BOURBONNAIS, Ill. – Jay Cutler has produced some of the worst football of his NFL career when the quarterback had praise and new contract money lavished on him by previous general managers in particular. Last year, with a new coaching staff that made no secret of its reservations about the quarterback they were inheriting with a contract they weren’t all that excited about, either, Cutler produced the best statistical season of his career.
The overarching question for the Bears’ offense really hasn’t been whether Alshon Jeffery would get a long-term deal or how Kevin White would come back from his lost season. It was how the relationship – football and, ultimately, personally – with new coordinator Dowell Loggains would evolve from what they had with Loggains as Cutler’s position coach to what it needs to be for Loggains to coordinate the entire offense, not simply Cutler’s endeavors.
Their bond, positive by all accounts coming out of last year, will take regular-season games – complete with successes and failures – to coalesce.
But elements of Loggains’ “coordinator’s personality” are already bubbling to the surface. First were Loggains explosions during offseason practices when plays failed. On Wednesday came blunt talk about a bad day for the offense. And if last year suggested anything, it was that Cutler responds better to blunt than coddling.
“I don't think today was our best day, and then we got a little bit tired,” Loggains said by way of critiquing his offense. “Coming off the [practice] off day is tough, then we had a couple dropped balls, the opportunity, we started fast, we had an opportunity to kind of finish the way we wanted to and eased off a little bit.
“If we want to be a good team, we need to finish that practice, just like we need to finish in the fourth quarter when it's hot. We need to deal with some adversity and it was good for us to deal with that a little bit today.”
Coincidentally, or not, his quarterback had precisely the same take on the offense’s performance.
“I thought today was a little, kind of a half step back after the off day,” Cutler said. “We started off fast, didn’t end that well. I thought the o-line has played really well in the five, six, seven practices we’ve had. Receivers have kinda been up and down a little bit.”
If chief operating officer and chief executive officer of the offense are seeing through similar eyes, that is a good starting point. Because Cutler and coordinators haven’t always (see: Kromer, Aaron; Tice, Mike).
A foundation pillar of the offense for 2016 (and beyond) will be inexperienced wide receiver Kevin White. Coordinator and quarterback are agreed on how the young wideout is, and isn’t, progressing.
Loggains: “Everything's a little bit new to [White]. He had the limited route tree coming from West Virginia. I think that he's gotten better with getting off press. I think that his relationship with [receivers] coach CJ [Curtis Johnson] has helped him a lot.”
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Cutler: “He just kind has that extra gear where he’s able to put a little bit more pressure on them. we just have to get him to a point where he’s maximizing every single play.”
Many things look or sound good in training camp that become punch lines later when pressure is applied by real NFL life. And Cutler and Loggains could certainly unravel (see: Martz, Mike; Kromer, Aaron). But like most relationships, if there is communication, there is always a chance.
“I think the communication is we continue to grow as an offense,” Loggains said. “We put down pillars last year and we're building off that, just everyone a year in the system longer, the coaches and the new coaches, just getting a better feeling.
“And it helps Jay and I obviously communicate better because we communicate quicker and get to the point.”
Ideally, the same point.