Friday, December 19, 2014

The Cutler era ~ ending or rebirth?



I don't even know where to start on the this Cutler benching, the future or what. I do believe as Bears fans we see through the bull and know its not all Jay's fault how the season has gone. He is not having a good year but no one else is either. One thing is certain, Jay is getting more props on being more professional than the coaches or organization, on how this is being played out.  Here is a good article from Peter Prisco

So let's take a moment to look at the scenarios and what could happen.

1. Cutler gets cut and is released before his money gets guaranteed. Not likely. That is colossal black eye on the organization and won't happen. They will carry an onerous salary cap too.


2. Jay get's traded. This is possible, and am sure several teams have called. It get's down to value and his contract. To that point here is OverTheCap read on Jays deal.

"If the Bears trade Cutler, it will be just a $4 million cap hit for them with $12.5 million in 2015 cap savings, according to OverTheCap.com. The team trading for Cutler would take on his $15.5 million in guaranteed 2015 salary and also a likely $16 million in guarantees, according to OverTheCap.com, but again – some desperate general manager won’t care about that. OverTheCap.com said if the Bears cut Cutler, he will still count $19.5 million against their 2015 salary cap, so that’s not realistic."

Now I am speculating here but if the Cutler benching came from above Emery, as I have heard through respectable sources, then the Bears might have a deal almost done, so bench him to protect him. I can see the Titans making that play, the have no real good QB, have money and Whisenhunt runs a Erhardt-Perkins balanced offense which Cutler seems to play well in. It's a reach but would not surprise me.

3. Trestman goes and new HC comes in to begin life after Jay in 2016. Probably the most logical, especially if Emery survives. Jay has shown he can win, but it is clear he needs to be in the right system to maximize his skill set. None of us believe Jay is elite or will be so, only two QB's are on that plateau. However, in the right system with a no nonsense coach, like Shanahan, Jay can get it done. From what people have told me, Shanahan runs a hybrid WCO with more running and vertical passing game that suits Cutler.

So those are the options, if for some reason, the Bears ignite under Clausen and win these last two, Trestman is saved, Cutler is gone. I know Jay was magnanimous yesterday saying he could play for Trestman, but that was a leadership statement for the betterment of the team not reality.

On to other stuff. Watched two more games from 2013. The win over the Steelers and the loss to the Lions. The Steelers was more of the same. Balanced running v passing, no screen passes, Cutler moved around and seemed comfortable, receivers didn't drop any passes. Ran out of a pro set backfield and looked nothing like a WCO we witnessed this year. The Lions game was not good. They got behind early and had to move away from running. Cutler had 3 INTs and a fumble that was returned for a TD. The fumble on Jay was not careless, he was getting ready to cock his arm and got hit from behind, one of those things. The first INT was a good throw to a wide open Jeffery. Delmas came right over Alshon's back and took the ball away. It is possible Jay never saw Delmas for Jeffery could have screened him. The other two were on Jay, bad throws under pressure. One of them was a deep pass to Marshall, Jay had to almost jump throw it and it was short. Also, the line played poorly too. DET rush was relentless, penalties on Long and Mills killed drives. Truthfully it looked a lot like this season. However, still running a balanced/pro set offensive not WCO.

One general observation. Marshall doesn't get a lot of separation on his routes. It looks like Dbacks are very close or on him. That means Jay has to throw high so Brandon can do the jump ball or thread it accurately through coverage. Alshon is a bit of both, good at getting separation on hitch route. Martellus looks open all the time. So after four games, Bears are 3-1, Cutler fell from 4th to 11th in rankings and no WCO to be seen. 181 pass attempts and not one screen pass, none. Only 3 or 4 horizontal quick outs and none succeeded. 

Tomorrow will talk about Clausen and the Lions. 













   
   





Thursday, December 18, 2014

Bears Cutler benched ... the betrayal complete

If only Jay had known what was to come, maybe he wouldn't have signed that contract offered to him by the Bears management.  Remember, he never asked for this deal, they came to him, and none of would have turned it down. Now he is benched, and that completes the betrayal.  Take a look at the events that have transpired over the last week or so.  The word leaks through the national media, that the Bears have buyers remorse over Cutler. He then finds out it is his OC that did it, like all us we would expect something to happen at the higher levels, for the trust had been broken. Nope, the HC stands with his OC and silently he betrays his QB, by doing nothing.  Well, you'd think okay this sucks, maybe somebody higher up would step in., Nope.  The GM goes on a six minute tirade saying how he is "pissed off" for what the OC did, but then says he can't do anything about it. Blink ... double blink.

So he adds fuel to the betrayal, but distancing himself. Okay, you say this is darn right out of control, so the ownership will step in. Nope. Silence.  Wait hold on, the owners nominate, Jay for Man of the Year, for his work with children's diabetes.  That is nice, recognized for good deeds.  Then on his day off he is informed by the HC that had previously stabbed him in the back and is told he will not start against the Lions. He bites his tongue (like he has for six years) and then watches this HC mislead the media hours later, saying nothing about it. Hours later it is leaked he will not play.

Okay, I get it. Jay has not had the best year, but then again no one has really. So you bench your QB, but you start Shea McClellin, Jared Allen and a few others that have certainly not pulled their weight, but that is okay. If we can't see through this charade, the we have drank far too much Kool-Aid from the Bears organization.  If I am Jay, I would call Ted Phillips, tell him tear up my contract, trade me or release me for I am out here.  Honestly, the Bears from Virginia McCaskey down should be embarrassed how this has been handled, and none of us would want to work for an organization that you have to look over your shoulder and wonder when the knife is coming.

Forget your like or dislike for Jay Cutler, no person deserves to be treated so shabbily as he has.

Enough of that.  So I watched the second game of 2013 against the Vikings at Soldier Field.  Again, I only watched the offense.  The Bears won 31-30 again led by a late 4th quarter drive by Cutler. Overall, the offense ran the ball 33 times, and passed 30 times.  It was not one of Cutlers better days, he got sacked by Allen and fumbled which resulted in a 61yd TD run.  He threw two INT, the first one in the red zone but it was a tip ball, so not all Jay.  The other one was on Jay. Marshall was open deep along the right sideline and the safety came over and got it. When you watch the replay, you can tell when Jay threw it the safety was no were in sight, but it looked like Jay had too much air under his throw and that gave the safety more time.

Other take aways, NOT one screen pass,  a lot of two back formations, and a decrease in play action from the Bengals game.  Cutler was mobile in the pocket and did make some nice running throws. Receivers did a better job on separation and no drops. There were no horizontal passes, anything sent to Forte was either a swing pass or over the middle.  This again, was not a WCO offense system, it looked like the Erhardt-Perkins style of play.  One last note, I sure do miss Earl Bennett.

Summary, two games in, 63 passes thrown and not one screen pass. Only one true pass thrown horizontally.  Totally a balanced offense with run v pass and Cutler led two fourth quarter drives to victory.  So after two weeks, Cutler is ranked fourth overall by PFF.  Next game Steelers.

Update: Here is a recent quote from Tillman:

 "I think guys still have faith," Tillman said during an appearance Thursday on NFL AM. "I mean ultimately, we all have good seasons, we all have bad seasons. I've had bad seasons. I think 2005, I had a pretty bad season and my teammates they stuck with me. But ultimately they gave me their respect, and I think as a teammate that's kind of what we still have to do is still give him our respect. I know it probably didn't turn out the way he wanted, but he's still a teammate."

Here is a great article puts Cutler in perspective, all QB's actually.  

Another good article by Barwell over at Grantland Rice. 




     
 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Bears v Lions ... who do we root for?


So this Sunday the Lions head into Soldier Field.  This is surreal for me, for of course I want the Bears to win, but in a perverse way I hope they lose so we can maybe knock GB out of the playoffs. Weird!

Now that it is becoming clear that there will be a coaching change, I think the team needs to approach these last two games like preseason. Let Cutler play the first half, turn it over to Fales/Clausen.  Let the rookies and UFA's play so the new coaches have some tape to determine who goes or stays. Also will help determine need for the draft.

I have decided not to write any more on the machinations of the team. I have beaten that dead horse beyond recognition and starting to read like the Chicago press corps!

However, if you want to read a good analysis of it, the check out this link from Greg Gabriel.

There has been one thing that has bugged me though.  For the life of me when I have watched the offense this season, for some reason it doesn't look like the same offense we saw last year. Not with the players themselves, but the play calling.  No doubt we are seeing a full fledged WCO system straight out of the old Bill Walsh play book.  That got me wondering about last season. I went over to my NFL Game Pass and watched the first game of 2013, Bears v Bengals at Soldier Field.  If you remember, Cutler led a fourth Qtr come from behind victory.

I didn't watch the defense side, just the offensive part of the game and here are my takeaways. First off, they did not play a WCO system in that game. It looked like the Erhardt-Perkins system that NE runs.  There was play call balance, 28 run plays to 33 pass plays.  Cutler looked comfortable in the pocket and no sacks. He was mobile and moved around when needed too, also lots of play action passing, almost every attempt.  He did not stare down receivers. On the WR/TE. Three dropped passes, and Bennett dropped the first pass of the season on the first play.  I noticed not great separation by the WR either.  They did win the jump ball throws and the winning toss to Marshall was one of them.  Forte and Bush ran effectively.  There was one INT which I am not sure if it was Cutler or Bennett but will put it on Cutler, it did no damage.

This is were it gets interesting, not one screen was called. There was a horizontal throw to Marshall who was in motion, but there was only Alshon out there to block. Not a classic screen set up. Most of the throws were to the middle of the field about 6-15 yards deep, another typical Erhardt-Perkins strategy.  Cutlers mechanics looked solid, his passes did look a bit high but that favored the jump ball aspect of the WR's and they did win those battles. No false starts, Slauson got one for going downfield on a pass play and Bennett for holding on a run play.

The Bears were behind going into the fourth quarter, and the D did a great job on CIN, but give the O credit, they ran a time consuming winning drive, got the ball back and killed off the clock with the run. Now one game is not a season, but I am going to watch them all to see what was Trestman doing last season. My guess initially is, the Bears were not in his system fully.  There was a transition, remember that Tucker was told to run Lovies D last year, was Trestman told to do the same thing on O? I know its moot now, but it can shed some light on why things may have gotten so bad.

Other news, Rodgers has come out and defended Jay, and was not kind about what Kromer did. Also, while I did not read it, Suh of DET has come out and called Cutler elite. Is Suh angling for a deal with the Bears?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Bear v Saints, a night of the long knives

What were the fans expecting?  I mean really, you have a team that has been reeling since or before the bye week, blow out games after blow out games. Then the real drama starts, the OC betrays his QB and goes to the press and disparages him. Then hours before the game the GM goes on a rant about how he was furious what Kromer did, but can't do a thing about for its in Trestman contract about firing. Basically, pulled a Pontious Pilate and washed his hands of the matter.

Then the game is played to form by the Bears, and sadly it was broadcasted by the TMZ of sports, who has made it clear they can't stand Cutler, and it was open season. What was so distasteful about it how they said nothing of Trestman nor Kromer, well why would they? Trestman and Kromer worked with Gruden, coaches don't speak ill of each other in public, for jobs and references are at stake. Young, Dilfer and Gannon owe their careers to Trestman so they aren't going after him. Ray Lewis, well, was doing exactly what he was told to do.  I think we can move on now.

Look, I can speculate like all of us can where this is all going and how it will end.  The reality is none of us know, and in a way it has become a bore to even engage the discussion.  However, regardless of what I have written about the family, organization decision making, I have to believe Trestman is done. His lack of doing anything about Kromer shows his loyalty to the man not to the team.  Kromer betrayed the team, Trestman did is a well not firing him.  So we reaped what we sowed and it showed.

It is like anything else in life, business or family, the players (employees/kids) reflect the values/direction and vision of the coaches (management/parents).  I don't really blame any one player, for through the season they have all played poorly. Some will exempt Forte, but he too has been less than stellar. He has had two costly fumbles this season which shifted momentum drastically, missed blocks that led to sacks and his pocket full of dropped passes. There is not one player that can say with a clear conscience he rose above this disaster, not one.

What we are seeing this season, is all the warts, scabs and scars of the last 22 seasons finally come to bear (no pun).  The curtain has finally been pulled back to show how truly inept the organization is and always was after George.  I can't remember everything that has happened, but of late we have heard of the surreal interview of Arians, how we were reminded of the botched misfiring of McGinnis, and as one reader reminded us of how the owners weren't amused with the team in the SB back in 85 (per McMahon's book), because it would cost too much $$$.

What is the point of all this? Everybody screams leadership ... leadership. It starts at the very top, don't look at the QB or the Mike or even the HC. Its starts with a vision laid down by the owner(s) and then that vision is manifested into a mission by the GM and instilled by the HC into the players to be executed beyond expectations.  Until that is clearly done, we are victims of a franchise that will be always successfully mediocre.

I am a loyal Bears fan, a fan of Jay Cutler and always will be, but I have to accept that unless things change diametrically at the top, we will see the same results, the only difference the names and faces will change.  Once the season ends, it will be fun to write about the what if's and what for's but for now this is a funeral dirge of a blog.

On a up beat note:  Two positives this season. Draft steal: Pat O'Donnell and best late season signing Mariani as KOR.

Update: Jay Cutler has been nominated for the Walter Payton Man of the Year for his work with children with diabetes.  This was announced by the NFL today, sadly it takes a Chicago sport reporter to disparage it and bring another classless act to Chicago. He is a Bulls reporter, so I will consider the source.

What a joke. I thought you needed class to win that award.RT : Jay Cutler is the nominee for Walter Payton Man of the Year.




      








Saturday, December 13, 2014

Chicago Bears a team on fire ... or is it burning down the house?

Aaron Kromer.  We never saw that coming did we?  There is not a lot to say about what he did, but this clip says all there needs to be said.

So where does that leave the team now?  Is it a dumpster fire?  The management has gone "run silent run deep" mode. Emery has gone stone cold. Trestman evasive. Kormer isn't elaborating. Only Cutler has been out there in  professional manner, handling a situation that frankly should be handled by Phillips/Emery.

I am not going to say much on this, for once I will let Hub (who normally I disagree with) speak for me ... if you haven't read his article here it is.

In retrospect, Kromer's actions is an exclamation point on a season gone terribly wrong.  The thing is when we look back, hindsight being 20/20, we should have seen it coming.  I mean look how this team has conducted themselves. Marshall and his showtime deal on Tuesday, Lance Briggs jetting off to open a restaurant. Then toss in Bennett body slamming Fuller and how that was handled. Jennings popping off about rotating captains, Briggs admission about checking out, and now says he wants to keep playing, ~rme~ the family dog and pony show and on it goes.  What this points out that Trestman mistakenly tried to create an adult environment but when we all know football players are young men, with little life experience.  Is it any wonder some of the most successful HC's (Halas, Lombardi, Ditka and Landry) were the most demanding and disciplined.

Discipline.  It will be interesting to see does the family and Ted Phillips have any to mete out, or is still Animal House.

Okay so for some fun ... going to do fact or fiction.

1. Garbage stats?  Fiction

2. Cutler is a coach killer: Fiction

3. Bears can finish 8-8: Fact

4. The 2014 Bears was loaded with talent: Fiction

I have put a poll in place, vote on the one you would like to write on.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Bears ~ A successful franchise in mediocrity

Before I dive into today's topic, I want to do some housekeeping.  First off, thank you all for your comments, not only to me, but also the dialogue amongst yourselves.  However, I want to remind everyone, while we are passionate in our opinions. respect and common courtesy is required.  We may differ, and it can get heated, but there is no room for personal insults, attacks or being demeaning.  I don't want to be hall room monitor, but I will delete messages going forward that are laced with an attitude that extends beyond the topic.

Since we have time before the Underachiever Bowl, as Brad Biggs called it, next week. I thought it would be interesting to ponder the state of the franchise. I have done some research on the franchise, the McCaskey's and how the franchise operates.  What I found fascinating, is that since Ditka, the Bears franchise has been successful at being mediocre.  It is a paradox or an irony, can never keep them straight. The point is, when you look back over the last 22 years, the Bears have overall been less than good but yet in a perverse way successful enough to keep the organization out of the spotlight. Until this season.

Since 1993, when Wannstedt took over from Ditka, the Bears have gone 169-180. Been in the playoff's five times, and the Super Bowl once. The weird part is the statistics really don't show how twisted this all is and why we believe at times were are just that close to being in the Super Bowl (again). When you look at each coach, everyone of them got us into the playoffs the third year regardless of the wretched performance of the previous two.  Lovie was the one that really led us on, his second season we made the playoffs, then his third the Super Bowl.  What happened next was cruel, for the next three seasons, the Bears were 23-25 and then once again back in the playoffs.

The pattern of making the playoffs every so often has masked how overall the Bears have been less than average as a team.  Think about it, 8 winning seasons in the last 22, a overall losing record through this time frame, but for some reason the media and fans have had the organization on a pedestal of sorts.  The Bears have been excellent at keeping this aura of successful mediocrity going. Every year we are reminded of the '85 Bears, how great certain players were, like Walter Payton. Past players still get air time to wax on about how great the old Bears were.  What great Bears?  It has all been an illusion.

If this franchise wasn't the founder of the NFL, or constantly revered for its great players of old, the Bears would be a laughing stock.  The organization has done a wonderful job of making this franchise look successful when in fact it's not.  An example, Dick Butkus is considered the gold standard of Bears, he symbolizes everything a great Bear is or was.  What no one mentions, that in his nine years of playing, he was on only one winning team, his first season. The next eight saw some of the worst Bears teams ever.  The point I am making, is that the Bears franchise has used great players to make itself look successful, and shies away from the team's lack of success as a whole.

The counterpoint to this is New England, over the last 22 years they have had 3 losing seasons, that includes Parcells and Pete Carroll.  The difference is, while we do hear about Brady, most of the discussion is on how successful the organization is from the owner to the ball boy. Someone asked yesterday why can't the Bears be like NE?  They can be or close to it, if the ownership changed its culture and demanded a level of excellence.  It's not about the money really, even though, the McCaskey's have made a fortunate on a mediocre franchise.  Its about a culture of wanting to exceed expectations, holding everyone accountable to achieve and exceed those expectations.

Until that happens, do not fall prey that any changes will bring about a revolution of change.  In the next year or two, the Bears will make the playoffs. Then fall back into that stupor of mediocrity, and we fans will live another day gnashing their teeth, while the owners reap a fortune.



Saturday, December 6, 2014

Bears lose to Cowboys ~ night of the lost boys

I wrote after the Lions game, that the Bears were a beaten team.  I followed that by saying how they handled adversity against Dallas would be the true indicator of their mental state.  Forte's fumble at the start of third quarter was that moment, and sadly, the Bears gave up.  Yes, it was nice to see Cutler and a few others fight back in the fourth quarter, but I think we knew that overall this team is plainly done.

There is not much to say about the game itself, except is was a highlight reel of all the things that have gone wrong.  Bad defense, lack of discipline, costly errors and obvious poor coaching.  Most know I have defended Emery, Trestman and most of all, Mel Tucker.  Of late, I have questioned my own defense, and have come to the conclusion, that the organization needs to be swept clean.  David Haugh over at the Trib wrote a great article on what the McCaskey family needs to do. I normally don't agree with Haugh but in this particular case I do.

Other than the Ditka years, the Bears have been mediocre, the pertinent question to the Bears ownership, is do they really want to win?  If they do, then buy out Trestman, Emery and all the assistants.  The price tag is around $14M, that is beer money for the McCaskeys, and as Haugh said, hit the restart button.  Cutler?  I am a fan of his as most know, and while some call him a coach killer, I subscribe to the fact that the Bears coaches killed him and his potential.

Maybe it is time to move on from Cutler. Let him go to a place where he has a chance.  You know what will happen, within two years he will be in the playoffs while the Bears fool around with high QB draft picks or worn out journeyman QB's.  Maybe they will get lucky, but history says differently. Other than McMahon, who I believe fit Ditka, the Bear's organization is a graveyard for QB's.

Let's be realistic, the McCaskey's aren't going to drop $14M+ to rid themselves of Emery, Trestman et al nor $15M to release Cutler, and he truthfully has no high level trade value.  So what is the more pragmatic move?  There are various scenarios, the most cost effective and easiest way to go is to retain Emery and Trestman, fire Tucker and DeCamillis. Who they bring in as DC is open for speculation, but I will lay money on Pasqualoni.  Then next best thing, is to buy out Trestman and then go talk to Rex Ryan, Tom Coughlan (who is on the hot seat) maybe Mike Smith (probably will be fired).  The key here is to hire an experienced HC, something the Bears have never done.  Throw in Harbaugh, if he is available, but don't think he will be.

Now to the players.  Right now there is a good group of young players and that is where the focus should be.  Its time to say good bye to Briggs, Tillman, Garza, Allen, Conte and Williams. I would add in Jennings but that would be too expensive.  On the cusp is Cutler, Forte, Ratliff and Marshall. Go into the draft looking for a LB, DB and either a QB or OL. Stay away from FA unless something drops into their laps.  I would set the expectation that 2015 and probably 2016 are rebuilding years, and go from there.

The important take away, is that the franchise is loaded with money, the team is an embarrassment, and they are staring into the abyss. The big question is, does the family have the stomach to break the tradition of mediocrity or will it be business as usual at Halas Hall? Stay tuned for the next weeks or month will be enlightening.

Side note: Most know by now that Marshall is out for the season with fractured ribs and a collapsed lung.  This will tryout time for Wilson and Morgan.