Bears have to say 'bye' to erratic 'O'
If they don't, good luck separating from pack in NFC
November 4, 2010 BY NEIL HAYES firstname.lastname@example.org
A week of NFL games has come and gone without the Bears allowing a sack or being stopped short of the goal line. It has been 11 days since Jay Cutler threw a seemingly mindless interception.
The respite has allowed time to ponder what this team must do in the second half to make the playoffs and ensure the employment of coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jerry Angelo.
Consistency from Jay Cutler and better coaching from Mike Martz are critical in the second half.
''The whole locker room understands what the [situation] is with the coaches and some of the players and myself, so we're all in the same boat,'' Cutler said. ''We're all in it together. We need to get it done.''
The second-half schedule is treacherous, but everything we thought we knew about the Bears when the season began remains essentially true: They have obvious talent. They have obvious deficiencies.
For the most part, the defense has been consistent, proving it can hold up its end, and the offense wildly erratic, bordering on schizophrenic -- which means the offense must take decisive strides forward if the Bears are going to emerge from the wide-open NFC. If the Oakland Raiders can explode for more than 1,000 yards and 92 points in back-to-back weeks, why not these Bears?
''Everyone just needs to keep believing in the system and get the details right,'' Cutler said. ''We've talked about it in the past, about just being more consistent. There are flashes on film of us doing everything right and things going accordingly. Then there are other [times] when there is one little breakdown.
''With this offense, more than anything, it's going to take all 11 guys on the same page doing what they're supposed to do.''
Here are the three things that must happen for the Bears to make the playoffs for the first time in four years and ensure that Smith and Angelo return next season.
Coach 'em up
If one thing is certain in the NFC, it's that every team is flawed, but the Bears' flaws can be seen from 30,000 feet. Disarray along the offensive line requires more than cosmetic changes. It's like finding a crack in your foundation and water in the basement. Compensating for such a fundamental problem is a constant challenge, which is where offensive line coach Mike Tice and offensive coordinator Mike Martz come in.
If this coaching staff is as good as advertised, it soon will be evident. If having four current or former NFL head coaches on the same staff is the boon Smith claims it to be, the Bears should have a distinct advantage in a conference in which everything is up for grabs.
''What we have to do is not so much simplify, but find the things that our guys do well and make sure those are the things we're focusing on,'' Tice said.
The Bears haven't always looked like a well-coached team on offense. That has to change.
It's the line, stupid
It didn't take a complicated self-evaluation during the bye week to figure out what the top priority is. The Bears can't win consistently unless the offensive line improves, and there's no reason why it shouldn't. Inexperienced players should be learning on the job. Roberto Garza is back at right guard after knee surgery, adding veteran experience.
It's to be expected that the offensive linemen will be physically bested at times, especially the younger guys. But mental mistakes and defenders running untouched to the quarterback -- those are on Tice. If the schemes are too complex, simplify them. If they're too simple, make them more complex. That's what the bye week is for.
''If they're untouched, it has nothing to do with the players. It's preparation,'' two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback Jim Plunkett said. "They are missing assignments. Everybody gets beat physically. When you make those kinds of mental mistakes, you weren't prepared to execute your assignments.''
If we don't see steady improvement in the second half, Angelo deserves what criticism comes his way -- up to and including termination -- for not addressing this unit during the offseason.
No pressure, Jay
For the Bears to reach the playoffs, Cutler must do what he has been unable to do since joining the Bears -- consistently carry the offense.
That means no more brainless interceptions, no more rushing throws, no more holding the ball when he should throw it away. Being in his first year with Martz's offense can't be an excuse any longer. The franchise quarterback has to start playing like one, plain and simple. The future of the franchise hangs in the balance.
''Everyone goes through that phase, especially when expectations are [so high],'' Martz said of Cutler's struggles. ''He'll be fine. We'll get him squared away.''
Smith and Angelo had better hope he's right.
Bears quarterback needs sense of urgency
Jay Cutler congratulates Washington QB Donovan McNabb after the Redskins' 17-14 win. (Charles Rex Arbogast, Associated Press / October 24, 2010)
Cutler needs to believe there will be consequences if potential doesn't start getting results David Haugh In the Wake of the News November 4, 2010
With good humor Wednesday at Halas Hall, Jay Cutler responded to whether Mike Shanahan's 2-minute offense was more strenuous than most. Cutler played three seasons for Shanahan with the Broncos so naturally he could compare.
"I don't know,'' Cutler said with an actual smile. "You have to ask Donovan (McNabb) if they've changed it from whenever I had it. When I had it, I didn't think it was the most physically exerting thing.''
For Cutler, a stab at humor represents a 2010 breakthrough. Light-heartedness beats light-headedness any day.
The subject came up because Shanahan made the silly claim he inserted Rex Grossman for McNabb, the Redskins quarterback, with 1 minute, 50 seconds left in Sunday's game in part because of McNabb's conditioning.
But I suppose the better question to Cutler, the one unspoken but apparently obvious to Bears fans based on my inbox, is whether he wants to execute Shanahan's 2-minute drill again as early as next season.
Now is not the appropriate time for Cutler to address any possible reunion with Shanahan in Washington, but the idea that so much conversation in Chicago even would broach such trade folly 22 games into Cutler's Bears tenure indicates how quickly this supposed franchise quarterback has worn out his welcome to many.
I get the hypothetical. I know hometown darling McNabb, the anti-Cutler in terms of charisma, becomes a free agent in 2011 and the Bears desperately need draft picks, which Cutler could bring in return.
And if the Bears undergo a regime change that likely will occur if they miss the playoffs again, the next GM easily could view Cutler as a toxic influence who killed two coaching tenures.
But slow down. Consider any trade would put the Bears back in the spot of looking for a young quarterback to develop skills Cutler already possesses. Remember any typical football guy inheriting the Bears roster will look at Cutler's ability to do things only a handful of quarterbacks can do and believe he can be fixed. On film, Cutler's skills can be seductive and his flaws easier to accept.
That's what made trading for Cutler so exciting. Outsiders often see what they want to see. I did.
I understand now what was less obvious then. Cutler's unrelenting immaturity too often undermines his immense talent. And when he loses focus, he can lose teammates and games. That said, I still wouldn't trade a player the organization guaranteed $20 million who is still young enough to stop all those dreaded comparisons to Jeff George.
There's a difference in criticizing Cutler for his play of late and abandoning all hope that a gifted 27-year-old quarterback with no leadership skills to speak of can be rehabilitated.
Cutler doesn't need a trade to save his NFL life or the Bears from himself. He needs an intervention.
Admittedly, it may take Bill Cowher, Jim Harbaugh or Jeff Fisher — my early short list for potential Lovie Smith successors – to stage a successful one for Cutler. But if there's anybody in the organization interested in salvaging Cutler's final nine games this season, now would be a good time to deliver an urgent message that he must change.
If Cutler and his Cavallari attitude haven't noticed, this isn't going well.
Cutler has been sacked as many times in six games (27) as he was the entire 2007 season. A terrible offensive line and limited wide receivers give him a ready excuse. But his mechanics have deteriorated. He has developed sloppy habits and established bad trends. In 22 games with the Bears, Cutler has thrown four or more interceptions three times. He never did that in 37 starts with the Broncos.
He plays like someone who either hasn't been coached or is no longer willing to be. So coach him. Challenge him. Force greatness that is there.
Can you make a quarterback become a leader?
I have doubts Martz can. Martz has made a career out of designing ways to make quarterbacks pile up big numbers. What he has done mostly with Cutler is enlarge his ego. End the bro-mance. A struggling, self-destructive quarterback doesn't need to hear how brilliant he is. He needs to be threatened with his job if he throws four picks again.
The praise Martz lavishes on Cutler is as embarrassing as it is enabling.
If Martz strays from the run against the Bills' 32nd-ranked run defense and the lack of balance contributes to another loss, it will be time for the Bears to part company.
A smarter overall approach can save Martz's sagging reputation in Chicago.
And for all those ready to make an offseason deal, the same can be said for Cutler's career with the Bears.
Last edited by The Benjamin; 11-04-2010 at 04:55 AM.
cutler and the whole offense need to go on a coke binge and come back new men..............
Winston Churchill: "Since light travels faster than sound, some people appear bright until you hear them speak."
"If you're not a liberal at twenty you have no heart, if you're not a conservative at forty you have no brain."
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thats what cutler is going to look like as a back up on another team in a few years after we david carr him