by Zaid Siddiqui
Ten games into the 2011-2012 NFL season, the Chicago Bears were one of the hottest teams in the NFL and looked as if they were on their way back to their 2nd consecutive NFC championship game. After starting the year 7-3, the team’s Super Bowl hopes came crashing down with a single play. With the team’s seventh win of the season nearly locked up, Bears’ star quarterback, Jay Cutler attempted a tackle to save an interception from being returned for a touchdown. During the play, Cutler broke the thumb on his throwing hand.
After electing to have surgery to prevent further damage, Cutler was placed on the injured reserve list and was done for the season, forcing backup quarterback, Caleb Hanie into action. Hanie who had who had good expectations from the coaching staff was very ineffective and eventually replaced.
During the off-season, the Bears fired General Manager Jerry Angelo while unpopular offensive coordinator, Mike Martz, resigned. Phil Emery replaced Angelo as GM and the offensive line coach, Mike Tice, took over as the offensive coordinator.
During his first off-season as general manager, Phil Emery made a number of acquisitions that instantly made him a fan favorite. The biggest transaction was the trade for three-time pro bowler and 2012 Pro-Bowl MVP, Brandon Marshall.
The trade for Marshall reunites him with close friend and former teammate, Jay Cutler. Cutler had voiced his opinions to play with Marshall again through Twitter, but didn’t think that it would ever happen. The combination of Cutler and Marshall was arguably the most prolific duo in football during their time together in Denver from 2007-2008. In 2008 they both had the best years of their career, Cutler threw for over 4,500 yards and Marshall caught 104 passes for 1,265 yards.
Along with trading for Marshall, Emery resigned Pro-Bowl running back, Matt Forte after a long holdout. Emery also acquired former Oakland Raiders, Michael Bush (RB) and Jason Campbell (QB). These players were signed to back up Jay Cutler and Matt Forte, both of whom suffered season ending injuries last year.
During the 2012 NFL Draft, Emery selected defensive end, Shea McClellin from Boise State in the first round. McClellin was drafted to fill the Bears’ need for a pass rusher opposite of Julius Peppers. In the second round, the Bears traded up to draft Alshon Jeffery, the big, physical wide receiver from South Carolina.
With all the new offensive weapons around him, don’t be surprised to see Jay Cutler have the best year of his career. Cutler could very well throw over 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns.
The one question mark on the Chicago Bears roster is at offensive line, which was one of the worst in the NFL during 2011-12 season, allowing Cutler to be sacked 23 times in only 10 games. Cutler was under constant pressure from opposing defenses.