Bears

New coach's credentials less important than fit with Cutler

935537.png

New coach's credentials less important than fit with Cutler

The search for a new head coach to replace Lovie Smith will involve a variety of names and backgrounds. But one name hangs like a thunderhead over the entire process, and ultimately over the foreseeable future of the franchise:

Jay Cutler.

Cutler has gained the dubious identifier of coach killer after having been the final starting quarterback coached by Mike Shanahan in Denver and Lovie Smith in Chicago, and coordinators Ron Turner and Mike Tice in Chicago. Jeremy Bates stints as quarterback coach in Denver and Chicago ended with mentoring Cutler (Bates presumably will not be retained in the re-formed Bears staff).

Mike Martz was hired only after he was sent to Nashville to be interviewed by Cutler, not the other way around.

Why this looms as the cloud over the Bears process is that the single biggest specific reason for (most recently) Smiths and Tices exits was a non-functioning offense, which obviously starts with Cutler. Given the precedent of the Martz hiring, one wonders if the new coach will be put on a plane to be cleared by Cutler, with Brandon Marshall sitting in. Martz was in the role of supplicant from the beginning and he only worked as long as Cutler liked what he was hearing.

More important, in terms of small-group dynamics, will Cutler take coaching at this point of his career? The push-back under Turner, Martz and his position coaches was friction that did no one or the offense any good.

RELATED: After Lovie Smith? Bears have issues to consider

Cutler turns 30 just after the 2013 draft. He just finished his seventh NFL season. He is what he is. Formed.

The top early candidates, because the unstated mission statement is to bring in a coach with credentials on offense, are Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy and Tampa Bay offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan. Keith Armstrong is on the list, from the Atlanta Falcons and a former Bears assistant.

Does anyone really envision Cutler (and Marshall) going along with ideas they dont agree with from assistants who have less time running NFL offenses than they have?

The bigger problem

And if Cutler is part of another destructive taffy pull, what do the Bears do?

Cutler has one year left on his contract. If GM Phil Emery and the new coach are satisfied that Cutler is the future, great. Extend him.

But if it doesnt work between Cutler and the new head coachoffense, where does that leave the Bears? They are expected to select a quarterback in this years draft. But finding Kirk Cousins, Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, Andy Dalton or another starter-grade quarterback is problematic to say the least.

But a failed Cutlernew guy situation would mean going into 2014 starting over at quarterback, with the defense already ticketed for needing massive restocking.

Cutler may indeed be the future of the Chicago Bears offense under another coach and coordinator. It could happen. But if the coach-quarterback fit is not absolutely perfect, missing the playoffs may be the least of the franchise worries.

Puppy Pick 'Em Puppy Walter makes his Week 7 picks for Bears-Saints

Puppy Pick 'Em Puppy Walter makes his Week 7 picks for Bears-Saints

When the Bears announced their 2019 schedule, we decided to have some puppies reveal the opponents. Now, we have taken it a step further. We have a puppy that will make weekly picks for the Bears games.

It is Week 7!

Walter's choices in Week 7 are a chance to go to Mardi Gras or a celebration of St. Patrick's day in Chicago. Bears fans should be excited about his decision in Week 7... and now we're all looking forward to St. Patrick's Day again!

The 12-week old dachshund was hand-selected by the scouts at NBC Sports Chicago and hails from One Tail at a Time rescue. He came from a shelter in Alabama and was transported to Chicago.  At just 7 weeks old and without his mom, he beat a deadly virus and spent some time in the doggie ER, where he healed and became strong again. 

Now, Walter is ready to rumble between the well-manicured lines of Sweetness Field. He is NOW adoptable via onetail.org and has two adorable sisters named Martha and Millie, who are already adopted. 

Walter will pick the games throughout the NFL season, including the playoffs and we hope that his nose follows the scent to the Bears every week, all the way to that magical game in Miami in February. Narrated by Jason Benetti, play-by-play announcer for the White Sox.  

It is time for Puppy Pick ‘Em presented by Nissan.

To learn more: www.onetail.org

Three keys and prediction: Bears vs. Saints

Three keys and prediction: Bears vs. Saints

1. Get production from receivers not named Allen Robinson. 

Robinson can expect to be followed all game by Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore, who’s limited opposing receivers to nine catches on 20 targets in his last three games (a sampling of those receivers: Amari Cooper, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, D.J. Chark). So if Robinson isn’t open, it likely will have less to do with his own play and more the play of one of the better cornerbacks in the NFL. 

With that in mind, Sunday will be a significant test for the Bears’ other pass catchers. This team’s offensive identity was supposed to be steeped in an ability to spread the ball around to guys like Taylor Gabriel, Tarik Cohen, Anthony Miller, Cordarrelle Patterson and Trey Burton, but so far this season, the only thing the Bears have proven to do well is get the ball to Robinson. That absolutely has to change on Sunday. 

Miller feels primed for a breakout game after ditching his shoulder harness, while Gabriel is back from a concussion suffered on the final catch of his explosive three touchdown game in Week 3 against Washington. Those two guys need to show up, and the Bears need to better scheme plays for Cohen, who’s averaging 4.5 yards per touch — lower than his average in 2017 with Dowell Loggains calling the plays. 

Robinson still could have a productive day — he’s that good — but the Bears shouldn’t count on it.

2. Hold your own against the Saints’ front. 

The Saints are outstanding at affecting quarterbacks without blitzing, with their 76 pressures ranking second in the NFL — this for a team that’s only blitzing on 22 percent of its defensive snaps. And of those 76 pressures, 63 have come from defensive linemen. 

Marcus Davenport and Cam Jordan have been monsters this year, combining for eight sacks while consistently generating that pressure off the edge. Charles Leno Jr. and Bobby Massie will need need to have their best games of 2019 to keep them away from Mitch Trubisky, but the interior of the Bears’ line will have its hands full, too. David Onyemata, Malcom Brown and Sheldon Rankins all have at least one sack, putting an onus on Cody Whitehair, James Daniels and Rashaad Coward and/or Ted Larsen to keep those guys out of Trubisky’s face.

If not, Trubisky will have a difficult time getting comfortable and going through his progressions, which could lead to some forced/panicked throws...which could be jumped by Lattimore or another one of the Saints' defensive backs.   

3. Get game-wrecking plays on defense.

The thought here is Sunday’s game will be a tight defensive battle, with the game swinging on which team gets a turnover deep in its opponent territory. For the Bears, that means coming up with the kind of game-wrecking play (or plays) we’ve come to expect from this defense. 

Teddy Bridgewater has been sacked on only 16.7 percent of his drop-backs (24th, per PFF), though, with tackles Ryan Ramczyk and Terron Armstead among the best pass blockers at their position in the NFL. It’ll be a fascinating matchup for Khalil Mack, who will need to be at his best to beat the Saints’ best and “sack the football,” as he’s so good at doing. Or maybe Sunday is time for Eddie Jackson to get his first interception of the season (though he’s only been thrown at about two times per game, down from his average of nearly three times per game in 2018). 

However the Bears’ defense does it, they need to do it in a game in which their offense very well could struggle to move the ball. 

Prediction: Saints 13, Bears 9. 

While the Saints will be without future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees, star do-it-all running back Alvin Kamara and reliable tight end Jared Cook, this is a team should have the advantage at the line of scrimmage on both offense and defense (the Bears, of course, will be without Akiem Hicks and might start a greenhorn at right guard in Coward). That advantage matters greatly in close games, in which grinding out a few yards here and there will become critical, especially in the fourth quarter.

And too, Sean Payton has built a strong coach of the year case for how he’s guided the Saints to an undefeated record without Brees. The Saints are playing a strong brand of complementary football, with a ball security-based offense and a defense that’s progressively got better this year (punter Thomas Morstead, for what it’s worth, is outstanding and shouldn’t be completely overlooked). 

So the Saints will arrive at Soldier Field undermanned, but with an advantage at the line of scrimmage and on the sideline. And those will be enough for New Orleans to emerge with a win, sending the Bears to 3-3 in the process. 

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.