Bears

Jay Cutler creating 'problem' Bears need in their future

Jay Cutler creating 'problem' Bears need in their future

The performance of Jay Cutler in the win over the Minnesota Vikings foreshadowed presenting the Bears with a problem — a problem the Bears and every other NFL organization would love to have:

The need to choose between good quarterbacks (emphasis on the “good” part). Maybe it will be “among” good quarterbacks, if the field expands in 2017 beyond two, to include Cutler, Brian Hoyer, Connor Shaw and a draft pick to be named later. Hoyer and Shaw will be coming off seasons ended by broken bones but had impressed within the organization before those injures.

In the meantime, regardless of the shape of the future, and he does have team-friendly salaries in the next several years, Cutler is the Bears’ present, with suddenly very intriguing possibilities that he hinted at with his performance against the Vikings: a game with 20-of-31 passing for 252 yards, a touchdown, zero interceptions, and a 100.5 rating that he bettered just twice in full games all last season, which was the best of his career.

More important than just the numbers, however, Cutler did what too often he hadn’t managed to do over the span of his career: lift the performance levels of everyone around him.

“I think the kind of the story line [post-Minnesota] that was talked about was the run game,” said offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains. “To me it was how Cutler inspired his teammates. I thought he played very inspired football.

“It went back to his preparation. The way that he dealt with the injury and staying involved and helping Hoyer. When his number was called, when he was cleared to be the starter again, he was ready to play. He didn’t miss a beat. I thought he played his best game of the season. And we expect the Tampa game to be the next best.”

Quantitative Jay vs. qualitative Jay

Cutler began 2016 with some of the same pedestrian results that have characterized too much of his career: passer ratings of 76.2 (at Houston Texans) and 74.9 (vs. Philadelphia Eagles), one TD pass vs. two interceptions, a 4.3-percent interception rate, 60.8 completion percentage. Typical Jay. Pre-2015 Jay.

The easy excuses were there — shaky O-line, modest weapons, the usual — and that Houston (No. 5) and Philadelphia (No. 6) were top defenses. But so were the Vikings (No. 3 now, No. 1 when Cutler faced them), and Cutler responded with a game that turned a good defense into a backdrop for his and Bears’ best game of the season.

Cutler was both a huge reason — teammates were effusive in praise of what his return from the five games lost to a thumb injury — and a huge recipient of what was the Bears’ best collaborate all-phase effort of the season.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

“We have a good locker room,” Cutler said. “We’ve got a great bunch of guys in there. It doesn’t matter who’s playing; I feel like everyone’s going to feel supported out there. Everyone’s got each other’s backs. Injured or not injured, whoever’s next up, we expect them to go out there and play.

“And that was the same case for me. Guys went out there, they played extremely hard, it was Monday Night Football. I feel like our backs were up against the wall a little bit and guys responded, which was awesome to see.”

The feelings “upstairs”

The 2016 season was expressly termed a prove-it year for Cutler, more so even than 2015 if only because this year is the last with guaranteed contract money for him. Those early games were without question working against his future lying in Chicago, the obvious reality is that Cutler was not going to be handed his job back from Hoyer any more than Tony Romo is going to be reinstalled automatically as the Dallas Cowboys starter over rookie Dak Prescott when healthy.

But broader perspectives are in play.

Whether John Fox likes or dislikes Cutler (Fox’s comments at last spring’s owners meetings, how Cutler had impressed him in 2015, suggested at the very least an open door and mind) should not be over-analyzed at this point. How Fox handled the Hoyer situation, making clear that a player performing very well was not going to lose a job, was exactly what a head coach should do: underscore that there is a culture of honest competition. When Fox welcomed Cutler back as the starter, the coach was again doing what a coach should do: express support for the player who was in place as the starter.

Indeed, one not unreasonable supposition would be that Hoyer’s play and Fox’s position statements were warning shots to Cutler, that he needed to keep the pedal down in the face of some doubt. Cutler has traditionally turned in some of his worst play in the wake of things like contract extensions, anointing as a “franchise” or “elite” quarterback, or a huge new contract.

Cutler was in the first of his true prove-it years in 2015 and the positive response bordered on the dramatic, by comparison. It was then-coordinator Adam Gase who had insisted on going with Cutler, and a defense-based head coach acceded to a major offensive-staff personnel preference.

After this season, it will be Loggains making the recommendation to Fox and GM Ryan Pace on quarterback direction. And Cutler is clearly impressing his coaches, with his play and his leadership, leading by example rather than rhetoric.

“I saw how involved he was, how into the preparation he was and that’s where it starts,” Loggains said. “The way he played on Monday night didn’t shock me. I expected that, just because of the way he prepared. That became contagious to his teammates. I think they followed his lead.”

Is Matt Forte pushing for a coaching job with the Bears?

Is Matt Forte pushing for a coaching job with the Bears?

Is former Bears star Matt Forte going to be the team’s new running backs coach?

For now, that’s Charles London’s job, who was hired to head coach Matt Nagy’s staff earlier this year.

But on Tuesday night, Forte tweeted that he would like a coaching spot with Chicago sometime in the near future.

Serving as evidence, the now-retired running back responded to a tweet from ESPN’s Adam Schefter, which announced the Broncos’ hiring of former linebacker Demarcus Ware as a “pass-rush consultant on a part-time basis.” Forte tweeted at the Bears, saying that he is “available” to take on a similar role to Ware’s new Denver gig.

Forte’s tweet was relatively cryptic, and he never specified exactly what type of job he would want with the Bears. After finishing up a storied career this past season and solidifying his name as a Bears legend, Forte has proven that he could easily coach young running backs or even wide receivers at some point.

But isn’t this all just a joke?

Forte silenced the doubters by tweeting “I wasn’t joking” as a response to an article saying that his desire for a new occupation with the Bears was simply a gag. The former workhorse was also intrigued by a fan’s tweet asking “Coach Forte??”

The mere thought of having Forte back in Chicago with the Bears’ coaching staff sent fans on Twitter into a frenzy. In April, Forte came back to Halas Hall to ink his name on a one-day contract, successfully allowing him to retire as a Bear. Now, Forte wants a lengthier stay in the Windy City.

Ware’s role with Denver is not extensive by any means and, according to Schefter, he will work a pretty scattered schedule with Broncos players. What Forte’s role would look like with the Bears is completely unknown if his plan to coach becomes a reality.

Forte has the running back credentials to take on a coaching position. In eight seasons with the Bears, Forte racked up a combined 8,602 rushing yards, second to only the great Walter Payton. Forte’s 4,116 receiving yards as a running back, 12,718 yards from scrimmage, 24 games with 100 rushing yards and 25 games with at least 150 yards from scrimmage also ranks second behind Payton.

Maybe this will be a new development in Chicago’s offseason plans, but there is no real talk of bringing one of the team’s all-time leading rushers back to the team as of right now.

Last month, NBC Sports Chicago announced Forte will be joining the network as a Bears game day studio analyst for the upcoming 2018 NFL season. And we're not joking about that.

Prince Amukamara and CDW surprise teens at MSI event

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USA TODAY

Prince Amukamara and CDW surprise teens at MSI event

This past Saturday, Prince Amukamara provided a great surprise when he showed up during a graduation ceremony to honor high school seniors who had been a part of the Museum of Science and Industry's (MSI) "Welcome to Science" initiative.

Students listened to brief speeches from CDW Vice President of Networking, Digital Workspace and Security Solutions, Bob Rossi, a number of Bears employees and Amukamara. 

Students engaged in open discussions on how they can further their dreams with science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).  And through a donation from CDW’s Tech Fore! Kids program, students got perhaps the biggest surpise of all, as they were provided new laptops. CDW continues to help enable the MSI the opportunity to work with youth and further their interaction with STEM.

CDW Tech Fore! has done previous work with Chicago Bulls College Prep, and other schools and Boys and Girls clubs over time. The MSI's program looks to provide a diverse array of teens the chance to dive deeper into what it takes to have a career in science. On top of this, students are able to collect service leearning hours while simultaneously furthering their leadership and public speaking skills.