each season. Yet from 1999-2003, Reid's passing offenses never ranked better than 19th. For a coach most consider a passing genius, it took Reid five season to turnaround Philly's aerial attack.
There are exceptions. Sean Payton inherited a Saints offense that ranked 31st overall and 14th in passing in 2005. The following year, New Orleans finished 5th overall and 1st in passing. So it's possible, it's just not likely.
There's no doubt Chicago's offense is going to improve under Trestman. In his five stops as an OC in the NFL, his team's passing offenses improved in all but one, his first year with the Browns in 1988. Other than that, Trestman's presence has immediately led to a rise in efficiency and scoring.
But to expect the Bears, who finished 29th in passing last year, to jump into the top 10 in the league in passing in 2013 might be overly optimistic. One of the main reasons is due to Trestman's West Coast system, which is a far cry from the downfield passing attacks of Mike Martz and Mike Tice. Any system transition takes time but this one if fairly dramatic, so it will likely take even longer. Jay Cutler said as much during minicamp.
"Right now we're just trying to learn the basics of the offense," Cutler said. "Really, without even getting into it, it's a three-year process to learn an offense. It just is what it is. It takes time. It's hard to go out there Year 1 and blow the doors off."
The good thing for the Bears is that, as long as the defense doesn't suddenly implode, the offense won't have to be a top 10 unit. All they have to do is be serviceable and the club will have a great shot to not only make the playoffs – remember, they were 10-6 last year despite a horrid offense – but go deep into the postseason.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his third season covering the Chicago Bears full time. 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.