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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Packers versus Bears

November 18, 2008

Using the term “versus” denotes that one team plays another, I should change this headline to “Packers Pwnd Bears”

My God, my brain cannot function in ways to comprehend how badly the Bears were beaten yesterday. In a 37-3 route, the Pack CRUSHED the Bears in every possible way. As my frontal lobe cannot put together words, I’ll just copy-and-paste some comments in email conversation I had this morning with friends from both Chicago and *gasp* Wisconsin

  • On behalf of the Packers, I apologize… I didn’t expect that and I won’t gloat, beyond the SCOTT STAPP text I sent.

  • You gotta give the Pack credit for playing a great game all-around, and running 200+ on a team that usually “shuts down” the run.
  • That was the most pathetic Bears game I’ve ever seen. (Well, recently)
  • I missed Rex Grossman’s magic
  • I did see Mike Brown’s hit on Ryan Grant. I was surprised Grant was able to come back in the game, it looked monster
  • Did you see the Slo-Mo of Grossman warming up and the ball flipping backwards out of his hand?!?! Hilarious!
  • I say for the remainder of the season, STAY with the run-stopping… make teams beat you through the air. We may be one-dimensional, but as of last week our one-dimension had us leading the division with our only losses coming to two division leaders (one undefeated), and two playoff-bound teams – all of which by a touchdown or less
  • That’s a good point…Even the first game against the Colts was against a very rusty Manning.
  • I think as much as the defense is regressing, the offense needs to do something. Either Orton’s ankle is still bum or Grossman is watching game tape from the early 00’s Bears and boycotting passes longer than 10 yards.
  • Shoop time baby!
  • Orton’s definitely still hurt (sidenote: the Aaron Kampman cheap-shot didn’t help)… maybe 70%.
  • Was Kampman’s hit late? I only a saw a replay of it, but I couldn’t tell if he was diving for Orton and hit his ankle or if Orton hurt his ankle again when he was trying to move away from Kampma
  • The ball was well out of Kyle Orton’s hand, the play was over and Kampman was on the ground… and he reached AROUND Orton’s good leg to get a shot at the bad one. I’m trying to find video.
  • Ew. That sounds like a fine to me!
  • The Bears were just lousy. I don’t mind (as much) losing a well-fought game, but that was just embarrassing.
  • If you listened to the radio last night, oh man, people were pissed.
  • It turns out that the Bears defense IS terrible, and the whole “good at stopping the run” thing was just a way of hiding the fact our entire defense is subpar.
  • We could “stack the box” against teams with average QBs (Matt Ryan, Kerry Collins, Gus Ferotte, effing Dan Orlovsky) but when you play a team with good WRs and a good QB like the Packers, we had to play honest, and it really showed how fucking miserable this teams defense is.
  • The crazy thing is that we were all oblivious to how bad the team was, when ALL those teams with mediocre/rookie QBs – Falcons, Titans, Vikings, Lions were all throwing well against us, even though only two wound up being losses.

Orton to Seahawks Defense: “Thanks”

August 18, 2008

Well, it’s official, the Chicago Bears website has named Kyle Orton the Bears starting QB for their opening game against the Colts on September 7th.

 

Although it was obvious that Orton was leading the competition, it was by a fairly slim margin.  As ChicagoBears.com reported:

…Orton slightly outperformed Grossman in two preseason games, compiling a better completion percentage (63.2-56.5), yards per attempt average (5.21-5.13) and passer rating (76.4-66.9) while connecting on 12 of 19 passes for 99 yards. Grossman has completed 13 of 23 passes for 118 yards.

Not only are those stats not that great for a starting QB in preseason, but Orton’s not really that far ahead of Grossman — especially considering Grossman has more total yards and less turnovers than Orton.  Grossman’s only turnover of the preseason came from being blindsided on a Seattle blitz on Saturday.  That said, there’s been WEEKS of practice that must have informed the Bears Coaching Staff decicion.

It was obvious that the two-minute drill that Orton pulled off at the end of the first half against Seattle was impressive, but there’s a few things that bother me. 

Firstly, getting a field goal out of a two-minute drill is not always the most difficult thing to pull off.  If you’re at the end of a (Preseason) half — it’s possible the defense was playing more prevent-style as the clock ticked away, allowing for Orton to move the ball up the field, but not allow for a touchdown (which you’ll note, is exactly what happened, as a bomb from Orton to Hester was knocked down).

 

Secondly, the Seahawks blitzed WAY TOO MUCH for a preseason game.  Although there’s no rules against it, it is NOT customary to send that many guys at the quarterback in a game that doesn’t even count.  How are you supposed to judge Grossman’s sub-par performance if he was fighting off rushes that the Chicago o-line may not have even been prepared for?

I’m definitely not the only one that felt this way.  Reporting for ESPN NFC West page, Mike Sando said the same thing…

The Seahawks blitzed far more than usual for an exhibition game …  Rex Grossman and Kyle Orton have not looked good tonight, but it’s tough to function in the preseason when the opposing defense is sending three blitzers at a time. It’s not like the Bears were game-planning for it.

The unrelenting blitzes makes me wonder, was Seattle deliberately trying to mess up our QB controversy?  Is this some weird pay-back for a 2-year old playoff loss that I’ve forgotten about until now?  Those questions tend to blame Seattle for playing good football, so my other question would have to be directed towards Bears Offensive Coordinator Ron Turner, who commented that Seattle blitzing was…

…something we have to deal with. We expected it. We anticipated it. They didn’t come with that much pressure last week, but when they played us last year they did. We anticipated that we would see that much pressure. It’s something you have to handle. When a team brings pressure like that you have to look at it as an opportunity to make a play. We have handled it well and we will handle it well.

Handled it well?  Um, no.  So, question one: Because there is a QB contest going on, were you unwilling to change the offensive gameplan despite the unrelenting blitzes?  It would make sense to start running draws, screens, quick slants etc, to nullify the blitz, but those sort of plays don’t exactly showcase what Rex would need to do to impress anyone.

Ah well.  Preseason Week 3 means Orton will get nearly two-thirds of the game to showcase what he can do, and is there a better confidence-building team than the lowly Niners?  Probably not.


Bears Workouts, Hester Exists.

July 28, 2008

The daily workout videos are actually really fun to watch — then again, I can’t really gain any insights only watching  highlights.  I’m still going to try to.

 Video #4 has some nice touchy feely slow-motion video of a dusk workout, but the full-pad scrimmage is what I’m really interested in.  Quick highlights (set to some shitty rock music):

  • Matt Forte makes a nice one-handed run & catch for big yardage
  • Kyle Orton connects with Greg Olsen who dodges a tackler and is off to the races
  • Rex Grossman goes deep to Mike Hass
  • Nathan Vasher breaks up a Orton-Rashied Davis pass
  • Grossman from shotgun connects a short cut to Kellen Davis
  • Grossman throws deep in-stride to Mark Bradley (he’s still there?)
  • Orton, moving very well in the pocket, throws on the run to Desmond Clark for a TD

Chicago Bears blogger Larry Mayer also commented that SEC WR product Earl Bennet is looking great in practice and could wind up being a great draft deal.  Though he seems about a half-foot shorter than Marques Colston, it’d be nice to see that sort of pleasent suprise in wideout corp this year:

Given the way Bennett has performed so far in training camp, he could eventually be one of the biggest steals in the draft. Think about the level of competition in the SEC and it’s even more impressive that he left Vanderbilt as the conference’s all-time leading receiver with 236 catches, a feat he accomplished in just three seasons!

 

Oh yeah.  Also.  Hester Hester Hester Hester Hester Hester, Hester? Hester Hester .  I’m happy Angelo locked him up, now let’s focus on other weapons so we don’t have to depend on him for EVERY score.


Bears Begin Rebuilding Decade

March 4, 2008

(Originally found on URChicago here.)

Plans to visit the Super Bowl every 11 years or so is underway for the Chicago Bears franchise. With savvy off-season non-moves, they’re well on pace to make the playoffs again by 2017 – their scouts are scouring adolescent Pop Warner prospects as we speak.

Bears management have opted not re-sign our top two receivers — Bernard Berrian and Muhsin Muhammed. On the official Bears depth chart, this leaves Rashied Davis and Mark Bradley as the two guys that are supposed to catch balls by Grossman or Orton (whoever’s preseason play is less disappointing). Scared Yet?

Maybe the Bears are going to focus on the good ‘ol strategery of “running and defense” — an antiquated philosophy the Bears have always held dear. This plan of attack last year led to the third-worst rushing offense and the fifth-worst total defense in the NFL.

You’d think the Bears would have some interest in Pro Bowler to-be, Michael Turner. You’d think. He was a premier free agent — a classic, bruising, power running back… you know, the type that Cedric Benson was supposed to be. Turner had expressed interest in playing for Chicago and was prettymuch waiting for an offer. Bears looked the other way, Turner signed with the Falcons and so far, the Bears’ biggest off-season move has been a large, exaggerated, collective shrug.