Step in the right direction

When Lovie Smith became the head coach almost a week ago the first question was who would shape the offensive reconstruction. Well Smith and the Bears believe they've found their man in Terry Shea.

"We really are excited about what is happening around here," Lovie Smith said upon the hiring of his offensive coordinator. "Terry was someone that I had in mind all along. Initially I talked about what type of offense we would run, Terry is who I always saw who would run it."

Negotiations seemed to hit a snag when the Bears decided to interview other candidates, because Terry Shea might have overestimated his value. In the end Jerry Angelo and Smith were able to come to a three-year agreement with Shea.

Shea, 57, brings 35 years of offensive coaching experience to Chicago, but has never called plays on the NFL level.

"The other day I was counting up 17 years of play-calling, so from that standpoint, I feel I can fall back on a real solid foundation, and I'm really excited to look forward to that opportunity," Shea said. "I feel like I'll be very, very intuitive to it. It's something that once you do, the more you do it, it is really important to improve every year in your play-calling, and that's one of the axioms that I learned working with Bill Walsh."

Shea joins the Bears after three seasons as the Kansas City Chiefs quarterbacks coach, mentoring AFC Pro Bowl QB Trent Green. He has also worked with 49ers quarterback QB Jeff Garcia, while at San Jose St. and Lions QB Mike McMahon at Rutgers.

While he doesn't have the man-to-man talent on the Bears 53-man roster that the Chiefs possessed, Shea does believe there are building blocks.

"There are enough good players on the Bears' offense to allow this system to flourish," Shea said. "It's just a matter of teaching it very, very fine to them and allowing them to make plays. That was a big part of our system at the Chiefs. The quarterback's role was just to put the ball in the hands of the playmakers and they were expected to make the plays, and I believe the Bears have some playmakers."

Which players Shea deems as playmakers is debatable and the number of offensive weapons will have to increase this offseason.

"I remember back to our first year with the Chiefs. We had very few of those perimeter players still on the team as we started years two and three. Even when we started with the Chiefs, we didn't have all the right pieces to the puzzle. Maybe the Bears have more than we had three years ago."

One area that the Chiefs definitely had an up on the Bears is the running back position. Priest Holmes is one of the most versatile backs in the league catching 74 balls last year to go with 1,420 yards rushing. Anthony Thomas went over the 1,000-yard plateau, but had just 9 receptions for 55 yards.

That number will have to go up for Thomas to remain the featured back in the offense.

Some of the trademarks of the Chiefs offense that Shea hopes to bring with him are 20-yard-plus plays and red zone production.

Arguably the Bears have a better receiving core than the Chiefs. Kansas City's leading receivers were Holmes and TE Tony Gonzalez.

However the Chiefs offense line is considered the best in the league and while the Bears unit improved as the season went on the group is still a matter that needs to be upgraded in the draft or free agency.

Rex Grossman could have the biggest change in Shea's new scheme. It will be the fourth system Grossman will have to learn in four years. Shea is considering brining in a quarterbacks coach to help relay his message to Grossman.

While the constant change could help Grossman adjust faster this offense is more complicated than ones he's run in the past.

"This is really a highly complex offense if you don't do it right and you can't throw all this right at Rex," Shea said. "We were very fortunate at the Chiefs to have Trent Green, who'd been in this system for years (with the Rams). I'll make sure that we take one step at a time. It may take us a full season for us to go through the substance of the offense as we finished up in these last couple years with the Chiefs with Trent Green. I would imagine it'll be different for Rex."

Most would certainly hope for a quick turnaround, as the Bears offense didn't rank higher than 26 under John Shoop, a fact Shea is aware of.

"When I had a chance to visit with Jerry, he gave me some of the background," Shea said of the offensive struggles under the previous regime. "One of my key questions to Jerry was, 'What went wrong with the previous staff?' I've been through staff changes before and I felt that was a very pragmatic question. He explained to me that there were some real problems in terms of generating offensive production, so I was aware of that, yes."


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