When Mike Tice was Minnesota Vikings head coach a decade ago, the Randy Ratio was in operation. At least 40 percent of passes thrown were going to go toward Randy Moss.
We certainly had a number of plays offensive coordinator Scott Linehan and I talked about this many targets for Randy, Tice told CSNChicago.com on Wednesday. We knew what that was and we stayed at it.
According to one count the Vikings were 4-1 in 2002 when they hit the Ratio point, 1-10 when quarterback Daunte Culpepper didnt.
The Bears are 7-1 to this point of 2012 with a Brandon Ratio that has slightly more than 37 percent of Jay Cutler passes intended for Marshall. That is not necessarily by design. However
There is no Brandon Ratio, Tice said. I do know this that on third downs were going to have some opportunities that are going to go his way. He does such a great job on third downs.
Tice was not revealing any game plan with his declaration that the league already was not amply aware. Marshall is the NFLs leading receiver on third-downs, with 19 catches and an average of 15.6 yards per third-down reception. Four of his seven touchdowns have come on third downs.
Marshall not the problem
Cutler has targeted Marshall 86 times this season (90 per ESPN.com numbers). The next-closest is among wide receivers is Earl Bennett at 32, then 28 for Matt Forte. Devin Hester has been targeted 23 times.
Notably, rookie Alshon Jeffery also has been targeted 23 times and hes missed the last three games plus the fourth quarter of the Jacksonville game with his broken hand, after playing his way into the starting lineup in part because he caught 14 of those 23. Cutler was throwing to him because he trusted him.
If Cutler is locking onto one receiver excessively, he can be the cause of a one-dimensional offense. But if Hester is getting open just 23 times in eight games, then something is wrong with No. 23. If Bennett is only getting open 32 times in his six games, then Cutler can be excused for going to No. 15 and his own private Brandon Ratio.
Receivers are tasked with earning a quarterbacks trust. Even if Cutler is looking too much for Marshall teams with 100-catch receivers rarely win Super Bowls the bigger challenge is to Bennett, Hester and Jeffery when he returns is to establish themselves with a quarterback whose trust is easily shaken.
The number of passes to one of the elite receivers in the NFL and clearly the best ever in a Bears uniform is not the problem. Getting the ball to a superstar does not fit neatly in any notion of problem.
But Cutler and Marshall won exactly zero in their two seasons starting together with Marshall catching 102 and 104 passes. They did not have a winning season either year.
When Tice operated with the Randy Ratio with Moss, the Vikings were 5-11 in 2001 with Moss catching 82 with 10 touchdowns and Cris Carter 75. They went 6-10 on 2002 with Moss 106 and seven TDs. Moss 111 catches and 17 touchdowns in 2003 were good for 9-7 but not for postseason.
Our receivers are playing hard, blocking their butts off, Tice said. But our passing game is going to go through Brandon.