PFW caught up with Bears play-by-play announcer Jeff Joniak earlier this week to get his take on several topics, including who stands out as the MVP of Chicago's defense and whether the worst is behind the team's offense. Joniak is in his 10th season as the Bears' play-by-play voice on WBBM Newsradio 780, where he also serves as the Director of Sports Operations.
PFW: If you had to pick one player to be the Bears' defensive MVP, which one would you choose?
Joniak: These guys believe the defense is the star. (It's) the system. As long as they play as close as possible to the fundamentals and the discipline that the system requires, they'll be great at it. They truly believe that. You have Lance Briggs, Brian Urlacher, Julius Peppers — all the great players trust their instincts and they like to ad-lib, but they have to somehow force themselves to stay disciplined and for the most part they do. Some of the biggest plays, though, are the plays within the system. I'm going to say the system is the MVP.
PFW: The comparisons to the 2006 team that went to the Super Bowl already have begun, especially for the defense. Does it seem premature to do that?
Joniak: I'd have to absolutely say so. We'll talk about it when it's all said and done, but the things that I do like about this group of guys is that you had, in many respects, unknowns like D.J. Moore, Matt Toeaina, Tim Jennings, Israel Idonije. These are obviously guys that were role players before, but now they've become quality starters and are really piling up some impressive statistics. I think this defense right now is more physical than it was back in '06. That's just my opinion. They hit you harder. (Defensive coordinator Rod) Marinelli has preached about arriving to the ball angry, and I think they are.
PFW: Offensively, do you think the worst is behind them?
Joniak: Absolutely. That's well put. No one should be surprised that they struggled or that they may struggle a little more because it's not fair to expect greatness from an offense 11 games into a season in a new system. … They're trying to develop all this and they still have a dominant defense and an outstanding special-teams unit. Somehow, someway, you have to get through December and get to the playoffs with it. They're getting better every game.