Bears

Will Bears fans finally get to see another side of Jay Cutler in his new role as FOX broadcaster?

Will Bears fans finally get to see another side of Jay Cutler in his new role as FOX broadcaster?

Well, that escalated quickly.

Just a day or so after word got out that former Bears quarterback Jay Cutler had auditioned to become an NFL game analyst for FOX came the announcement Friday morning he'd been hired and will pair with Kevin Burkhardt and Charles Davis as one of their broadcasting teams.

And look for Cutler around Halas Hall, and the Bears, again this season.

While Burkhardt and Davis are respected, solid and do a fine job, that threesome with Cutler likely won't be high on the pecking order for marquee games each week, and the Bears — not being one of those must-see teams nationally right now — have 11 games on FOX this season.

Just as the media here would have loved to have been a fly on the wall wherever Cutler was over his eight years at Halas Hall, how interesting will those Friday and Saturday production meetings with John Fox and Mike Glennon be? And how will Cutler handle any mistake from Fox, Glennon or the Bears in general during games? Or maybe he'll turn that over to Davis? Any tension will be broken quickly, as Cutler & Co. are scheduled to call the Bears' third preseason game, against the Tennessee Titans, during a national broadcast Aug. 27.

As JJ Stankevitz, Scott Krinch and I discussed on our latest Bears Talk Podcast (recorded Thursday afternoon before Cutler was officially announced as a new FOX employee), we found it hard to believe Cutler would make the jump this quickly, believing that he'd at least sit tight and wait for the inevitable preseason injuries for an opening around a league that's shut its doors on him so far. Perhaps his surgically repaired shoulder wouldn't have been ready to take the kind of hits he absorbed during his time here.

But Cutler was always an "on my terms" guy with the Chicago media after his splash signing in April 2009. And despite agent "Bus" Cook's public contention on the eve of last week's draft that he didn't see retirement in his client's near future, Cutler probably wanted to operate on his terms here. While not shutting the door on retirement papers in the statement he released through FOX on Friday morning, the guess here is he didn't feel like having to be the guy who gets invited to camp late in an emergency, having to pick up an offense quickly (which he's perfectly capable of doing) and having to still wait his turn for snaps.

[BEARS TICKETS: Get your seats right here]

If that's all there's going to be for Cutler's playing career (unless he'd sign with a coach he has a good history with), the final assessment is that he preferred to call his own shots.

During his time here, Cutler was available for a midweek and a postgame press conference during the season. And he'd be a pretty decent listen and share a thing or two if he was asked smart, pointed questions. Eventually, he cooperated with a tolerance for those less inquiring whose knowledge lacked or who'd go in areas he didn't care to address.

Otherwise, he'd be a guest on the team-sponsored radio show once during the season and once for a preseason sitdown interview for the local preseason broadcast. Outside of that, there might be a quick sideline interview once he was lifted in a preseason game and a few one-on-one postgame chats during the year with the radio network's Zach Zaidman. Outside of that, with the exception of a charity event or two along the way, he was allowed his terms, media-wise. That's fine. While I didn't like it, I never personally held it against him for a guy who preferred to limit access. A majority of the guys in any locker room you can just walk up to and chat up after practice without being on record, football topic or not. Cutler made sure, through the team, that wouldn't happen and would barely be seen there during the 45-minute sessions when the media had access three times during a normal week.

It would have been nice, but not necessary, to get to know him better. He was not a "bad" guy. But given the handful of bad looks that cameras caught on the field during games, maybe more exposure could have softened some of that fan and media perception. But the answer to that for him became the running joke that he "didn't care" about those outside opinions.

The scrutiny will be less, the rope a little looser from a smaller number of critics in this new role. There are certain basics and fundamentals in this business, just as there were in the job he's at least temporarily given up. There's no doubt that the first time he criticizes a quarterback's footwork and decision-making, his critics will fire back with a vengeance. He's been a controversial, love-him-or-hate-him player. For publicity purposes, FOX wouldn't mind him creating the same reaction as an analyst. Don't hold your breath on that. But just like his playing days, there's potential there. Let's see how close he reaches it and how far and high he goes.

Allen Robinson appears on latest 'Big Guys in a Benz'

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USA TODAY

Allen Robinson appears on latest 'Big Guys in a Benz'

New Bears wideout Allen Robinson appears on the latest episode of 'Big Guys in a Benz' hosted by Anthony Adams. In the episode, Robinson touches on a number of topics from growing up rooting for the Minnesota Vikings despite being from Detroit, his favorite Chicago baseball team and how he went about free agency.

When asked where the Bears were ranked when looking at teams in free agency, Robinson said the Bears were No. 1 on his list.

...especially once they hired coach Nagy, you know, I had been watching his work over the past couple of years and I know it's a system that I would definitely fit into and flourish in. 

As far as growing up a Vikings fan?

Bears fans can forgive Robinson as he grew up idolizing Hall of Fame wide receiver Randy Moss. He went on to explain that once a year for his birthday he would get to go see the Vikings play in Detroit. Things came full-circle for Robinson when he was able to train for four weeks straight with Moss last summer, which Robinson said "took his game to the next level". 

When pressed to choose White Sox or Cubs, Robinson quickly responded "Cubs", making his allegiance to the North Siders known. 

And though the interview didn't touch on Robinson's ACL rehab, it did show how Robinson is quickly endearing himself to Bears fans as he prepares for a bounce-back season. 

What will Matt Nagy's passing offense look like with the Bears?

What will Matt Nagy's passing offense look like with the Bears?

First of two parts.

Looking ahead to training camp and what everyone will be looking at – it will help to have even a cursory idea of the offensive elements that coach Matt Nagy is incorporating, particularly in the passing game — because the when, where and how the Bears will be throwing the football is changing. NBC Sports Chicago focuses on a selection of specifics and their origins within that part of the offense that fans will notice, first in Bourbonnais and then in the 2018 season.

Bears coach Matt Nagy and offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich have initiated a monumental makeover of the Bears’ offense, some effects of which should be evident sooner rather than later, if for no other reason than the quarterback and receiver group project to be noticeably better than the tools at the disposal of John Fox and Dowell Loggains.

But the changes run deeper than personnel.

“We’re going to continue to do some of the things that we did in Kansas City,” Nagy said not long after his hiring, “but we’re also going to grow. We’re going to create our own identity.”

Nothing should suggest that the 2018 Bears will ascend to the Kansas City Chiefs’ offensive heights (multiple top-10 statistical rankings, including points (No. 6) and yards (No. 5) per game) in the short term. However, if it takes five years for the Bears to reach those levels, as it did for the Chiefs to do so under Andy Reid, the prospects of Nagy and GM Ryan Pace still being around to see it are problematic. Meaning: Changes will be noticeable immediately.

The complexities of the Nagy/Helfrich iteration of the time-honored West Coast offense are too much to chronicle in one analysis, and they won’t be immediately apparent to the naked eye. For one thing, if civilians could pick it up that easily, it wouldn’t have survived the decades of distinguished defensive coordinators assailing it. Also, if it were that simple, Mitch Trubisky wouldn’t have needed to work as hard at it as he has for some months now. A prime directive in all of this is precisely that the offense is NOT easy to figure out.

For another reason, regardless of how many years he apprenticed under Reid in Philadelphia and Kansas City, Nagy’s offense will be uniquely his, not merely a Reid clone. Reid did not simply run the Bill Walsh playbook; he authored his own edition. Similarly, not all of the clues to the Nagy offense can be found looking at 2017 Chiefs film. Nagy brings a different and expanded offensive scheme to the Bears, with Helfrich in a complementary role.

But the past is often prologue. Nagy’s NFL experience has all been within the parameters of Reid’s framework, and Helfrich has never coached against an NFL defense. So a reasonable expectation is that Nagy and Helfrich build out from a Reid foundation, but customizing it with personal preferences and with an eye toward molding it to the collective skillset of Trubisky and the rest of the offensive components.

To gain a preliminary, superficial understanding of what Nagy’s offense is about, look to Nagy’s past, the West Coast roots that Nagy incorporates in his work.

With his own modifications. As in:

“I think if you compare the old-school West Coast offense, where the three-step [dropback-passing] game was the extension of the run, and they’re looking for the yards after the catch, the ‘YAC’ yards,” Nagy said, “now you look at our offense which is more of the RPO [run-pass-option] stuff. You’re sort of getting the same thing, but now you’re mixing in run and pass on the same play.”

The Walsh influences

At its core, the West Coast offense uses the pass to set up the run, and uses the pass as a device for ball control – something of a departure from recent Bears offenses, although Marc Trestman based much of his scheme around that premise.

Actually the West Coast offense is misnamed and should’ve gone into NFL lore as the “Ohio River offense,” or something reflective of the fact that Bill Walsh formulated many of the concepts while an assistant with the expansion Cincinnati Bengals 50 years ago. Walsh came from the vertical passing game espoused by the Oakland Raiders, his first NFL employer, but was forced in Cincinnati to adapt to the arm limitations of Virgil Carter, who stepped in as starter when strong-armed Greg Cook suffered what was effectively a career-ending arm injury. Walsh exploited the defense horizontally, not simply vertically.

With Trubisky, Nagy won’t be constrained by arm limitations. Trubisky has the deep arm and has speed with Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller and Kevin White.

But like any coach or assistant, Walsh wanted ball control but approached it through the pass, not the run, as explained in his “Controlling the ball with the pass” written in 1979. “To do that.” Walsh wrote, “we have to have versatility – versatility in the action and types of passes thrown by the quarterback.” Nagy subscribes to the notion of ball control using the pass, not solely the run.

Walsh espoused three passing concepts:

• drop-back passes, typically with short drops and quick releases;

• play-action passes, which in Nagy’s scheme can take the form of run-pass-option plays besides the conventional fake handoff on the way to a drop-back;

• and what Walsh termed the “action pass” where the quarterback moves outside to negate a rush, change the trajectory of a throw or shorten the throw to a targeted receiver.

Ex-quarterback Nagy has a full grasp of and appreciation for all three, particularly the action pass, and it begins with his own awareness of history. Within even a brief conversation about his offensive tenets, Nagy brings up one of the great plays in NFL history, one Walsh built into the San Francisco 49ers scheme, one that may have looked like a broken play, but was anything but.

“’The Catch’” was a movement play, ‘Q-8,’” Nagy said, recalling the Joe Montana pass to the late Dwight Clark against the Dallas Cowboys to win the 1981 NFC Championship game. “Montana sprinted out. That’s an old-school West Coast play, and we have that play. That’s a movement play. We do have movements; we don’t live in that world but we want to have that.”

Next: The misunderstood centerpiece position of West Coast offenses, and how all things “timing” are changing.