Long before the double nickels belonged to Lance Briggs, another Bears Pro Bowl linebacker wore the number 55, “Mama’s Boy” Otis Wilson. Unlike Briggs, Wilson also boasts a Super Bowl title on his resume, and he believes the current 55 and his defensive teammates are the key to the Bears winning another one.
The old 55 has been catching up with these new Bears quite a bit lately, watching their Fan Night practice at Soldier Field and then joining them at their next practice back in Bourbonnais. He tells me he’s heard a lot of good things about new head coach Marc Trestman from Hall of Famer Steve Young among others, as an excellent offensive minded coach, but that he’s always believed “Offenses win games, but defenses win championships.”
Wilson knows how important offense has become around the league though and looking at the challenge Trestman faces Wilson said, “Lovie [Smith] had a real hold on these guys and it was almost like a father-son relationship. Now a lot of guys are older and change is hard, so I’m just hoping they put some good offense out there [to help the defense].”
Everyone knows how critical Jay Cutler will be to the success of this team but looking at this Bears defense and how critical it is to the Bears’ Super Bowl hopes, Wilson believes it’s new quarterback, Lance Briggs, and how he replaces Brian Urlacher could be the biggest key to the Bears season, and it won’t be easy for him.
“It’s going to be very hard for Lance because you have to get a lot more into the gameplan, you have to really understand the schemes of what you’re running and what the offense is running [against you].”
“I was fortunate enough that I had a coach on the field, [Mike] Singletary, and he was doing that and he took a lot of the pressure off of people. Now Briggs has to become a thinker as opposed to a player and that can hurt you a little bit, but I think they’ll simplify the plan, try and let him attack people and he should be fine.”
As for the end of the Brian Urlacher era, Wilson believes it’s all about the money.
“This is a funny business where you always want to go out on your own terms but 90 percent of the time it doesn’t happen because of the money.
“It’s hard to replace Brian, not just his talent but the aura of him, having his presence on the field. I’m waiting to see how this defense reacts,” he said.
After eight seasons with the Bears, Wilson missed the ’88 season because of injury and then tried to play with the Raiders in 1989 but managed just one game before he was forced to retire. He was younger than Briggs, Julius Peppers and Peanut Tillman are now when he was forced to hang up his pads. Does he worry about what Father Time might do to this defense?
“Oh there’s no question about it, it can go quickly, especially in this physical game. Peppers, Tillman and Lance are the heart and soul of this team and with the new regime it’s tough. Physically now you want your body to act like a 25-year-old and we know that’s not going to happen. You’re more susceptible to injury and the more you work out, the more wear and tear ...”
Still, Wilson is really excited about the season and the new regime. While there is plenty to worry about he likes what he sees new defensive coordinator Mel Tucker trying to do with “his guys” and he believes Trestman can give the defense the support it needs to win another title.
After all he says “One Championship every 25 or 30 years shouldn’t be enough, it isn’t that hard to do. It’s time we win another one.”
• Hub Arkush covers the Bears for Shaw Media and HubArkush.com. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.