The Bears don't have a quarterback controversy, not with Jay Cutler back under center. But they might have an honest-to-God coordinator controversy after Cutler was knocked flat on his back six times in his first game back from missing a game and a half with a concussion. It didn't help that the Bears lost 23-20 on Sunday to the Seattle Seahawks, but that fact is nearly irrelevant to the real story here: Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz is so obstinate and defiant he's putting Cutler and therefore the Bears season at too must risk and must be stopped.
Cutler has now been sacked 15 times now in six quarters of football and Martz's response is to throw the ball more. Martz went from throwing the ball 74 percent of the time (seven runs, 20 passes) against the Giants before Cutler was knocked out with a concussion following a league-record nine sacks in a single half, to throwing it 76.3 percent of the plays (14 runs, 45 passes) against the Seahawks. And don't forget that two of those runs were scrambles by Cutler after pass plays broke down. That means the Bears attempted to pass 79.7 percent of the time despite playing behind a makeshift offensive line with only Olin Kreutz in the same position he was on opening day. Pure madness.
But that's Mad Martz, who may have looked like a guy deserving of a head coaching job earlier in the year, but with the Bears 4-2 and sinking fast, he now looks like the same pig-headed rogue he was in NFL exile before being hired by the Bears. Could it be time to let Mike Tice take a shot at play-calling for a game?
Tice, like Martz, a former head coach, effectively serves as the running game coordinator. His offensive line consists of a collection of large and inexperienced men who might be better moving forward in a power running game than they are trying to hold up against a blitzing defense. Tice said this week that big guys like to move forward. Bears coach Lovie Smith cut off a reporter in his post-game news conference when asked if Tice's teaching and Martz's scheme might be in conflict.
"I'll stop you right there. No, there's not conflict," Smith said."Mike also said when you're pass blocking it's good to have guys light on their feet who can get back and pass blocks. There's a combination of both. We're not going to run the football every time, we're not going to pass it every time. When we run it we need to get our guys going forward. When we pass we have to pass the football, which you're going to have to do in games. We have to do a better job of that."
Nonetheless, what the Bears are doing right now on offense just doesn't make sense. A week ago they enjoyed their best running day in a couple of decades because they were forced to commit to the run without Cutler and without a passing option in four-pick reserve Todd Collins. With Cutler back Martz went carpe diem on the passing game and causing fans to seize their hearts and Cutler nearly to seizure given the repeated hits.
The Bears offensive scheme can lead to big plays like passes for 67, 36 and 34 yards as well as a 58-yard pass interference call that led to a touchdown on the opening drive of the game.
"That's kind of been the theme all year," quarterback Jay Cutler said."We hit some big chunks, then the third and twos and third and sixes, the ones that are manageable, we struggle with them."
Six more sacks adds to numbers that are mind-numbing. Bears quarterbacks have been sacked 27 times, including 23 on Cutler. They are on pace for 72 sacks, which would break the team record of 66 in a season.
According to research by Stats LLC, the Bears came into the game leading the NFL in negative plays with a whopping 42 negative plays, defined as sacks and runs and passes for loss. The Bears have seven more than any other team. They give up six sacks and had two runs for loss--eight negative plays for a team averaging 8.5 per game.
Everybody wants to run the big boy passing game, but running it without the resources needed to get the job done--things like protection--seems less foolhardy than utterly reckless.
It's hurting a defense that forced seven three-and-outs, but couldn't make a signature play--not a takeaway or a sack. They were on the field a long time as they are most weeks, a fact that may lead to trouble later in the year. Do all the negative plays on offense mean the defense has to expend more energy that it should this early in the season. Will everybody be left standing by the end of a grueling season?
In the new era of accountability maybe benching the offensive coordinator for a week might help.