In its first year under head coach Marc Trestman in 2013, the Chicago Bears offense produced at a historically high level. The club finished second in the league in points scored, eighth in total offense and fifth in passing.
The unit returns all 11 starters under the same playbook, which has fans in the Windy City licking their chops at the potential of this year’s offense.
“We recognize as a football team the excitement around our team, the community’s excitement around our football team and what I [describe] as the noise that goes on around us,” Trestman said today during his annual pre-camp press conference.
Yet, despite the enthusiasm, Trestman said the focus has to be on the little things.
“For us here in Bourbonnais, we’ve got to stay focused on the process. We’ve got to keep our feet on the ground,” said Trestman. “We have a lot of expectations for our football team, but we take care of them by the day-to-day workmanlike process of going through training camp and building our football team. I think that’s really important, so with our guys past performance is no indication of where we’re going.
“We want to be the best in all three phases and we want to be the best team we can possibly be, and that starts tomorrow with the rebuilding of our football team. We want the expectations. We have high expectations. Our players have said it. Our players feel it. But at the end of the day they know they’ve got to go to work and get it done. It’s not going to happen because we think it’s going to happen. The work has got to take place.”
Jay Cutler, who had one of his best seasons as a professional under Trestman last year, reiterated the value of hard work and building toward something special.
“I think you’ve got to be careful with [overconfidence],” Cutler said. “We’ve still got a lot of work to do. We still got a lot of things to prepare on. I think every one in the NFL is confident right now. Every one likes what they have on paper. Everyone likes their roster. That includes us but that doesn’t guarantee us anything. We’ve still got to go out there and perform. We’ve got to get better each day.”
That said, Cutler does recognize how much easier this year’s training camp will be now that he’s familiar with the playbook and his teammates.
"We have a lot of guys back. A lot of consistency and rollover from last year. It’s going to make things easier. Adjustments should [take] less time, getting into camp and getting rolling,” said Cutler. “I think we had a good OTA. A good mini-camp. Anytime you can come into any camp, OTAs or training camp and not have to think about the formations and where guys lined up, that’s a plus. The less thinking the better.”
Cutler said the emphasis this year will no longer be on learning the playbook. Instead, they’ll be attempting to perfect the plays being installed.
“[The playbook] is pretty dialed in. I’m not saying it couldn’t change, some more tweaks here and there, but I think we feel really good about where we’re at, playbook wise and play wise,” Cutler said. “We’re kind of refining what we want to do this year. We look at some of the stuff we did early last year and we’re like, ‘Why were we running that play?’ So we’re trying to eliminate a lot of those questions throughout the game.”
That comfort level with in the offense should allow the unit to grow substantially over the next month. Still, it doesn’t appear as if anyone is taking anything for granted.
“We go into the season feeling optimistic. A lot of things have got to happen. You’ve got to stay healthy, you’ve got to have a few breaks along the way. I don’t think we ever say ‘hey, this is the year’ or ‘we have all the right pieces.’ You just never know. It doesn’t say it couldn’t be the year, it just means we can’t think about that. We’ve got to take it one practice at a time, one game at a time, and in Week 16 we’ll see where we’re at.
“We haven’t had a lot of success [in the past]. It’s not like we’re coming off a monster season after monster season. I still think this is still a hungry group. There’s a lot left that we want to prove.
“We’re glad [the fans] excited but we try not to let it affect us. We can’t let that kind of seep into our mindset. We haven’t done anything yet. We’ve got to take this camp seriously and get out of it as much as we can.”
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his fourth 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.