Monday, Jan. 24, 2011
By John Mullin
Monday morning notebook dump...
Nice to visit with Dan on The Dan Patrick Show on Comcast SportsNet this morning and noodle over some of the aftermath.
Dan raised a telling thought on whether Jay Cutler can ever fully recover from the perception of quitting. Scottie Pippen never was able to wash away the stigma of his mystery migraine in playoff situations, even after the Bulls won with him.
But Pippen had Jordan as the lead dog and ultimately there were NBA championships piled up, so at least some of the rawness is exorcised for fans.
READ: Cutler reportedly suffered MCL tear
Until Cutler hoists a championship trophy, whether the Halas one for winning the NFC or the Lombardi one for a Super Bowl, or until he plays while wiping blood out of his eyes late in a fourth quarter, the haters will probably still hate him or at least question him. Winning cures a whole lot of problems and while Cutler was part of a far better season than most expected the Bears to have, he didnt win.
And for the real haters, he lost to the Packers in two of his last three games.
Dan was puzzled by the whole Todd Collins-Caleb Hanie depth chart thing. Hes not alone. More on that a little later.
But what would have happened had the Bears pulled out a win Sunday? Good question but difficult to answer without knowing the extent of Cutlers injury. Maybe Cutler is a closet Philip Rivers, has knee surgery and doesnt miss a game (by the way, Rivers was pulled and didnt return in the game where he sustained the knee injury). Maybe its a torn ACL and he isnt fully ready even by training camp.
Hanie wouldnt have started over a Cutler even with restricted mobility. Lets dismiss that thought right now.
Does anyone really think that Cutler, who didnt want out of the New York Giants game when he was in the process of being annihilated in a nine-sack first half, really wussed out of an NFC Championship game? I guess anything is possible, but come on.
Good buddy Jim Trotter writing for Sports Illustrated was up close to Cutler in the locker room after the incident and thought he saw tears or at least a little dampness in Cutlers eyes when the whole business of other non-Bears players questioning his toughness, and by extension his character.
I didnt see Cutlers eyes that close but I somehow find it easier to believe what J.T. was seeing than to believe that the guy quit on his team 30 minutes from the Super Bowl.
The Bears have done Cutler few favors for image. Forget the whole podium scenes and the perceived petulance. Recall how the whole Martz-hiring process went. Wanting to be sure that your franchise quarterback and potential O.C. get along is certainly reasonable.
But Martz was placed in the role of supplicant, being flown to Nashville to meet with Cutler rather than the player getting on a plane and getting his a (thats arm hes a quarterback whatd you think I meant?) up to Chicago to meet his boss.
Contrast that with Jim McMahon arriving for his first contract negotiation, getting out of the limo wearing shorts, sunglasses and hanging onto a beer on his way to meet George Halas (not the other way around).
That sort of thing plays in Chicago. You would be hard pressed to find a surlier public figure than McMahon, nor one who was so frequently injured. No questions from the public about his toughness, although there were more than a few from his defensive teammates at times, unlike a Brian Urlacher angrily having Cutlers back (or knee, whatever).
Questioning the coaches decision to defer after the coin flip and opt to receive the second-half kickoff seriously moves the Stupid Meter. The criticism has been based in the Bears allowing Aaron Rodgers to have the ball first and seize momentum and points instead of giving the Chicago offense that first-strike capability.
First, this is Chicago. If you want to get the lakefront rocking, cry havoc and let slip the dogs of Bears defense. A three-and-out by the defense charges up Soldier Field and the Bears in toto
More to the point, somebody up at Halas Hall was doing a decent scouting job on Green Bay in this area. In 18 opening possessions for the 2010 regular and post-seasons, Rodgers and that offense scored exactly two touchdowns, none since the fourth week of the season and that against the Detroit Lions. The Packers scored three field goals on first possessions, only one since Game 6.
One of the NFLs more explosive offenses scored 23 points on opening drives of first halves. Seven times, including the Atlanta game, the Packers did not manage a first down on an opening drive.
On the other side, Rodgers got points on five of their last nine opening drives in the second half of games, including a touchdown at Atlanta. Total points in the last nine opening second-half drives: 42.
Indeed, the defense was reeling for the first 19 minutes with 2 touchdown drives allowed. The unit then shut out Rodgers for the final 41 minutes. No, deferring was the right call.
Huh? Part 2
Every so often the prospect of the Bears losing Mike Martz to a head-coaching job gets tossed out. Stop that. Now.
Martzs call of the end-around with Earl Bennett on a third-and-3 at the Green Bay 27 was the capstone of a season fraught with mis-calls by a coordinator who had to be called to task for game-planning based on what he had in St. Louis and not what he has in Chicago.
Matt Forte had 160 combined yards at that point and yet did not see the ball on the Bears final four plays. The Bears still had a timeout but instead of two plays for Forte to pick up 3 yards, the call was a gimmick for someone with exactly two carries all season, none over the past seven games and who was inactive with a lower-body injury in Game 16.
Line coach Mike Tice was given added say in game-planning back during the off week. The offense improved at that point. The Bears are unlikely to dispatch Martz but the impact of Tice on the 2011 offense will increase.
Mike Martz was given the money for the wide-body tight end he wanted in Brandon Manumaleuna. That produced next to nothing in the run game and absolutely nothing in the passing offense.
Martz was given the money for the veteran quarterback he wanted in Todd Collins. Martz was given the depth-chart say-so to elevate Collins to No. 2 over Caleb Hanie, even after Collins posted passer ratings of 8.1 in relief against the New York Giants and 6.2 as the starter in Carolina when Cutler was recovering from his concussion.
Collins improved to a rating of 39.6 Sunday without completing any of his four passes for the simple reason that while he did not throw any completions, he also didnt throw any interceptions, the rating killer.
Hanie put up a 102.1 against New York and 84.0 at Carolina. Even with the two INTs Sunday, his 65.2 mark after running exactly zero plays of his own offense since mid-October is an indictment of Martz.
The two Collins series were ones the Bears could not afford to give away in what became a one-score game ultimately.
The Bears did not lose the NFC Championship game because of their wide receivers but they also did not win it because of them, which is what you do expect from players you consider playmakers.
John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.