Bears

Mullin: Can Cutler stand prosperity?

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Mullin: Can Cutler stand prosperity?

Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2010
Posted: 11:18 a.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

With one more Bears win, Jay Cutler will have achieved his first winning season as a starting quarterback since high school, which means he is certainly the best-paid losing quarterback in quite some NFL time. It is also about time.

And the question now begins to creep in as to how he will handle the moment.

The Denver Broncos were 2-0 and then 5-5 in 2007 behind Cutler, then dropped four of their next five (beginning with a loss in Chicago), two games with Cutler posting sub-50 passer ratings. The Broncos finished 7-9.

The 2008 Broncos were 4-1 and lost their next three with Cutler failing to put up a passer rating higher than 78. After recovering to 8-5 they lost their final three, only one to a team with a winning record as Cutler logged three straight sub-75 passer ratings.

Last year the Bears were 3-1, then Cutler went 10 straight games without a 100 passer rating and ... well, enough on that painful point.

An early guess is that this year will be different.

But the pivotal difference in Cutler isn't Mike Martz or non-Ron Turner or his offensive line or any of that. Those are incidentals. Convenient incidentals excusing him from accountability. Important, but incidentals.

The difference is in Cutler's head. As of Game 11 last season Cutler had just thrown his third interception of the year to a defensive lineman, which may be some sort of NFL record for ... something. To suggest that the reason was Turner (what, he didn't coach Cutler not to throw to giant men in traffic?) or protection or scheme or anything else is beyond silly. The interception by San Francisco D-tackle Aubrayo Franklin was one of five Cutler threw during a game in which he was not sacked once.

Apart from superb individual throws and decisions (there were lots of them in November, which is why teams go 4-0), two particularly impressive aspects of Cutler's play these past four games vs. other stretches in his career:

He has thrown nine TD passes vs. three interceptions in this 4-0 streak (the first time he has ever won four NFL games in a row) despite defenses structured at times to either blitz him or take away the run game that has allowed him breathing room. As good as his play was to start last season, his ratio was 8:5. When the Bears were opening this season 3-0, Cutler's ratio was 6:2.

And in just one of the four November games did he put up a rating below 85 and that was in Miami (64.8), the one game in which he did not throw for a TD and also a night game, the games in which he has historically played his absolute worst.

Conclusion: Instead of his head and ego writing checks his arm (and receivers) can't cash, he has curbed his ego and is using his head. As difficult as the closing stretch of this season lays out to be, the Bears have rarely over the past two decades gone into December with a quarterback whose arrow has pointed this significantly up at this crucial time of year.

Turf-ing

The Chicago Park District has re-sodded Soldier Field in the wake of the Philadelphia game, one of the several replacements done each year. Slipping and turf-chunking have become staples in certain seasons and the Bears and Eagles had their shares of slips Sunday.

Whether or not that costs the Bears some home-field advantage or not is debatable. The Bears play there on game days but practice either on the well-coiffed fields behind Halas Hall (one of which is heated) or inside the Walter Payton Center, which is artificial turf.

Devin Hester adjusted with a change to shoes with screw-in longer cleats and turned his return game and the Minnesota Vikings game around. For the New England Patriots and New York Jets, the only two teams with Soldier Field games upcoming, that's probably good news, given that both the Pats and Jets play on Field Turf in their home stadiums.

Record-setting
The final stretch of the Bears schedule is obviously upholstered with challenges but the Green Bay Packers don't have it especially easier. The combined record for Bears opponents is 31-24. Green Bay's opponents, including the Bears, are 30-25.

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

Anthony Miller is hyped about Nick Foles' knowledge of Bears' offense

Anthony Miller is hyped about Nick Foles' knowledge of Bears' offense

One of the main reasons the Bears targeted Nick Foles in an offseason that was overflowing with quality quarterbacks to challenge Mitch Trubisky for Chicago's starting job is his familiarity with Matt Nagy's offense. The Bears knew what they were getting when they traded a fourth-round pick to the Jaguars for the former Super Bowl MVP, and in the current COVID-19 reality, that knowledge of who Foles is as a quarterback is more valuable than the team could've ever imagined.

So is Foles' comfort with the playbook. 

Unlike traditional offseasons when players have a chance to acclimate themselves with their new city, teammates, coaching staff, and offensive system, the novel coronavirus has thrust the Bears' quarterback competition into a shotgun four-week run that Foles is oddly equipped to handle. He's already made a positive early impression on wide receiver Anthony Miller.

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“You can definitely tell that Nick has been playing this game for a long time, and he knows this offense very well," Miller said Friday during a Zoom call with reporters. "He’s very detailed in practice, you can catch him in the back of an offensive play going through his progressions and he’s not even in, so that’s just the type of player he is, and I can’t wait to see him live action to see what he really can do.”

It feels like the Trubisky vs. Foles showdown has been underway since March, but the reality is it's just getting started. Padded practices begin next week and will give Chicago's coaches and players their first real opportunity to evaluate which quarterback gives the team the best chance to win.

According to Miller, the starting gig is up for grabs.

“This is going to be an interesting competition to see and the best man is going to get the job.”

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Super Bowl or bust? Why Bears' championship formula is backward in 2020

Super Bowl or bust? Why Bears' championship formula is backward in 2020

First, the good news: The Bears can win Super Bowl LV.

Why not? It’s August.

If Matt Nagy can find the right quarterback and Ryan Pace’s play to overhaul the tight end room pays off, this offense could be a ton of fun to watch. And if the addition of Robert Quinn gives the Bears the sort of fearsome pass rush we expect it will, this defense should be among the best in the NFL – and more than good enough to win a Super Bowl.

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There’s absolutely no part of me that’s going to tell you the Bears cannot win a Super Bowl before we’ve seen them practice, let alone play a game, in 2020.

“We want to win a Super Bowl,” wide receiver Allen Robinson said. “Every day we come into the facility, all our meetings and things like that, I think that our coaches are doing a really good job for everybody to keep that in mind and that's the main thing.”

Okay, but you’re probably waiting for the bad news. I just didn’t want to start with it. Because while it's not impossible for the Bears to make a Super Bowl run, there's a big reason why it feels unlikely. 

The Bears’ formula for winning in 2020, seemingly, is pairing a good enough offense with an elite defense. It’s what got them to the playoffs in 2018 as NFC North champions. It’s what could get them back to the playoffs again this season.

But an “eh, it’s fine” offense coupled with an awesome defense is not a formula that wins you a Super Bowl in 2021. As the last 10 Super Bowls tell us, it pays to have a great offense – and doesn’t matter if you have a great defense.

The last 20 Super Bowl participants, on average, had the sixth-best offense in a given year as ranked by Football Outsiders’ DVOA. The average ranking of their defenses was about 12th.

It’s been even more pronounced over the last four years. On average, a Super Bowl team in that span ranked fourth in offense and 16th in defense.

Only two teams in the last decade reached a Super Bowl with an offense outside the top 10 in DVOA (Denver in 2015, Baltimore in 2012 – notably, both teams still won). Eleven of the last 20 teams to make a Super Bowl had a defense outside the DVOA top 10, including last year’s Kansas City Chiefs.

MORE: Why you shouldn't worry about Allen Robinson getting a contract extension

So the Bears, as currently constructed, do not appear built to win a Super Bowl. That doesn’t mean it can’t be done – we’re not all that far removed from the 2015 Broncos hoisting the Lombardi Trophy with the No. 25 offense and No. 1 defense – but recent history suggests it’s unlikely.

That is, unless Nagy can find the success his former peers (Doug Pederson, Andy Reid) had with his offensive scheme. Make no mistake: Offense leads Super Bowl runs, with defense a supporting character. Not the other way around. And it feels like the Bears have it the other way around. 

 

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