Chicago Sports, Tuesday Armchair Quarterback

One Bears loss does not end the season…yet

Wow judging from all the chatter around Chicago, you’d think the Bear’s season officially ended last Sunday, 15 games early. Relax people. see if your ObamaCare can spring for some Xanax or something. Yes there were turnovers and missed tackles and mental lapses. It certainly wasn’t as bad as last season, we have a lot of mediocrity to achieve before that happens.

In fact, let’s look at how last season ended.  ( Bears fans should watch this video every Sunday just before the game. The players and the coaches should have it running on auto-repeat throughout Halas Hall):

 

Some common rants across the Blogosphere:

We Were Supposed to Win This One

Uh there’s a reason these games are played instead of just letting Madden NFL decide who goes to the Super Bowl.  As the saying goes, on any given Sunday any team can win in the NFL.  Sure, last year’s Buffalo Bills team underachieved and they haven’t been much better in recent years.  Still, teams vary from year to year which brings up….

History was on our side

Any financial advisor worth her salt will tell you that Past Performance is Not Necessarily Indicative of Future Results.  It doesn’t matter that the Bills have never won at Soldier Field or that the Bears almost always win their home opener. Never won at Soldier Field? That just makes it more and more inevitable that some day a Bills team would do it. Last year Drew Bees finally won at Solder Field. Even the crappy Bears teams of the late 90s and early 2000s managed to win a couple times in Green Bay.

Jay Isn’t An Elite Quarterback

Neither is Joe Flacco or Eli Manning really.  If you look at future Hall-of-Famer Tom Brady’s numbers to Jay Cutler:

T Brady 29/56 249 1 0
J Cutler 34/49 349 2 2
(Source:  ESPN).

I didn’t watch that game but Brady does well when his team is winning by more than two scores but in closer games he gets rattled and tries to force things just like any other QB who wants to win.   It’s just as likely Brady didn’t have any interceptions because of time of possession. You cannot throw an interception when your team is on defense (right?).  The New England Patriots were essentially out of the game by early 4th quarter. At least the Bears tied it up and took it to overtime.

Looking Ahead…Bearly

This can obviously go one of two ways. I’ve been a Bears fan long enough to know that this could be the 4-12 seasons of 199 and 1998 and 2002. Or the coaches make some adjustments and the team comes out stronger. The first two games of the NFL are considered pivotal because no one really knows what a team is like under the hood.  Most players are still healthy and performing at a high level and there isn’t enough film available to have seen everything a team does. Just as many 2-0 teams end up missing the playoffs as 0-2 teams win their divisions. A stat I totally made up.

San Fran looked elite against a bad Dallas team. The Jets are good but not great and Green Bay is vulnerable. Considering everyone would be glad to just be 2-2 In four weeks, if somehow the Bears are 3-1, no one will remember this Bills game. And if they are 1-3 or 0-4, you know that you have the rest of your Sundays free for yard work, winter maintenance and holiday shopping.

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Chicago Sports, Tuesday Armchair Quarterback

Chicago Bears: Please Skip the Preseason Games

Dear Chicago Bears,

Please do us all a favor and skip the pre-season. Seriously, the injury risks are too great to have our offense playing much, if at all, in what amount to glorified exhibition games. Just this week in training camp you lost potential #3 receiver Marquess Wilson with a broken collarbone. In Practice. Diving for a pass in the end zone on a deep route in a meaningless scrimmage play. And now you have Martellus Bennett suspended indefinitely and fined for conduct detrimental to the team.

Pre-season football is not what it use to be, if it was ever anything worth watching at all. NFL preseason games are rehearsal sessions before captive customers drinking overpriced beers. Worse, in preseason games the NFL is not even rehearsing the real plays, it’s all bland safe stuff that no one wants to watch, executed by fighting for a roster spot players, most of whom will be watching from home on opening day. I use to think that if some crazy set of circumstances made me an NFL coach, I would experiment with unusual plays, unorthodox formations and going for it on fourth and forever since it’s pre-season and it doesn’t count. Now I think that I would simply give the competition confusing film by not starting any starters and seeing what my 5th stringers could really do.

kevin jones season ends

Chicago Bears running back Kevin Jones is taken off the field on a cart after an injury against the Cleveland Browns at Soldier Field September 3, 2009.

Let me walk you down memory lane. Back in 1997, your best receiver Curtis Conway broke his collarbone diving for a ball in the Bears’ exhibition victory over the Arizona Cardinals. All that got you was a 4-12 season.  More recently, in 2009 you were trying to find someone to back up Matt Forte and almost had a guy in Kevin Jones…until a meaningless pre-season game against a team you would later beat resoundingly two months later only to still miss the post-season because, 7-9!

Put the Defense out on offense, not only can they use the extra reps but it will help them get use to long drives they’ll likely face against Rogers and Tom Brady.

Lock Jay Cutler in the house with his new kid. A few more weeks of changing diapers will be good for him. Put Marshall Brandon in bubble wrap and tell Alshon Jeffery and Matt Forte to simple run out of bounds as quickly as possible.  Take a page from Tony Romo and Adrian Peterson play book. Apparently they are skipping the first game and probably the entire four series set. And who can blame them? Their respective teams usually skip the last four weeks of the regular season.

And when it is your turn on offense?  Put the Defense out on offense, not only can they use the extra reps but it will help them get use to long drives they’ll likely face against Rogers and Tom Brady.

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Tuesday Armchair Quarterback

Jay Cutler Contract: Stop bitching about it already

By now everyone who cares knows the details for Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler’s seven-year, $126.7 million contract.  According to a league source, the deal didn’t include a signing bonus and has $54 million in total guaranteed money.  The deal averages $18.1 million per year.  source

jaycutler graphic

Note:  I created this graphic based on numbers reported here.  If the info is wrong, don’t blame be, blame Yahoo Sports.

I don’t speak NFL salary cap but it looks to me like the Bears essentially signed Cutler to a three year deal when you consider that there is no guaranteed money owed to Cutler beyond Year Three.   After that, the Bears can keep or release him depending on how things look.   If he continues to improve and the Bears succeed, then they can keep him. If things go sour, they can part ways at a time when it is better to invest in a new franchise quarterback.  My definition of improve is:

  • make the playoffs the next three years
  • go deep in the playoffs with at least one NFC championship trip
  • sweep the packers 2 of the next three years.

Okay perhaps that last one is asking too much, but we are overdue.

Why not re-sign Josh McCown and get a young QB in the draft to develop?  Cutler is four years younger than the 34-year-old McCown and has superior arm strength and consistency. Plus, who’s to say that McCown won’t be a one-year wonder? Cutler has proven throughout his career that he is capable of performing at a high level when the people are around him.   [I’m not saying that  you don’t still try to re-sign McCown and get a QB in the draft.  It just means it becomes less of a do or die imperative.]

Remember this is a Bears team that almost went to the playoffs in spite of their defense, which needs the most amount of work.    If their defense was just a shadow of the defense that started in September, Chicago would have had a reason to care about NFL football one more weekend (other than to see Green Bay lose).  I see this as a 3 year window to get to the Super Bowl or start over.

It’s all about flexibility and Bears GM Phil Emery did a remarkable job structuring Cutler’s contract,  front-loading the deal so all of the guaranteed money will be earned over the first three seasons. That provides Chicago with  enough flexibility to fix the defense now and when young players such as Alshon Jeffery, Kyle Long, Jordan Mills and many others are due for extensions, evaluate giving them lucrative deals.

Re-signing Jay Cutler was a smart decision and it’s time to move one and stop bitching about it.

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Chicago Sports, Tuesday Armchair Quarterback

Jay Cutler here to stay and that’s a good thing

Alright, I’ve finally got enough of the bad taste from Sunday’s Bears loss to vent my spleen about Jay Cutler. He’s not going anywhere Chicago and that’s probably a good thing. I know a lot of people here think they’ve seen enough of the Good Jay/Bad Jay show to think it’s time to look elsewhere. What everyone fails to remember is the quarterback by committee years of 2002-2004 and the decade of mediocrity before that.

Here’s the thing. His first couple years here, he was running for his life because the O-line was as weaker than a marinara sauce made from Ketchup. And all those interceptions? Yes some were poor judgment and forcing something to happen. But a good number were also receivers not running the correct route or coming back to the ball when a play broke up (see running for your life).

Now that he finally has a better O-line that is young and will hopefully only improve, and he has legitimate receivers in Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall. This hasn’t been seen in Chicago since the Conway Engram days. And let’s not forget we have a tight end that can block and catch…on the same play!

If there were any chance the Bears would let Jay go before, the current state of the Defense as seen the last two Sundays make the case for locking Jay up before he has the good sense to go anywhere else.

The way I see it the Bears can franchise tag Jay and keep Josh McCown around for insurance without blowing the budget. Then they take a QB in the draft and develop him the way Green bay use to develop qbs behind Fayre. Not give him the car keys like they did to Cade McNown.

The things Cutler can do well (throw deep and make the difficult passes) outweigh the things McCown can do well (be mistake-free). Sure, McCown made some tight throws and deep passes on Sunday but that was against a Vikings Defense that was DOA.

Josh McCown would work well in the type of team of old. A stingy defense. A no non-sense offense with a durable running back or two. And a consistent special teams that is the whole package. I’m not talking just a Highlight-tape Hester like returner. I’m talking about a special teams that consistently wins the field position battle by pinning opponents back while achieving enough yards of their own to spot the no-name quarterback a short field.

Oh come on, just one more week

Oh come on, just one more week

In fact, I predict this type of team will make its way back into fashion within the next 3-4 years. There are 17 quarterbacks under contract to earn more than $13 million in 2014. And the 2014 draft is predicted to be extremely deep at the quarterback position. That means a lot of teams will be spending money on QBs. Which also means some teams will have to find other ways to make it work. For all we know, McCown will be the next Kerry Collins making a Super Bowl run on his way to retirement, but not for the Chicago Bears.
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Jay Cutler: Please sit this one out

Oh come on, just one more week

Oh come on, just one more week

So in less than 24 hours we’ve gone from a lost season to a quarterback controversy. Well not exactly. Backup QB Josh McCown did the one thing Jay Cutler has not been able to do…win at Lambeau Field. Sure, it was against a backup quarterback. Incidentally, why do we say the QBs play against each other when they are never on the field at the same time? Until QBs start playing defense, I think we need to retire that convention.

But I digress.

The word on the street is that Cutler plans to start on Sunday against the Lions weeks earlier than originally projected. Jay, jay, Jay. Relax, buddy. Allow that groin injury to heal fully. Remember this is a hot Lions team with Ndamukong Suh, the guy who apparently thinks you owe him money or something the way he always tries to introduce you to the turf. He’ll be gunning for your….gun.

Backup QB Josh McCown is certainly not the franchise QB of the future, but we are at least in capable hands for the next game or two. In Monday’s game against the Green Bay Packers, McCown completed 22 of 41 passes for 272 yards and two touchdowns, finishing the night with a passer rating of 90.7.

Still no need to worry Jay, your job is not in danger. I know. Chicago’s favorite QB has always been the backup when the starter is struggling, and when the backup actually delivers a victory against our biggest rivals…we can be such the fanbase with the attention span of a litter of concussed kittens. Luckily, this isn’t the era of Ditka putting in Tomczak to piss off Harbaugh or was it the other way around?

What, Me Worry?

What, Me Worry?

At the very least don’t start the game. On the off chance that McCown turns into McClown, then okay, Coach Trestman can send you in. Otherwise, let that torn groin heal completely before you come back and risk re-injury. We can afford to miss you for the next game or two, we cannot afford to not have you against the better than their record indicates St Louis Rams, the make or break Dallas Cowboys and the we still got a shot Philadelphia Eagles.

Seriously Jay, don’t come back before you are truly ready. Chicago can wait another week or two.

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