The intriguing figure in the Bears offense Sunday in Seattle won’t be Jimmy Clausen. It won’t be Kyle Long.
It will be offensive coordinator Adam Gase.
Forget Clausen and the Bears quarterback situation for a moment. The Bears offensive coordinator was given the No. 7 pick of the 2015 NFL Draft (wide receiver Kevin White) to work with, in addition to Jeffery, fifth in the NFL in receiving yards since 2012, and 16th all-time in Bears franchise history for receiving yards and receptions.
Except that White is out indefinitely with a stress fracture and Jeffery didn’t play last week and won't play this week because of a hamstring strain.
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Gase, at the outset of training camp, had four of the five 16-game starting offensive linemen from 2013 back together. Except that the week before the start of the regular season Gase’s two-time Pro Bowl right guard (Long) was moved to right tackle.
And then there is the little matter of Gase preparing for the two-time NFC Champion Seahawks with a backup quarterback.
OK, play those cards. Let’s see whatcha' got.
The preparation for this week arguably has been going on for months, having nothing to do with Clausen. The offensive coordinator spent significant time and effort this offseason tailoring his scheme and plan to what Jay Cutler does — and doesn’t — do well. Gase didn’t shrink his playbook so much as structure his program around simplifying Cutler’s decision-making, never Cutler’s strength — playing to what Cutler does well and playing down what the veteran quarterback doesn’t.
Now Gase is tasked with taking Clausen from one start over the past four-plus seasons into an NFL quarterback capable of going eyeball-to-eyeball with the defense of the Seahawks and not blinking.
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The plan, as it was with Cutler, is to simplify, since things tend to move faster and more efficiently if excess thinking is kept to a minimum.
“Obviously I can’t make too many plays if I have the ball in my hands,” Clausen said, “so I’ve got to distribute it to the running backs, tight ends, receivers, and just get those guys the ball in space and let them make plays.”
Gase’s plan for Cutler was showing every sign of working, the interceptions against the Green Bay Packers and Arizona Cardinals notwithstanding. Before the pick-six against the Cardinals, Cutler had completed eight straight passes for 120 yards and directed efficient scoring drives of 89 and 80 yards on consecutive possessions.
Over his final five-and-a-half games of 2014, Cutler had a total of one drive as long as 80 yards.
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Gase didn’t throw or catch any of those eight Cutler passes but he called those plays and developed the game plan that had the Bears with touchdowns on two of their first three possessions — same as Carson Palmer and Arizona.
Without getting into specifics, Gase pointed the thumb rather than the finger as the reason for the failure of the Bears to convert two second-quarter takeaways into more than just two field goals.
“I was more disappointed in the play calling,” Gase said on Thursday. “I thought I did a poor job of putting those guys in a good position. After going back and watching the tape and evaluating that I feel like I could have put Jimmy in some better spots and so that was my biggest criticism was I should have done a better job as far as putting our players in a better position.”