Bears

Bears tough-love quarterback draft makes sense behind Jay Cutler

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Bears tough-love quarterback draft makes sense behind Jay Cutler

No quarterback likes pressure, and only a very select few perform better under it. Jay Cutler may be one of those, if not exactly under the presumed kind of pressure. A logical question arising out of that fact, however, may well make sense as part of Bears draft plans for 2016, a draft ostensibly light on elite, first round quarterbacks but ones who will be available on Days 2 and 3.

Cutler may indeed be one of those individuals who not only responds well to a challenge or threat, but also in fact needs one. He would be in select company in that regard.

It was a routine practice in Green Bay when the Packers year-after-year brought in backups for Brett Favre, as one of them turned out to be Aaron Rodgers.

More recently, consider Tom Brady as a possible object lesson.

[MORE BEARS: NFL Draft could hold QB nuggets for Bears]

Brady is in the discussion as one of the greatest quarterback in NFL history. Yet, during his epic run as New England Patriots starter, the Pats drafted his “replacement” over and over again:

YEAR QUARTERBACK ROUND
2002 Rohan Davey fourth
2003 Kliff Kingsbury sixth
2005 Matt Cassel seventh
2008 Kevin O’Connell third
2010 Zac Robinson  seventh
2011 Ryan Mallett  third
2014 Jimmy Garoppolo second

Probably just coincidence here, but in three of those years in which New England drafted a quarterback (2003, 2011, 2014), including the last one when they took a quarterback on Day 2 (2014), Brady responded with a Super Bowl ring.

“I think the Patriots use a high draft choice every year to light a fire under Tom Brady,” said ProFootballTalk’s Mike Florio, apparently tongue-in-cheek, on WSCR, adding with emphasis, “and it works.”

Clearly neither Brady nor Favre ever needed a lot of fire-lighting; for Brady, being passed over in the 2000 NFL Draft until the sixth round, when he was the backup drafted to understudy Drew Bledsoe, provided enough of that.

[MORE BEARS: How franchise tag squeezes the Bears and Alshon Jeffery]

Switching back to Cutler: The Bears quarterback has played some of his most self- and team-destructive football when he’s been given a hug:

2009 - Bears trade two No. 1’s to Denver, Cutler gets a contract bump, leads the NFL with career-worst 26 INTs.

2012 - New general manager Phil Emery first uses “franchise QB” to describe No. 6; Cutler posts second-worst passer rating of career, worse QBR than Josh Freeman, Christian Ponder, others.

2014 - Emery gives Cutler a seven-year, $126.7 million contract; Cutler goes 5-10 as starter, ties league-worst 18 INTs.

Then in come general manager Ryan Pace and head coach John Fox, who directly withhold any endorsement of Cutler as their starting quarterback for 2015. Even then-offensive coordinator Adam Gase is on the phone during February with former coaches getting a read on Cutler.

Result: Cutler posts career-best passer rating (92.3), third-best QBR of his 10-year career and second-best INT percentage of his career. And he earned plaudits from a coach who knows quarterbacks:

“I think you file things and you put it back there but you always like to figure it out on your own,” Fox said of the Cutler relationship during remarks at last week's NFL Scouting Combine.

“And he was probably one of the brightest spots, I think, about our first year in Chicago and getting to know our players, which we know a lot better now than we did at this time a year ago. So I saw way more about his mental toughness. I saw way more about how he can absorb an offense and execute it under pressure. I think that speaks volumes for how successful he was on third downs, which is a tough down for a quarterback in the NFL. But I was very, very pleased with what I saw and what we have to work with going forward.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Bears fans!]

Pace has indicated his preference for drafting quarterbacks, and the Bears actually have stocked up behind Cutler. But it has been nothing like what the Patriots have done behind Brady, and therein lies the lesson.

The Bears drafted David Fales in the sixth round (2014), Nathan Enderle in the fifth (2011) and Dan LeFevour in the sixth (2010) — not what would be described as “serious” additions, and none of them panned out, although Cutler did have his two best combined seasons (2010-11, 17-6 win-loss record) in those years that the Bears took LeFevour and Enderle.

By comparison, when the Bears invested a fourth-round pick in a quarterback in 2005 (Kyle Orton) behind their starter (Rex Grossman), the Bears went to the playoffs that year and the Super Bowl the next.

Just a thought.

ICYMI: The Bears lose in OT, the Bulls season nears, the Blackhawks make history

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USA TODAY

ICYMI: The Bears lose in OT, the Bulls season nears, the Blackhawks make history

The Bears suffered a heartbreaking defeat (that makes two of those), but the Bulls are days away from the start of a new season and the Blackhawks did something that has never happened before in sports history.

Bears

The Bears had a slow first half, failing to score against the shorthanded Dolphins, but picked things up in the third quarter. It all fell apart late in the fourth quarter and then again in overtime in a 31-28 defeat. Miami went up against the Bears without starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill, but Brock Osweiler threw for 380 yards and three touchdowns. What does that say about the Bears' defense?

Matt Nagy was a bit chippy with the media after the game, but there were still positive signs from the offense.

Plus, Dwyane Wade was there and repped the Bears on the road.

Bulls

The Bulls wrapped up the preseason Friday with a 98-93 loss to the Nuggets. Wendell Carter Jr. and Bobby Portis both showed well in the preseason finale and Jabari Parker flashed his potential as well.

With the preseason complete, Mark Strotman graded each player on the Bulls roster. You may not want to calculate the team GPA.

The roster is being finalized as well, with Ryan Arcidiacono making the team and local product Tyler Ulis getting picked up off waivers.

Blackhawks

Saturday was an eventful day for the Blackhawks. First, it marked the 1,000th career game for Duncan Keith. Keith talked about the emotional night after the game.

As for the game itself, the Blackhawks beat the Blues 4-3 in overtime. That was the second time the Hawks beat the Blues in OT this season, adding to a 5-4 OT win in St. Louis on Oct. 6.

Unbelievably, that was the fifth straight OT game for the Blackhawks. Every game has gone to overtime this season, and not one of those has even gone to a shootout. No NHL team has done that since the league introduced a regular-season overtime period in 1983-84, per the Elias Sports Bureau. Overtimes are more rare in other sports, but that also holds true for the NBA, NFL and MLB.

The Hawks don't play against until Thursday, when the host Arizona.

Bears notes: Was Trey Burton’s penalty justified?

Bears notes: Was Trey Burton’s penalty justified?

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — In a game full of pivotal moments, one seemed to irk the Bears in particular following Sunday’s 31-28 overtime loss to the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium.

Driving on the Dolphins three-yard line, the Bears lined up in a T formation with Jordan Howard, Trey Burton and Tarik Cohen lined up left to right in the backfield behind Mitch Trubisky, who was under center. Burton motioned out of the backfield and to the right, and ran his route into linebacker Kiko Alonso.

Trubisky threw a short pass to a wide open Cohen for a touchdown, with Alonso late getting to the running back after being hit by Burton. But that score was taken off the board for offensive pass interference, with officials ruling what Burton did amounted to an illegal pick play.

“Trey did everything I asked him to do,” Matt Nagy said, sharply.

On the next play, Trubisky forced a pass into double coverage in the end zone, which was easily picked off by Dolphins safety T.J. McDonald. Miami turned that interception into eight points on Albert Wilson’s 43-yard touchdown and an ensuing two-point conversion.

The way Burton understood the rule was that offensive pass interference was only assessed on a pick play if he intentionally ran into a defender without running a true route. That’s what Burton felt he did; the officiating crew disagreed.

“I thought I ran a route and the guy ran into me,” Burton said. “I thought they changed the rule this year or last year — if you run the route, it doesn’t matter if you pick the guy or not, you’re good. Obviously they called it.”

A Rough Return

The conversations surrounding the Bears Sunday into Monday would be awfully different had a number of things happened — Trubisky doesn’t throw that interception, the Bears’ defense gets a stop, Tarik Cohen doesn’t fumble near midfield, etc. In that same group: If Cody Parkey hits what would’ve been a game-winning 53-yard field goal in overtime.

Parkey, instead, missed that kick wide right. His career long is 54 yards, which he hit last year while with the Miami Dolphins (and that was a game-winner with about a minute left against the Los Angeles Chargers).

“I had the distance, I just didn’t kick it straight enough, bottom line,” Parkey said. “But you’ve got to move on. I’ve made game winners, I’ve missed game winners. As long as I keep playing, I’m just going to keep trying to kick my best.

“… I control what I can control, and unfortunately I missed a field goal. I’d like to have that one back, but it is what it is and I’m just going to focus on the next game. That’s all I can do.”