Jay Cutler, the Chicago Bears, and Scratch-Off Tickets

April 19, 2009

The completely unexpected happened a few weeks ago.  Because I’ve been slacking, I haven’t  posted anything, but, after all my bear-bashing, I’m about to eat my words and enjoy it.

Photo from Blog Down Chicago Bears

The oft-criticized Chicago Bear front office pulled off what amounts to the most important personnel move in my personal history with the team, and perhaps the biggest move in Bears history.

Though other franchises make blockbuster moves and offer ridiculous contracts nearly every off-season (Hi Jets! Cowboys! Redskins!), the Bears are traditionally a stoic, staunch, and slow-moving franchise.  Instead of grabbing hot free agents every year, the Bears opt to reward their core players with generous contract re-signings…  regrettably, as the cornerstones of the defense proved last year, sometimes that’s not the best idea (see: #21).

All that was blown out of the water earlier this week.

Bears fans have had nearly enough of GM Jerry Angelo’s big talk with no follow-through, while Lovie Smith’s unnerving poker face press responses further aggravated fans.  Meanwhile in Colorado, Jay Cutler, former Midwest-born Bears fan and 25 yearr-old Pro Bowl quarterback, was refusing to answer the phonecalls of his team, the Denver Broncos.  Cutler was rightfully peeved — the Broncos’ new sherrif in town, Josh McDaniels, had made no secret of the fact he was not interested in having Cutler under center during the 2009 season.  McDaniels had an inexplicable man-crush on a Patriots backup QB.

Photo from Football Nation

This was the highest-profile trade in recent memory and the Bears, somehow, fended off a HUGE amount of competition to lock up what could wind up solidifying the always-iffy Bears QB position.  A gutsy move that could feasibly solve the perennial Chicago QB problem for the next decade-plus.  Imagine not worrying about this issue again until after we host the Olympics!  Ha.

But there are always naysayers… here are the biggest complaints which I will swiftly refute:

Naysayer #1: “Jay Cutler is a good QB but he doesn’t have anyone to throw to”

  • Aside from the fact that the Bears have two solid tigh ends and one the best pass-catching backs in the league, I get the point — the Bears wide receiving corp(se) is  the worst in the league.  But, as my pal Jimmy pointed out, good quarterbacks create better receivers.  Good receivers don’t make great QBs.
  • Note how unimpressive past Packer wideouts become after they leave a team that had  Brett Favre throwing to them. Note how well Randy Moss fared in Oakland without a decent signal caller under center.  Note how well the pass-happy Eagles threw this year without any real stars at the position.  Note how Wes Welker played on the Dolphins compared to how well he’s played in New England.
  • Also worth mentioning: the Bears are sure to make some moves post-draft.  Aside from the draft itself, there are plenty of veteran wide receivers to pick up… Torry Holt, Marvin Harrison, The Foot-Shooter to name a few.  Granted two of those three athletes are past their prime, but they’re still  serviceable, savvy, smart, possession players.

Naysayer #2: “The Bears gave up too much to get Cutler”

  • To lock-up Cutler, the Bears gave up two first-round picks, an additional pick, and their starting QB, Kyle Orton.  On paper, this looks like a pretty steep cost.  But for anyone that’s followed the history of Chicago drafts, this is a great move.  Long-story short, the Bears DO NOT draft offensive players well… or develop them well. Trading away what might be for what already is makes perfect sense.
  • Think about it like this:  Some guy (probably in a trenchcoat) approaches you on the street… let’s call him… ummm,  Josh McDaniels.  He has five-hundred dollars neatly stacked in a pile and wants to trade you for your two “Win a Million” scratch-off lottery tickets.  Mr McDaniels (who is obviously clinically insane) would rather have your two scratch-offs than his cold, hard cash.  He’ll trade you his liquid assets for two of your unscratched lottery tickets.  Sure, your tickets might be worth lots too, but your name is McCaskey and your family has never had much luck in the lottery.  WHY DO YOU NOT AGREE TO THIS TRADE?
  • Appendix: Here are the Bears’ 1st round offensive skill position picks since 1988: Greg Olsen, Cedric Benson, Rex Grossman, David Terrell, Cade McNown, Curtis Enis, Rashaan Salaam, Curtis Conway, Brad Muster, and Wendell Davis.  It’s pretty evident you’ve been squandering them anyway, why not give them away for something tangible? Tangible and fucking awesome btw.

Naysayer #3: “Kyle Orton is the future”

  • K.O., god love him, is a solid QB, and may still wind up being a fantastic player.  But look at the facts: He is not a Pro Bowler,  Cutler is.  He isn’t 13-1 when the defense allows less than 22 points, which Cutler was last year (fyi — Bears avg points allowed last year: 21.9).  Lastly, Orton’s lack of arm strength nullified the speed that “#1” receiver Devin Hester possesses; while the words “Cutler”, “canon”, and “lazer” often appear in the same sentence.
  • It’s Science:
  • Note how "canon" spikes when Jay Cutler news spikes.

I’m thrilled to see what happens this season.  And if Cutler is a bust — so be it.  I don’t think Chicago would have ever forgiven the franchise for not pursing an all-star QB that was within their grasp, so I commend the Bears for making a huge, and long-awaited move.  I’ve never anticipated a season more than I have this off-season.  I wish it started tomorrow.

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NFL Power Rankings and No Love for Team X

October 1, 2008

Leave it to Bristol Connecticut-based ESPN to release a Week 5 Power Ranking that puts the entire NFC East Division in the top ten: New York Giants (1), Dallas Cowboys (3), Washington Redskins (6), and the Philadelphia Eagles (9), while their troubled .500 Patriots still get to linger near the NFL elite.

Obviously, the Giants look hella-good right now but prime-time darlings, the Cowboys, are over-rated as usual. The Redskins did well in Week 4 by beating Dallas but in my opinion, that should devalue “Americas Favorite Team” more than improve Washington’s standing. Keeping Philly in the top 10 after their loss to the Bears is also strange — granted they were sans Brian Westbrook, but that injury situation won’t be resolved before the next kickoff.  What’s more, shouldn’t the Eagles loss to an out-of-conference 1-2 team sink the East’s much-vaunted elite status?  Guess not.

 ***

Let’s do some abstract math. Let’s call a team, “Team X“. Mind you, this is all hypothetical…

Here is how Team X had fared so far:

  • Week 1: Beats #17 Ranked team (away)
  • Week 2: Loses to #7 Ranked team by 3 (away)
  • Week 3: Loses to #10 Ranked team by 3 in OT (home)
  • Week 4: Beats #9 Ranked team (home)

By these stats alone, where would you rank Team X? A team that has beaten the #9 and #17 teams, and has narrowly lost to the #7 and #10 teams. Well, certainly not at #18th (ranked BELOW the two teams they have defeated), right? RIGHT?!?!?! 

 ***

Purely coincidentally, Team X is exactly where the Chicago Bears find themselves in these rankings. As a local fan, this is very off-putting. The Bears are a 2-2 team, ranked 18th, which seems about right until you compare who sits above and below them…  They remain in the lower tier of .500 teams, just above the Jets (19), and Cardinals ( 20), with the 49ers (22) and Falcons (24) bringing up the rear.  What’s MORE questionable in the rankings is the SEVEN two-win teams ahead of them, and even a sub-.500 club, the 1-2 Colts (17), still ahead of them. 

What’s going on? You lose two games by the margin of a field goal to two top-10 teams (Bucs, Panthers) then you beat the Eagles and you wind up below ALL FOUR of them in the rankings?! It makes very little sense outside the NFL Buzz Bubble.

Meanwhile NFC North Rivals, the Favre-less (and now Rodgers-less) Green Bay Packers sit at #15 in the power rankings. The Pack went 2-0 early after two divisional games, beating the sputtering Vikings and lowly Lions. Then they lose to the Cowboys (who narrowly beat the Eagles), and then lost decisively to the Buccaneers, winding up at 2-2.

Would you not think that (*ahem*) Team X should be ranked above them? Considering Team X‘s wins came at the hands of lesser opponents and their losses were to teams that are on-par with those Team X has played. No?  Well then, you must live around Bristol.

***

For instance, the dude over at BeatPaths has a different way of visually-representing NFL Power Rankings which is easy to read, and even, dare I say, borders on functional art.  I’m really enjoying this site:

BeatPaths’ Post Week 4 Visual Ranking:

2008-4-Nfl-Clean

The site ranks team SOLELY on record, eliminating and subjectivity, and ranking teams directly based on two criteria: Number of wins & number of losses. It goes futher by color-coding the teams by divison, so if you’ll note, the NFC East is strong (but not ESPN strong), and the AFC North is being dragged down by the horrible play of both Ohio teams.  Meanwhile, the mediocre NFC North is just that — at about 5th/6th Tier with both 2-2 teams sitting alongside most other 2-2 teams.

These rankings are based on “beat paths” (strings of teams which successivly beat one another), and “beat loops” (groups of teams which have both won or lost to eachother).  

The divisional aspect comes into play because only teams in the save division play eachother twice in the regular season, “beat loops” in which teams split their divisional  help give us insight on how competetive each individual division is.  Click here for more details.

Also, the peeps over at BeatPath were inspired to do there thing because they have the same issues I have with subjectivity:

Seems like all the other major power ranking lists out there are in this category. A sportswriter or a committee applies their subjective judgment to all the teams and ranks them however the hell they want. You’ll see huge changes in the lineup every week because of the upsets. The main flaw with these lists is that they aren’t scientific, have huge variance in week-to-week performance, and aren’t really reflective of the overall quality of a team.

 Rah-rah, BeatPath.  Please meet my “Add To Favorites” button.