Bears

Can Cutler fully recover from 'quitting' perception?

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Can Cutler fully recover from 'quitting' perception?

Monday, Jan. 24, 2011
10:11 a.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

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).

Huh?

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.

Uh, no.

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.

Huh?

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.

Looking ahead

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.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Did the Bears technically "win" on Sunday?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Did the Bears technically "win" on Sunday?

David Haugh (Chicago Tribune), Adam Jahns (Chicago Sun-Times) and Patrick Finley (Chicago Sun-Times) join Kap on the panel.  Kap is happy that Mitch Trubisky played ok and John Fox’s team lost again.  The panel disagrees.

Plus Leonard Floyd doesn’t have an ACL tear…. Yet. Should the Bears shut him down even if he gets good news?

Bears need Mitch Trubisky to become a closer, but teammates see it coming

Bears need Mitch Trubisky to become a closer, but teammates see it coming

With Sunday’s game on the line and the Bears owning the football at their 17-yard line, the offense needed a drive for field goal position to tie the Detroit Lions. But rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky, with 1:03 on the clock, wasn’t thinking 3 points. He was thinking touchdown and a win, and the huddle knew it.

“I think that's his mindset all the time,” said guard Josh Sitton, who recognized something familiar in Trubisky’s face that Sitton had seen over his years with Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay. “He's a play-maker, he's got all the confidence in the world in himself and the guys around him.

“You can just see it on his face. I don't think he really says anything, he doesn't really need to say anything, you can kind of see it, by that look in his eyes. He's got what it takes to be a great player in this league.”

It was not intended to be any even remote comparison with Rodgers. More than eyes are involved in that. But while the drive Sunday ended in failure in the form of a missed field goal, something was noted in the process.

The 13-play drive for the Bears’ first touchdown Sunday was the longest sustained by the offense under Trubisky. And it was a statement possession for an offense that had not scored a first-quarter touchdown in nine prior games.

But if a negative among the many Trubisky positives was the fourth time in five situations that Trubisky has failed to direct a game-winning or –tying drive, which goes a long way to answering why the Bears are 2-4 under him. Actually the number of come-up-short drives is more than those if you count things like a three-and-out at Baltimore in regulation before Trubisky led a seven-play drive for a winning overtime field goal.

Still, looking a little deeper, Trubisky has gotten progressively “closer” to being the kind of finisher that the Bears have needed for decades. At the very least, Trubisky is keeping drives alive longer and longer, if not ending them with points. In these situations:

Vs.                     4th qtr/OT situation

Minnesota         1 play, interception ends potential winning drive

Baltimore          3 plays, punt, regulation ends in tie

                           7 plays, game-winning FG in OT

Carolina            Game already decided

New Orleans    2 plays, interception ends drive for tie

Green Bay        5 plays, ball over on downs on drive for tie

Detroit               11 plays, missed FG for tie

Within the huddle, the team confidence in Trubisky and vice versa has clearly grown, regardless of outcome, and that is something the offense did not consistently have in Mike Glennon, Matt Barkley, Brian Hoyer, Jay Cutler, Jimmy Clausen or even Josh McCown.

“[Trubisky] is just growing and growing and you just see it,” Sittyon said. “You saw the talent right away and he just keeps ... the nuances of the game, he just keeps learning and learning. He gives you all the confidence in the world as a guy in the locker room and on the field, in the huddle.

“He has that look in his eye where you're thinking 'All right, he's going to get the job done.’”

Staff addition? Probably not but Bears have an opening

Taking a morning-after look around the NFL after the Bears’ 27-24 loss to the Detroit Lions:

Something to probably dismiss but at least worth mentioning… .

The Denver Broncos on Monday fired offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, the same Mike McCoy who handled the Denver offense as John Fox’s OC. Don’t expect anything in-season, certainly not at this point, but the situation does offer an interesting future option if somehow Fox sees the fourth and final year of his contract, even looking further down the coaching road irrespective of Fox’s presence.

McCoy was ousted from a foundering Broncos situation, presumably over not being able to make anything much out of Trevor Simian

McCoy, who was the mix of candidates and interviewed to succeed Lovie Smith back in 2012, wouldn’t necessarily be brought in as offensive coordinator by Fox or anyone else. What about the role of “consultant” or “assistant head coach” added to the Bears offensive staff?

The Bears have neither position on the staff currently, and haven’t had an assistant head coach since Rod Marinelli had that as part of his title from 2009-2012 under Lovie Smith. Marinelli, like McCoy, had been a head coach as well.

Notably, Fox kept McCoy on his staffs when Fox was hired both in Carolina and Denver, a good measure of Fox’s take on McCoy’s offensive-coaching skills. Fox added the job of passing-game coordinator to McCoy’s duties as quarterbacks coach with Carolina in 2007-08. Since then McCoy coached Peyton Manning in Denver and Philip Rivers in San Diego.

Also notably, perhaps in the other direction, Fox might have brought McCoy to Chicago after the latter was fired as Chargers head coach after last season. That didn’t happen, possibly because McCoy instead wanted a full OC position, which wasn’t open with Loggains in place.

Offensive consultants aren’t necessarily staff bloating; they have been referred to as “coaches for coaches.” Bruce Arians brought in longtime OC Tom Moore when Arians became Arizona Cardinals head coach (following Phil Emery’s decision to go with Marc Trestman over Arians). Moore previously served as offensive coordinator, then senior offensive coordinator, then offensive consultant through the Peyton Manning years in Indianapolis. Moore subsequently became offensive consultant for the Jets (2011) and Tennessee Titans (2012), the latter stint while Loggains was offensive coordinator.

Longtime offensive line coach Jim McNally has been a “consultant” with the Jets (2011-12) and Bengals (2012-this season). Randy Brown was a kicking consultant working under Bears special teams coaches in the Dave Wannstedt and Dick Jauron regimes, going on to work under John Harbaugh in Philadelphia and Baltimore.