Bears

View from the Moon: Cutler's poor national grade

View from the Moon: Cutler's poor national grade

Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2011
5:09 PM
By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

ESPN chum and NFL expert John Clayton has seen a bit of Jay Cutler this season, beginning with a visit to Bourbonnais and most recently some play in Soldier Field. The Professor takes a long look at NFL quarterbacks, ranks them and doesnt have a real high opinion of the Bears QB.

John has three simple divisions: Elite, Chad Pennington and Hit-or-Miss. Elite (12 players) is obvious. Pennington is that strata of quarterback good enough to get a team into the playoffs with a favorable schedule or decent supporting cast. H-or-M is the catch-all for players who could move up to elite status, declining veterans or forget-its.

Cutler is at No. 16, which makes him a Pennington and is exactly where his passer rating (86.3) ranked. The reason is pretty basic and its the same one that plagued Cutler and the Bears last season and hurt them Sunday in Green Bay: interceptions. Cutler had fewer picks (16) this season than in 2009 (26) and fewer this year than Eliters Eli Manning (25), Drew Brees (22) and Peyton Manning (17).

The difference really lies in more than simply the number of interceptions. It involves being a winning quarterback, which Cutler is for only the first time this year since high school, whereas the other three mentioned all have Super Bowl rings.

Johns analysis is a good read. Its also a pretty spot-on ranking and take on Cutler, who would have zero interest in what any member of the media thinks of him. But he is not an Elite quarterback yet, and thats what the Bears need him to be, starting a week from next Sunday.

Foe-watching

Colleague Reuben Frank at CSNPhilly.com takes a long look at the Bears potential division-round opponent, noting that the Philadelphia Eagles are the fourth-youngest team in the NFL this season and the youngest in the NFC playoffs. The problem, for the Packers this weekend and potentially the Bears the weekend after, is that they dont play like a group of youngns anymore.

Tixing
Passing along a note from the Bears:

A limited number of playoff tickets are scheduled to go on sale on Wednesday at 10 AM, through Ticketmaster. Tickets are only on sale for the first home playoff game. A second sale date will be announced if Chicago hosts the NFC Championship game.

All playoff game ticket sales through Ticketmaster are via phone and Internet only. Fans may charge by phone at (800) 745-3000, or on-line at www.ticketmaster.com. Tickets are priced at 107 to 559. There is a limit of four tickets per customer or billing address. Tickets purchased through Ticketmaster are subject to a per ticket customer convenience charge. Ticketmaster accepts Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express and Diners Club cards.

Wheelchair seating is available for the playoffs through Ticketmaster. Should the wheelchair seating allocation through Ticketmaster become exhausted, fans with disabilities are encouraged to proceed with the purchase of conventional seating if available then call the Bears ticket office to arrange an exchange. For further information, please call the Chicago Bears ticket office at (847) 615-BEAR (2327) or log on to www.ChicagoBears.com.

Rostering

Northwesterns week wasnt a total loss as wide receiver Eric Peterman was signed to the Bears practice squad to fill the spot created when Juaquin Iglesias was signed onto the Minnesota Vikings roster. Peterman had 3 catches for 39 yards in preseason for the Bears.

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.

For one writer, Hall of Fame semifinalist selection of Brian Urlacher closes a career circle

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USA TODAY

For one writer, Hall of Fame semifinalist selection of Brian Urlacher closes a career circle

The news on Tuesday wasn’t really any sort of surprise: Brian Urlacher being selected as a semifinalist for the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. Some of the immediate thoughts were, however, for one writer who covered Brian from the day he was drafted on through the unpleasant end of his 13-year career as a Bear.

Good thoughts, though. Definitely good.

The first was a flashback, to a Tuesday in late August 2000 when the ninth-overall pick of the draft, who’d been anointed the starting strong-side linebacker by coach Dick Jauron on draft day, was benched.

It happened up at Halas Hall when Urlacher all of a sudden wasn’t running with the 1’s. Rosie Colvin was in Urlacher’s spot with the starters and would be for a few games into the 2000 season. I caught up with Brian before he walked, in a daze, into Halas Hall after practice and asked about what I’d just seen.

"I'm unhappy with the way I'm playing and I'm sure they are, too," Urlacher said. "I don't think I've been playing very well so that's probably the cause for it right there. I just don't have any technique. I need to work on my technique, hands and feet mostly. I've got to get those down, figure out what I'm doing. I know the defense pretty good now, just don't know how to use my hands and feet."

Urlacher, an All-American safety at New Mexico but MVP of the Senior Bowl in his first game at middle linebacker, had been starting at strong side, over the tight end, because coaches considered it a simpler position for Urlacher to master. But he was not always correctly aligned before the snap, did not use his hands against blockers effectively and occasionally led with his head on tackles. His benching cost him the chance to be the first Bears rookie linebacker since Dick Butkus to start an Opening Day.

It also was the first time in his football life that Urlacher could remember being demoted.

"It's not a good feeling," he said. "I definitely don't like getting demoted but I know why I am. I just have to get better."

Coaches understood what they were really attempting, subsequently acknowledged privately that the SLB experiment was a mistake. While the strong-side slot may have been simpler than the other two principally because of coverage duties, "we're trying to force-feed the kid an elephant," then-defensive coordinator Greg Blache said.

"So you see him gag and what do you do? You give him the Heimlich maneuver, you take some of it out of his mouth, try to chop it up into smaller pieces. He's going to devour it and be a great football player. But he wouldn't be if we choked him to death."

Urlacher didn’t choke and eventually became the starter, not outside, but at middle linebacker when Barry Minter was injured week two at Tampa Bay.

We sometimes don’t fully know the import or significance at the time we’re witnessing something. Urlacher stepping in at middle linebacker was not one of those times – you knew, watching him pick up four tackles in basically just the fourth quarter of a 41-0 blowout by the Bucs.

That was the beginning. Over the years came moments like Urlacher scooping up a Michael Vick fumble in the 2001 Atlanta game and going 90 yards with Vick giving chase but not catching him. Lots of those kinds of moments.

And then cutting to the ending, in 2013, when he and the organization came to an acrimonious parting after GM Phil Emery managed to alienate the face of the franchise both with the one-year contract offer and the way it was handled. Butkus had a nasty separation at the end of his Bears years, too, and Bill George finished his career as a Los Angeles Ram after creating the middle linebacker position as a Bear. Maybe that’s just how Bears and some of their linebackers wind up their relationships.

In any case, while there is no cheering in the pressbox, the hope here is that Brian goes into the Hall in a class with Ray Lewis in their first years of eligibility. Somehow that just seems like it all should close out for that confused kid from New Mexico who lost his first job out of college, but responded to that by becoming one of the all-time greats in his sport.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Who deserves the most blame for Bears losses?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Who deserves the most blame for Bears losses?

Mark Potash (Chicago Sun-Times), Ben Finfer (ESPN 1000) and Kevin Fishbain (The Athletic) join Kap on the panel. It’s another losing season for the Bears. So who deserves the most blame: Ryan Pace, John Fox or the players? Plus Mark Schanowski drops by to talk about the Bulls future and if the Celtics will win the East.