Jay Cutler (Finally) Gets Comfortable and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Vaughn McClure at the Chicago Tribune writes this fluff piece on quarterback Jay Cutler.  This comment from defensive back D.J. Moore about Cutler’s improved off field attitude was interesting:

“It makes people like you more,” he said. “When people like you more, they root for you more. When people root for you, I think you do better. Good people win. You can’t just walk around and be an (expletive) and then be like, ‘Now I want you guys to come out and support me.’”

This excerpt might say more about Caleb Hanie‘s insecurity than about Cutler:

Part of offensive coordinator Mike Martz‘s teaching philosophy is never to scold the starter but get points across through berating the backup. Hanie feels the brunt of Martz’s admonitions.

“Last year was pretty rough with that,” Hanie said. “You just feel like you’re in the doghouse. And I think Jay took pleasure in seeing me get yelled at. This year is a little better but last year, I think that was entertainment for Jay.”

Other interesting points:

1) All of the players, including Cutler, eat “organic stuff” from Whole Foods.
2) Cutler takes Dane Sanzenbacher to dinner every week.

Overall we get a picture of Cutler as someone who isn’t particularly quick to fit in with others but who is finally starting getting comfortable in the environment of the Bears locker room.

“A year ago at this time, the Packers and Giants were in the hunt for a playoff spot. Aaron Rodgers (12 touchdowns, nine interceptions, 85.2 rating) and Eli Manning (14 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, 88.3) were having Cutler-like seasons. In the second half, Rodgers stepped up (13 touchdowns, two interceptions, 122.4). Manning did not (17 touchdowns, 14 interceptions, 83.0). The ­Packers edged the Giants for the last wild-card berth. And the rest, very literally, is history.

“It might be too much to ask Cutler to be Aaron Rodgers. He just has to be closer to Rodgers than he does to Eli Manning — and [Rex] Grossman — in the second half.”

“He needs to avoid sacks and stay away from desperate, ill-advised throws that can be intercepted. If he does that, he can win some games in the fourth quarter, as he must.”

Cutler has generally performed well the last few weeks but he seems to throw at least two or three dropped interceptions every game. That needs to be cleaned up.

  • Pompei also evaluates the offensive line in the same article:

“The two major shortcomings have been pass protection (21 sacks allowed is tied for third in the NFL) and penalties (20 false starts — six more than the next closest team).”

“This unit has the potential to play better. In fact, the trend already is toward more efficient blocking.”

I would agree. I would also add that the two places that the offensive line has struggled the most are in the two domes they’ve played in, Detroit and New Orleans. It’s when the Bears have to go to a silent count and the linemen lose their one advantage that you find out how much talent you actually have. The Bears have been sadly lacking in these noisy environments. Fortunately the only dome the Bears have left on the schedule is in Minnesota and we can hope that if that team continues to lose, the stadium won’t be as raucous as the others the Bears have played in.

“[J'MarcusWebb looks like a right tackle to me with those big, long arms but somehow he gets the job done,” the scout said. “I thought he did an exceptional job against [Vikings defensive end] Jared Allen. It was one of those emotional games, and I think the level of emotion was higher for the Bears than the Vikings for whatever reason. But I still think he has done a good job. He’s holding his own there.

“You’d think they’d put [LanceLouis over on that side because he’s a little more of an athlete, but he’s holding his own at right tackle.”

  • Back to Pompei as he goes on to evaluate the cornerbacks:

“The corners have given up some yards against better receivers, especially against the Panthers.”

Meaning “especially Steve Smith“. The problem is the same one they had last year. They can’t cover good receivers man-to-man. As a result the Panthers were able to move Smith around and to get into favorable match ups. The Bears are eventually going to have to address this issue if they are going to compete consistently with some of the better teams in the league like the Patriots.

  • Finally, another good point from Pompei:

Devin Hester may have fewer return opportunities [in the next nine games] because he has been on too many highlight reels lately.”

The Vikings did an excellent job of pinning Hester to the sidelines and limiting his returns. We saw a lot of that during Hester’s last prolonged slump and I can almost guarantee that we’re going to see a lot of it in the future.

  • I do take issue with one contention that Pompei makes about the defensive line:

“Losing Corey Wootton for all but 12 snaps so far has hurt this unit. The Bears need him.”

The Bears are definitely hurting interms of depth here. But otherwise I’d say that we haven’t seen Wooton enough to make any judgments in terms of the quality of his play. And perhaps that says more about him than anything.

  • Mark Potash, writing for the Chicago Sun-Times, makes the point that the Packers game on Christmas day is a critical one for the Bears. Though I acknowledge that this is always an important game I think we have to also acknowledge that the Packers are clearly a better team and the Bears aren’t likely to beat them for the division title. The game in the second half that, in my opinion, the Bears must win is Nov. 13 against the Lions at home. Generally speaking the Bears still must show that they are better than this team More specifically they are likely going to need to come out on top of them in terms of tie breakers if they are going to make they playoffs.

Elsewhere

“What he’s overlooking is the fact that he wasn’t benched due to his play or because he’s the scapegoat for a 1-5 start punctuated by a blowout loss at Soldier Field that ran the team’s road record against the Bears to 1-10 since 2001. Chrisian Ponder is playing and McNabb isn’t because the Vikings realize that the playoffs are a pipe dream, and because the Vikings need to know what Ponder can do. Especially if that 1-5 (now 1-6) becomes 1-10 and worse, giving the Vikings a crack at Andrew Luck.”

I might add that McNabb really needs to step outside himself and take a good look at his performance. That game in Chicago was awful and he’s now with a team that can’t cover for his deficiencies.

  • Sam Farmer, writing for Tribune News Services puts together a profile of former Bear quarterback Jim Harbaugh. The comments from former 49ers quarterback Steve Young might say as much about the Bears as the 49ers:

“What I love about Jim is he’s an offensive-minded coach and he knows quarterbacks, and in this town that’s three-quarters of the work,” said Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young, who won the 1995 Super Bowl with the 49ers. “I really love that he takes chances. He’s a bold play-caller, and you just don’t see many of those around the league.

“He calls a game to help Alex, and if Alex is playing well everyone is playing well. That’s the way Bill [Walsh] used to do it. Anything that looks like Bill Walsh, I’m excited about.”

  • It’s Dan Pompei day here as also he makes some interesting points in his Sunday Blitz column for The National Football Post.

“Nobody knows for sure at this point if Jim Caldwell will keep his job. But what we do know is Colts management is not blaming him for the performance of the team.”

Assuming this is true, and I think it is, then the blame lies squarely on general manager Bill Polian. Polian has not exactly stocked the team with talent through some mediocre drafts and that lack is now being exposed.

  • Pompei also had this to say about Brad Childress:

“Former Vikings coach Brad Childress is looking like a better coach with each passing week. A few months ago, some people were predicting Childress would never be a head coach again. Front offices are starting to take a harder look at what Childress accomplished in Minnesota within the context of how the Vikings are performing now. It will be an upset if Childress isn’t a candidate for a head coaching job or two in the offseason.”

Childress was a poor head coach. The Vikings have been competitive inmost games this year despite being stuck with McNabb, then rookie Christian Ponder at quarterback. Childress had Brett Favre and that has exposed him on two fronts. First, Favre was a abetter quarterback. Second, his preferential treatment of him (e.g. driving to the airport to pick him up) showed how little understanding he had of the team concept. As intelligent as he is, Childress just didn’t understand how to manage people and even Favre had little or no respect for him in the end.

  • One more thing from Pompei:

Terrell Owens needs two things to justify his existence: the football and an audience. Oh well, he still has a football.”

I really do think Owens has some good football left in him. But it’s obvious that he just isn’t worth the personality problems anymore.

One Final Thought

ESPN NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert on the Lions being “entertaining”:

“I guess everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I think you’re taking it too far if you think Lions linebacker Stephen Tulloch was mocking the act of prayer and/or God by “Tebowing” after a sack in the first half Sunday. I’m guessing Tulloch got some pushback from somewhere, because Monday he tweeted: ‘I have a love & passion for the game of football. Football is a form of entertainment. Have a sense of humor, I wasn’t mocking GOD! #Tebowing.’ Yes. Let’s everyone lighten up on this one.”

Of course he wasn’t mocking God. I guess I’m wondering when it became OK to mock other players. #nosportsmanship #norepect

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