Defending the J'Marcus Webb Thing (While Avoiding the Burning Torches)

| March 15th, 2012

The Bears have addressed their backup quarterback position, adding starting-caliber player and man Jason Campbell. They have their first legitimate number one receiver in twenty years, having acquired the morally-maligned, athletically-gifted Brandon Marshall in a lopsided (to the good) trade with the Miami Dolphins. They have replenished Dave Toub’s special teams units by securing Blake Costanzo and Eric Weems – both Pro Bowl players. Now the clamoring has begun from the fans of the Twitter universe and reporters (Mully) with Lovie on Thursday’s conference call. It is time for the Bears to address the offensive line.

And when the great offensive line debate begins, attention is squarely thrust upon the broader than broad shoulders of the left tackle, big number seventy-three, J’Marcus Webb. Webb spends most of his Twitter time exalting praise upon the cuisine at Harry Caray’s while most Bears fans heap piles of trash on his Sunday performances.

I am not one of them.

J’Marcus Webb played college football at West Texas A&M (after a rookie season for Mack Brown at Texas). He was drafted in the seventh round. In his rookie season, after trying to block the equivalent of me for three years, he ended up starting at right tackle for the Chicago Bears. His offensive line coach, Mike Tice, one of the best and most respected in the business, thought enough to entrust the vaunted blindside role to him in 2011. Was he good? No. Did he looked over-matched at times? Of course. J’Marcus struggled against speed rushers to the extent he required a man attached to his hip tighter than Wyatt Earp’s six shooter as he approached the OK Corral. He also struggled mightily when required to move laterally  in Martz’ often complicated offense.

So why am I not ready to launch Webb onto the scrap heap? Two reasons:

  1. Mike Tice. I don’t believe Tice is crazy. I think he’s large and loves ice cream and can probably drink me under a table and into a six-foot grave but I don’t think he’s crazy. Tice is embarking on his first stint as an offensive coordinator and clearly has designs on a future head coaching position. Why would he risk the success that could propel him into such a position on Webb? Why would he not walk into Lovie Smith’s or Phil Emery’s office every day and say, “Boys we are not going to win a championship with J’Marcus Webb as our left tackle.” He doesn’t make that walk because he believes Webb can develop into a terrific player on the outside. I’d like to see him given at least the start of a second season to show what he can do.
  2. Sustained Success. If the Bears go out and sign a thirty-something left tackle and he succeeds for a year or two they will find themselves back at the positional starting gate before they know it. Webb is 23 years old. If he improves in 2012 and improves even more in 2013 the club could be looking at a good player on Cutty’s blindside for the next decade. Will he ever be Willie Roaf or Walter Jones or Anthony Munoz? No. But if you pawned the Super Bowl rings of Roaf and Jones and Munoz you would only need an additional $2.25 to hop on the blue line to O’Hare. The upside of Webb is solid left tackle play over a number of years at an affordable rate. Is a few years of struggling too steep a price to pay for that?

I am not opposed to the Bears pursuing and signing a veteran tackle. I am not even opposed to a player like Marcus McNeill starting for the Bears at left tackle in 2012. But I think fans refusing to acknowledge how steep a climb Webb has made in a short period are out of touch. I think writers who do not take into account how green Webb is are misguided. I am not saying I believe Webb will be the future of the left tackle position. I don’t know enough about evaluating offensive linemen to play that game. But Mike Tice does and he believes in Webb. Believes in him enough to risk offensive success in his first year as coordinator. And his belief just might sustain the our franchise quarterback’s protection for a decade.