Bears

Bates hiring hints at more 'O' changes

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Bates hiring hints at more 'O' changes

He passed on even interviewing for the Bears offensive coordinators job in 2010. Now, Jeremy Bates is working for the Chicago O.C. as quarterbacks coach, getting back together with quarterback Jay Cutler, with whom Bates worked three years while the two were with the Denver Broncos.

The biggest issue with the move, along with the switch from Mike Martz to Mike Tice, is what it will mean for Cutler and the Chicago offense overall. The Bates-Cutler record suggests that the change could be a very, very good one.

Cutler is on his third offensive coordinator in four Bears seasons and third quarterbacks coach as well. The Bears have to hope that this association goes more smoothly than previous ones.

Im very excited to be working with Jeremy Bates again, Cutler told the Bears website Tuesday. We got the right guy for the job.

Cutler didnt have the same to say for Pep Hamilton in 2009 nor even Shane Day in 2010 when Day came in under Mike Martz.

His history with Jay was a big thing, said coach Lovie Smith, who interviewed Bates in Tampa as part of the process. And not just history but a good history, a productive history with him helping Jay as a quarterback.

Bates hiring still leaves the Bears without a passing-game coordinator or offensive line coach. And it suggests some interesting possibilities for where the Bears offense will be going.

New O directions?

Installing Tice as offensive coordinator to replace Martz takes the offense in new directions from the Martz years, which were marked with growing Tice influence in 2010 and 2011. Adding Bates, who is a far more NFL-offense-savvy quarterbacks coach than his immediate predecessors, points to the position coach having input into more than just Cutlers techniques.

Bates comes from working with Mike Shanahan in Denver and Pete Carroll at USC and Seattle. Those are coaches from a West Coast foundation, closer to the balance favored by Tice and Smith.

And the scheme should more than agree with Cutler despite his bad relationship with Ron Turner, a West Coast practitioner, in 2009. The reasons were not all his quarterback coach, but Cutlers release and health were both better under Bates.

Cutlers three-year passer rating under BatesShanahan was 87.1. He has failed to reach that level in any of this three Chicago seasons.

With BatesShanahan, Cutler was sacked a total of 51 times in three Denver seasons. He was sacked 52 times in 2010 alone.

In 2008 Cutler threw for a Denver franchise record 4,526 yards. The Broncos had the second-best offense in the NFL in terms of yards per game (395.8). Cutler completed 762 of 1,220 passing attempts (62.5 percent) for 9,024 yards, 54 touchdowns and 37 interceptions for an 87.1 passer rating in 37 starts in Denver while Bates was there.

The last couple years he had full control of my development and our plays coming in, Cutler told ChicagoBears.com.

Hes a grinder. Hes a guy thats going to work extremely hard to find weaknesses in defenses and hes going to be able to present it to us in a way we can understand and will be able to make plays where we can take advantage of those weaknesses.

Rapid-fire career changes

After the three successful years in Denver, Bates career path took sharp turns.

Bates left the Broncos when Shanahan was fired after the 2008 season. He went to USC under Pete Carroll as quarterbacks coach in 2009 but that lasted just a year. Carroll left to become Seattle Seahawks head coach and took Bates as his offensive coordinator.

But that lasted only a year and Bates was let go over differences of philosophy with Carroll, a curious problem to have after two years with Carroll.

Bates joins the Bears with eight years of coaching experience with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2002-03, offensive quality control; 2004, assistant quarterbacks), New York Jets (2005, quarterbacks), Denver Broncos (2006, offensive assistant; 2007 wide receiversquarterbacks; 2008, quarterbacks), USC (2009, assistant head coachquarterbacks) and Seattle Seahawks (2010, offensive coordinator).

SportsTalk Live Podcast: How hot is John Fox's seat?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: How hot is John Fox's seat?

Seth Gruen (Bleacher Report/”Big Ten Unfiltered” podcast), Chris Emma (670TheScore.com) and Matt Zahn (CBS 2) join Kap on the panel. If the Bears lose badly to the Lions, should Sunday be John Fox’s last game? 

Plus Bulls Insider Vincent Goodwill joins the panel to talk Bulls as well as the Niko/Portis cold war.

Listen to the full SportsTalk Live Podcast right here:

Collecting some final thoughts on if Tarik Cohen isn't getting enough snaps for the Bears

Collecting some final thoughts on if Tarik Cohen isn't getting enough snaps for the Bears

John Fox on Friday sought to clarify some comments he made earlier in the week about Tarik Cohen that seemed to follow some spurious logic. Here’s what Fox said on Wednesday when asked if he’d like to see Cohen be more involved in the offensive game plan:

“You’re looking at one game,” Fox said, referencing Cohen only playing 13 of 60 snaps against the Green Bay Packers. “Sometimes the defense dictates who gets the ball. I think from a running standpoint it was a game where we didn’t run the ball very effectively. I think we only ran it 17 times. I believe Jordan Howard, being the fifth leading rusher in the league, probably commanded most of that. I think he had 15 carries. 

“It’s a situation where we’d like to get him more touches, but it just didn’t materialize that well on that day. But I’d remind people that he’s pretty high up there in both punt returns, he’s our leading receiver with 29 catches, so it’s not like we don’t know who he is.”

There were some clear holes to poke in that line of reasoning, since the question wasn’t about Cohen’s touches, but his snap count. Cohen creates matchup problems when he’s on the field for opposing defenses, who can be caught having to double-team him (thus leaving a player uncovered, i.e. Kendall Wright) or matching up a linebacker against him (a positive for the Bears). The ball doesn’t have to be thrown Cohen’s way for his impact to be made, especially if he’s on the field at the same time as Howard. 

“They don’t know who’s getting the ball, really, and they don’t know how to defend it properly,” Howard said. “… It definitely can dictate matchups.”

There are certain scenarios in which the Bears don’t feel comfortable having Cohen on the field, like in third-and-long and two-minute drills, where Benny Cunningham’s veteran experience and pass protection skills are valued. It may be harder to create a mismatch or draw a double team with Cohen against a nickel package. It's easier to justify leaving a 5-foot-6 running back on the sidelines in those situations. 

But if the Bears need Cohen to be their best playmaker, as offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said last month, they need to find a way for him to be on the field more than a shade over one in every five plays. As Fox explained it on Friday, though, it’s more about finding the right spots for Cohen, not allowing opposing defenses to dictate when he’s on the field. 

“We have Tarik Cohen out there, we're talking about touches, not play time, we're talking about touches so if they double or triple cover him odds are the ball is not going to him, in fact we'd probably prefer it didn’t,” Fox said. “So what I meant by dictating where the ball goes, that's more related to touches than it is play time. I just want to make sure I clarify that. So it's not so much that they dictate personnel to you. Now if it's in a nickel defense they have a certain package they run that may create a bad matchup for you, that might dictate what personnel group you have out there not just as it relates to Tarik Cohen but to your offense in general. You don't want to create a bad matchup for your own team. I hope that makes sense.”

There’s another wrinkle here, though, that should be addressed: Loggains said this week that defenses rarely stick to the tendencies they show on film when Cohen is on the field. That’s not only a problem for Cohen, but it’s a problem for Mitchell Trubisky, who hasn’t always had success against defensive looks he hasn’t seen on film before. And if the Bears are trying to minimize the curveballs Trubisky sees, not having Cohen on the field for a high volume of plays would be one way to solve that. 

This is also where the Bears’ lack of offensive weapons factors in. Darren Sproles, who Cohen will inexorably be linked to, didn’t play much as a rookie — but that was on a San Diego Chargers team that had LaDanian Tomlinson, Keenan McCardell and Antonio Gates putting up big numbers. There were other options on that team; the Bears have a productive Howard and a possibly-emerging Dontrelle Inman, but not much else. 

So as long as Cohen receives only a handful of snaps on a team with a paucity of playmakers, this will continue to be a topic of discussion. Though if you’re looking more at the future of the franchise instead of the short-term payoffs, that we’re having a discussion about a fourth-round pick not being used enough is a good thing.