Bears

Cutler fine with 'a little bit of flexibility' in Bears play calling

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Cutler fine with 'a little bit of flexibility' in Bears play calling

When then-coordinator Aaron Kromer vented his frustrations over Jay Cutler to an NFL writer late last season, part of the exasperation lay in Cutler’s decision-making, that the Bears quarterback didn’t audible out of obvious bad plays among other issues.

Earlier this offseason, sources around the NFL told CSNChicago.com that new coordinator Adam Gase had reached out to a number of Cutler’s former coaches in an effort to find a key to what makes Cutler tick, how he thinks. Some echoed Kromer’s frustration, that they in fact couldn’t always get from Cutler a clear idea exactly what he had seen and decided when foul-ups had occurred.

The result was not Gase limiting the playbook or limiting Cutler per se, but establishing clearer, simpler rules and guidelines for a quarterback whose history of turnovers traced too often to faulty decisions. The solution wasn’t to limit the plays – one Cutler asset is in fact that there are few throws or plays he can’t execute – but to limit the scope of the decisions open to him beyond the initial play called.

And it appears to be agreeing with Cutler.

Marc Trestman gave the quarterback a wide range of options. Too many, in some opinions, as reflected in the fact that some coaches had wanted to stay with Josh McCown in 2013 because he ran the offense the way it was conceived, whereas Cutler, with the same offense, didn’t.

[MORE: Bears must turn personnel gaps into positives vs. Bengals]

In the early going under Gase, with tighter guidelines, Cutler is flourishing: zero interceptions, 75 percent completion percentage, and a passer rating of 93.5. For the first time in memory, Cutler is using words like “efficient.”

More important, even learning his fifth offense under a fifth coordinator in his time with the Bears, Cutler is far from chafing at the parameters imposed by Gase.

“I feel comfortable,” Cutler said. “I think [Gase] is doing a really good job of making sure the quarterback's in good position.

“He gives us parameters and a little bit of flexibility with what we can do up there; it's not like we're just going out there and free-styling,” Cutler said. “We have some rules, and if you stay within those rules you're probably going to be successful. I feel good about it. I know we're heading in the right direction.”

[MORE: Time for Jay Cutler to create his own weapons]

That was not even remotely the early sentiment under coordinators Ron Turner and Mike Tice. And by the end of his time with Mike Martz, who all but eliminated audible’ing, Cutler was in open rebellion.

Not this time. Gase and the Bears determined that whatever had been the way with Cutler just wasn’t working; quarterbacks don’t lead the league in turnovers when systems are working.

The difference is perhaps that Cutler, a little older, maybe a little smarter, is accepting some of his own limitations and what he does and doesn’t do well. As he himself said, he’s not free-styling, and not all the options are coming from his own head.

“It's just different,” Cutler said. “As a quarterback it's hard to go out there and just call your own game. You're going to need somebody that's going to help you along and [Gase] does a great job of talking us through things, and being in the headset and giving us different options as we go.”

NFC North standings: Bears fall to last in division with Week 7 loss to Patriots

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USA TODAY

NFC North standings: Bears fall to last in division with Week 7 loss to Patriots

The great Ricky Bobby once said, “If you ain’t first, you’re last.” Talladega Nights hit a little too close to home for the Bears in Week 7.

They came into Sunday at 3-2 at the top of the NFC North. After a 38-31 loss to the New England Patriots, they dropped to the bottom of the division.

The Detroit Lions defeated the Miami Dolphins 32-21 to improve to 3-3, leaving them tied with the Bears in the cellar.

The Minnesota Vikings’ 37-17 victory over the New York Jets jumped them to 4-2-1 overall and first place in the division over the 3-2-1 Green Bay Packers, who were off for their bye week.

The NFC North remains the most tightly contested division in the NFL, the only one with no teams under .500 through seven weeks of the season.

The final standings may not be decided until Week 17, and the Bears have already blown the early season cushion they built for themselves while the Vikings and Packers were struggling.

The divisional action will pick up in November, and Chicago only has a pair of games left to put it all together before back-to-back-to-back games against the Lions, Vikings and Lions again.    

Under Center Podcast: Bears lose 38-31 to the Patriots

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USA TODAY

Under Center Podcast: Bears lose 38-31 to the Patriots

Matt Forte, Lance Briggs and Alex Brown join Laurence Holmes to break down the Bears 38-31 loss to the Patriots. What happened to the Bears defense over their bye week, and how did the special teams struggle so bad against New England? Plus – the guys debate Mitchell Trubisky’s decision making in the red zone and Matt weighs in on how the Bears should play his former team – the New York Jets – next week.

0:35– Special teams to blame for loss?

4:12– Where did the Bears pass rush go? 

5:27– Bad tackling followed Bears from Miami

7:25– Are the coaches to blame for the defense after the bye?

10:10– Evaluating Mitchell Trubisky’s game

11:55– Agree with Matt Nagy on Mitch’s “mental” game?

13:30– Trubisky’s red zone decision making

17:10– Are the Bears giving away games so Mitch can learn?

18:00– Bears need to run the ball more

21:04– Matt Forte scouts his former team, the New York Jets

Listen to the full podcast here or in the embedded player below.

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