LAKE FOREST – Let's not sugarcoat it: The Bears' offense was dreadful during the end of the Matt Nagy era, culminating in last season's disaster in which the Bears ranked 27th in points per game and 24th in yards.
Quarterback Justin Fields was in a no-win situation as Nagy and the offensive staff failed to alter the attack to utilize the young signal-caller's strengths. As a result, Fields struggled to find a rhythm, the Bears' offense found itself stuck in the mud, and Nagy was sent packing.
New head coach Matt Eberflus arrived and hired Luke Getsy from the Green Bay Packers as his offensive coordinator. Getsy promises to run a wide-zone-based offense tailored to Fields' strengths and let players like tight end Cole Kmet thrive by doing what they do best.
Getsy's system, an offshoot of the Shanahan system prevalent across the league, has the Bears excited about the offensive possibilities this season.
"I think you see how it's worked across the league, this type of offense," Kmet said Wednesday after the Bears' final OTA practice. "I mentioned it before, in San Francisco, Minnesota, and there's different ways to kind of go about it, and how friendly it can be really for everybody across the board, from offensive line to running backs, tight ends and receivers, across the board it can be really friendly. I think everyone's kind of seeing that right now.
"I think you kind of see that in practice, so I think within the last two months we've been doing this, I get more this route, more that route, you get a feel for what guys are good at and putting them in situations like, 'Let's see this again, let's do it again,' so you're starting to see guys form into that role. You definitely see that, and that's definitely encouraging going into training camp where we're going to keep building on it."
How the Bears' offense will look remains a relative mystery. We know the plan is to get Fields on the move, attack down the field with the deep ball, and lean on the wide-zone rushing attack. Outside of that, we know very little other than, as Kmet noted, it's friendly to players on all units.
That can only be a positive for a team with question marks at wide receiver after Darnell Mooney and an offensive line that saw right tackle Teven Jenkins running with the second team Wednesday.
No matter how friendly an offense is, it needs a confident quarterback to pull the strings. It's the growth of Fields as a leader that has many on the Bears' offense believing big things are in store this fall.
"Just when he comes in to enunciate the play or give us what we need to know to get out there and execute the play, it's just a lot more smooth, he says it with more confidence, and I think that's just him developing from Year 1 to Year 2," guard Cody Whitehair said. "But we like where Justin is at, and we're really excited for the year."
Eberflus compared Fields' growth between Year 1 and Year 2 to what he saw from Dak Prescott when he was with the Dallas Cowboys. Fields has spent the offseason fine-tuning his mechanics and footwork. Everyone in the organization has praised the Ohio State product for the work he has put in to learn the new offense.
"I think he is ahead of pace," quarterbacks coach Andrew Janocko said of Fields. "I think he has really gone to work mentally in the classroom, away from the classroom, what he is doing with his iPad at night, how he studies, how he is ready and prepared the next day, how he comes and approaches every day.
"When he comes in ready to work, you hear the stories on some of the great guys when they come into the building, they're ready to go. They're prepared mentally. They're prepared with what they did the night before and then they're prepared to come in. This is what they do and this is what they want to be great at. So, that's what you see from him."
Eberflus has come in and promised to build a team around its strengths. There's no one that will be more important for than Fields, who could be unleashed this fall in the Bears' new offense.