Bears

How Adam Gase's 'plan' for Bears QB Jay Cutler is working

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How Adam Gase's 'plan' for Bears QB Jay Cutler is working

Just as an aside here: Not that it’s worth spending too much time pondering at this point, but as I’ve noted once before, this is quite possibly the only Chicago season that Jay Cutler will have to work with offensive coordinator Adam Gase.

If Cutler does poorly, he is unlikely to see another season as a Bear. If Cutler and the offense do well, Gase is unlikely to be passed over for head-coaching opportunities. Something in between good and bad could play out, but Gase was interviewed for top jobs last offseason and his appeal isn’t apt to decline with a year making over Cutler and an offense.

But that’s off in the future. The present is considerably more interesting at this point, particularly the zero-interception game Cutler just played. Here’s why:

One of the prime directives guiding Gase when he took the Bears job was eliminating or at least substantially reducing the turnovers that have defined Cutler’s career. After weeks of due diligence in the form of calls to Cutler former (fired) offensive coaches to gain insight into Cutler, Gase’s plan became to truncate, not the playbook, but rather Cutler’s flexibility options within it.

[MORE: Frustration growing around injury status of Alshon Jeffery]

The result has been a more controlled Cutler, still capable of cataclysmic turnovers, but one with limited audible latitude (somewhere Aaron Kromer is smiling) and greater clarity of purpose, which typically translates into cleaner execution.

With an interception-less game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Cutler’s interception rate dropped to 2.3 percent, nearly to the career-low (2.2 percent) that he was logging in 2011 when he had the Bears at 7-3 before breaking his thumb. Not coincidentally, that was under Mike Martz, who similarly gave Cutler a very short leash on decision-making and who was one of those on Gase’s call list earlier this year.

One or two epic games do not a turnaround make. More than one or two “new” Jay Cutlers have materialized over the years. And Cutler has yet to post a turnover-free 2015 game, a four-game record that continued with his losing the football for a sack-fumble Kansas City touchdown.

But what Cutler has done is dial up his playmaking at crucial points when he does keep footballs in his team’s hands. If the interception arrow continues to trend downward as his leadership one is pointing upward.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

“We're here to get players better and we expect our players to be receptive and do the things we ask,” said coach John Fox. “And from the very beginning as far as learning the offensive system, some of the accountability it takes at the quarterback position, [Cutler] has been all in and worked real hard with the offensive staff learning the system, putting in the time it takes to execute it and I think he's grown and he'll continue to grow.

“We’re six months into it from just a learning aspect, not even practicing aspect, but I like what I've seen and I expect him to get better moving forward.”

Mitchell Trubisky establishing durability standard; Bears not quite taking shots back at John Fox

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USA TODAY

Mitchell Trubisky establishing durability standard; Bears not quite taking shots back at John Fox

Probably bad luck to mention this:

Mitchell Trubisky’s start last Sunday against the Detroit Lions was his 21st in a row, passing Jay Cutler (20) on the list of most consecutive starts by a Bears quarterback in the past 40 years. Among quarterbacks since George Halas retired, Trubisky can pass Vince Evans’ 26 (1980-81) and match Jim Harbaugh’s 28 (1991-92) if he starts the remaining 2018 games, but will need next season to catch Bob Avellini’s 42 (1975-78).

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If there was an underlying frustration in the wake of John Fox being ousted as Bears coach, it might best be described as a shadow of disappointment at what might have been. Or should have been.

“This may sound weird,” said left tackle Charles Leno, “but with the guys we had last year, moving on to this year, you knew the culture was changing. We just had to click. We have got a great group of guys in here, I'm talking all across the defense, all across the special teams. Great group of guys. We just needed an extra push.

“Matt [Nagy] brought this.”

Leno is qualified to render an opinion. He has been through three head coaches in five NFL seasons, drafted under Marc Trestman, becoming a starter under Fox, and then came this year under Matt Nagy. Meaning: Leno was inside Halas Hall when the organizational culture plummeted under an offensive coach, started to improve under a defensive coach, then stalled and now has undergone a culture re-launch.

Whether the culture has changed with winning, or the winning is a reflection of the change in culture is largely academic to a team that is 6-3 after a second three-game win streak in its season. But the winning has produced – and resulted from – a buy-in that was absent on the offense under Dowell Loggains the past two seasons.

“We got the right head guy in here,” Trubisky said. “Coach Nagy is definitely leading the charge and we just have the right guys in our locker room to change the culture around.

“Just the belief and the trust in each other and coming to work every day, putting the work in and then just going and executing it on Sunday to be able to produce wins. It's a great vibe around the building now. The culture has definitely changed and there's a better vibe around the city in how people view the Bears and how they see us.

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So-what award?

How much Trubisky knows about Georgetown coaching legend John Thompson, or the poetry of Rudyard Kipling, is difficult to pick up in a press conference. But the young quarterback subscribes to some of their thinking.

Thompson placed zero stock in awards that were voted on, vs. something that was won. Kipling’s poem “If” offered a guide to some level-headed thinking, famously noting that:

“If you can keep your head when all about you
         Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
         But make allowance for their doubting too… .

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster,
         And treat those two impostors just the same…

…you’ll be a Man (or NFL quarterback), my son.”

Trubisky on Wednesday was awarded the honor of NFC offensive player of the week, the week after he was roundly ripped by certain national NFL writers. He wasn’t particularly fazed by the negative and he wasn’t especially interested in the positive, either.

“I don’t know, really,” Trubisky said. “You get recognized, it’s cool, but people talked so bad about me last week, so why should this week be any different?

“So I got recognized for playing well."

Cody Parkey's practice at Soldier Field attracted news helicopters

Cody Parkey's practice at Soldier Field attracted news helicopters

If there was any doubt that the Bears are the most popular team in Chicago, allow the events of Wednesday to serve as further evidence.

After hitting the upright an astonishing four times in Sunday's win against the Lions, Bears kicker Cody Parkey practiced at Soldier Field Wednesday night. That's not the crazy part.

The Bears kicker taking to Soldier Field to practice on a weeknight drew multiple news helicopters. Both WGN and ABC 7 got footage of a kicker practicing.

Earlier in the week, Parkey said practicing at Soldier Field "can't hurt." Now that he went through with it, we can find out if he thought the extra reps ahead of Sunday night's game against the Vikings were worth it.

Who knows how this Bears this season will end, but the Bears are certainly back in the spotlight of the Chicago sports scene.