Quo Vadis Christian Cutler

Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune summarizes the Vikings revolving door at quarterback:


“[Christian] Ponder entered his third season as the undisputed starter, then struggled during an 0-3 start with more turnovers (seven) than TD passes (two) and a completion percentage of .590. Two days after a 31-27 home loss to the Browns in Week 3, the Vikings announced Ponder had a fractured rib and inserted [Matt] Cassel, a 31-year-old veteran, as their starter for a Week 4 game against the Steelers in London.

“Cassel threw for 248 yards with two TD passes in a 34-27 win across the pond and retained the starting spot after the bye week. But the Vikings also complicated matters by signing [Josh] Freeman off the scrap heap on the Sunday of Week 5, just a few days after his unceremonious exit from Tampa Bay. So after Cassel struggled in a 35-10 home loss to Carolina, Freeman got the nod to start the following week against the Giants.

“Then, he delivered one of the more abysmal quarterbacking performances in recent memory, misfiring on 33 of 53 passes against the Giants, failing to lead a single scoring drive and throwing a costly red zone pick in an embarrassing 23-7 loss to a previously winless opponent. Two days after that debacle, the Vikings announced Freeman had concussion-like symptoms and spun the wheel back to Ponder, who has had uneven results in the five games since. He’s 1-3-1 in those starts and didn’t finish a Week 10 win over the Redskins (shoulder injury) or a Week 11 loss in Seattle (benched).”

Overall, Ponder is 13-20-1 as a starter during his career and just hasn’t been able to clear the inconsistency hurdle.

“Perhaps worst of all: he shows flashes of promise – leaving him in NFL quarterbacking purgatory. He’ll likely never be good enough to be a major difference-maker’s but has been just good enough in spurts to tease at a potential breakthrough.”

This last paragraph struck a cord with me because it's so consistent with what I see in Jay Cutler. Though most seem to think that Cutler will be resigned for at least one more year in the offseason, I'm not so sure about whether he is the long-term answer here even after most of a year as the starter under offensive head coach Marc Trestman.

All agree that Cutler has talent. The real question is how much success a “see it, throw it” quarterback who is incapable of throwing with anticipation can have in the NFL. Of the top quarterbacks in the league, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Aaron Rogers, none do it this way.

There are times when I think its possible. Then the Bears play a team that comes out in tight man coverage where the windows of opportunity are extremely narrow, Cutler looks awful and I think, “They've got to go in a different direction.”

It doesn't help Cutler's case that back up Josh McCown has looked so good hitting wide recievers quickly, in stride, thowing the ball before they come open. It shows you the possibilities that are there if Cutler could just learn to do it.

Most think there's no compairison between Cutler and Ponder, two totally different quarterbacks. But I feel the same way about both. There are flashes where I think they're the answer. And there are games when I'm sure they aren't.

Can the Bears see football heaven under Cutler? Who the hell knows.



Fool Me Once…

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune reminds me of a point I've been meaning to make as he answers your questions:

“Why is Marc Trestman emphasizing Jay Cutler has a high ankle sprain? Is it to stress his groin is fine? — @bbuddhas from Twitter

“Probably because he’s gotten a high number of questions about what is wrong with Cutler. There has been a lot of misinformation out there about Cutler but he is sidelined with a high ankle sprain. The groin might not be 100 percent but it is good enough for him to play on and has been.”

Yes, that's possible. But I think its more likely that Trestman is convering for a medical staff that gave Cutler the go ahead to play on a bad groin too soon. As many others have noted Cutler was grabbing his groin not his ankle in that last game.

You'll note that he's been much more cautious about letting Cutler come back from the “high ankle sprain” than he was coming off of the graoin injury. That's probably because he's learned to fully trust neither Cutler nor the medical staff. As well he shouldn't.


The Problem is One of Discipline

Rick Morrissey at the Chicago Sun-Times tells us that we shouldn't be surprised that the run defense stinks:

“The term of the moment in the NFL is ‘‘run fits.’’ It refers to defensive players being in proper position to make tackles on running backs in the gaps between offensive linemen. The Bears aren’t good at it, and no amount of teaching is going to make up for the fact they don’t have the athletes to pull it off. And you know what that means: a lack of ‘‘gap integrity.’’ I wouldn’t wish that on anybody.”

Morrissey makes some good points in this article. But this isn't one of them.

First, I also had never heard the phrase “run fit” until this year. My assumption was that this was a term that new defensive coordinator Mel Tucker brought in with him. I've avoided using it just because I hate to go along with the crowd in an effort to sound like I know what I'm talking about. But I'll probably eventually give in.

Second and most importantly, what disappoints me and so many Bear fans like me about the defense isn't that the Bears “don't have the athletes to pull it off”. If the problem was that the Bears players were just getting blocked out of the play, I could live with that. I wouldn't like it and I might look for fundamental improvements to make the players as individuals better, but I could accept it as reality. You can only coach up a lack of talent so much.

What bothers me is that so many of the break downs are mental. It's not that the guy gets pushed out of his gap. It's that he's not in his gap or that he's managed to lean just enough in the wrong direction that he's basically done the offensive player's job for him.

Add in the penalties and what you are left with isn't just a team that lacks talent. It's a team that isn't playing to the potential that the talent they have provides. This is a much worse crime.

Many if not most of the Bears problems can be coached. And the Beas need these players to start listening and responding to that coaching. Otherwise the guess here is that many of them being in the last year of their contracts, they won't be around very long after the year is over. Nor should they.


Packers Josh Sitton Calls Lions Dirt Bags

Packers left guard Josh Sitton tells WSSP radio in Milwaukee exactly what he thinks of the Lions. Via Rob Demovsky at ESPN:

“Sitton was asked whether the Lions might try to knock out Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers with a hit if Rodgers were to play on Thursday. Rodgers is not expected to return this week from his broken collarbone.”

“'Absolutely. I don’t think there’s any question about that,' Sitton said. 'They go after quarterbacks. Their entire defense takes cheap shots all the time. That’s what they do. That’s who they are. They’re a bunch of a dirtbags or scumbags. That’s how they play, and that’s how they’re coached. It starts with their frickin’ coach. It starts with the head coach, [Jim] Schwartz. He’s a d—, too. I wouldn’t want to play for him. It starts with him, and their D-coordinator and their D-line coach. They’re all just scumbags and so are the D-line.”

Couldn't have said it better myself. As an opponent, I wouldn't have said it. But as a fan who likes to see the game played reasonably cleanly, I couldn't agree more. They're a blight on the league.


There’s More to Holding the Ball for a Kicker Than Meets the Eye

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune runs through the subtleties of holding the ball for a kicker with punter Adam Podlesh:

“In perfect conditions, like the Bears had Sunday in the Edward Jones Dome, Podlesh tilts the ball slightly toward himself and a little toward the goalpost. With the wind blowing hard last week, he tilted the ball more toward himself. In a situation where the wind would have been blowing the opposite direction, Podlesh would have held the ball straight up. He never tilts the ball away from himself because a soccer-stryle kicker like [Robbie] Gould could strike the top of the ball with his ankle if he did that.

“'You never want to tilt the ball that way with a right-footed soccer-style kicker,” Podlesh said. “But what we’ll do is I’ll put it just straight up and that will help hold it up the opposite way. When you do this (tilting it toward himself or leaving it straight up), it will usually give you about 10 to 15 more yards without the ball breaking. So, it will stay on line 10 to 15 more yards depending on how hard the wind is until it breaks and starts moving.'”


Reflections on the Head Coach

Rick Morrissey at the Chicago Sun-Times on the state of the Bears:

“The 6-5 Bears are still tied for first place in the NFC North, thanks to Detroit’s loss to Tampa Bay on Sunday. It doesn’t mean they’re playing well. When you’re down 14-0 less than three minutes into the game and then throw in 10 penalties, you’re not playing well, no matter how Trestman tries to spin it.

“The mellow coach doesn’t do tough love. Fine. How about some semi-tough love?”

I've spend a number of years bashing Lions head coach Jim Schwartz by saying that he is directly responsible for wasting the talent in Detroit both indirectly through his own lack of control and directly through the type of play that he encourages. Every team's personality is a reflection of that of the head coach.

The same goes for Marc Trestman and the Bears. I happen to like Trestman and a lot of what he stands for. But, like Schwartz but (I'm guessing) in a much different way, he is responsible for the lack of discipline the Bears have been displaying on the field.

I honestly don't know what he needs to do. Maybe Morrissey is right and some tough love is in order. A lot depends upon what he is doing wrong and whether he recognizes what that is. Trestman is a smart man who seems to be one for self-evaluation and reflection. Perhaps he, more than most, is equiped to figure it out.

In any case, fans need look no farther than Trestman to see who is going to have to take action.


Game Comments: Bears at Rams 11/14/13


  1. The Bears came out playing 8 in the box on first down but still could stop the Rams from running the ball. The Rams scorred 14 points and never commpleted a pass.
  2. So much for the improved gap discipline from the Bears. They gave up a number of long runs as the Rams rans through huge openings. I think the tackling was still OK (which is not to say that they still weren't missing some).
  3. The Rams seemed to have particular success attacking the edges on the Bears. I thought Shea McClellin had a tough time his first time back. It looked to me like he was having a tough time with contain.
  4. Nice play in the first quarter on the long run by Tavon Austin. A fake end around that got the Bears leaning the other way.
  5. The Bears had an awfully hard time getting off of blocks today.
  6. The Rams evidently identified Zack Bowman as someone they could pick on. He had a rough game.
  7. There was some poor linebacker play out there as tight end Jared Cook burned the Bears all day. The defensive line is the major problem I'm going to say that the linebackers share the blame for the problems in the run as well.


  1. Another poor start for the Bears as they came out discombobulated. Matt Forte fumbed the first offensive play from scrimmage.
  2. The Rams came out blitzing Josh McCown frequently. They got pressure with it but I don't think it had a lot of effect. He was very poised in the pocket today.
  3. The Rams tackling left a lot to be desired today.
  4. I'm darned impressed with the speed on the Rams defensive line. They were very aggressive with the pass rush and I like the Bears response. They went to the inside handoff designed to work something like a draw play.
  5. The Rams look like they have a good set of linebackers, too. Very active and very mobile. James Laurinaitis is a monster.
  6. I like the second effort I saw frequently from Alshon Jeffery. Brandon Marshall had a nice game. It was nice to see Earl Bennett come alive today. Really it was a pretty good effort by all three, today.
  7. I also liked the effort I saw from Matt Forte despite the fumble in the first quarter. It wasn't good seeing him lying on the turf in the fourth quarter.
  8. Horrible series of downs to end the first half as the Bears had Matt Forte slip in the backfield, poorly blocked another run as Robert Quinn beat Jermon Bushrod like a drum, and then Josh McCown got careless with a little screen pass that gets batted down. It gave the Rams yet another set of downs to try to score.
  9. I'm not sure what's going on with the Bears offensive line but time after time we saw Rams defensive players with deep penetration, sometimes coming untouched through the line. The fourth and goal at the one yard line in the third quarter was a good example as Jo-Lonn Dunbar waltzed through the line to stuff Michael Bush. I wouldn't be surprised if there was some sort of a flaw in the blocking scheme. Certainly something was wrong.


  1. The Bears once again draw a top announcing team in Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, and Tony Siragusa. I thought they hit the relevant points with, for instance, Kenny Albert pointing out that Josh McCown was constantly going to the sideline to get the calls. Presumably his helmet was malfunctioning. Johnston pointed out Roberto Garza's role in preventing a peel back pursuer from catching Tony Fiammetta on a nice run in the third quarter.
  2. Special teams were nothing special on either side. There were a couple penalties on the Bears receiving team.
  3. Turnover-wise, Matt Forte lost a fumble which resulted in 7 points for the Rams. McCown fumbled to give the Rams another touchdown. McCown was intercepted at the end of the game.
  4. Somehow I don't think anyone is going to try to tell me that I am being overly negative about the Bears penalties again. Chris Conte had a pass interference. Kyle Long had a personal foul. Tony Fiammetta had a holding call that brought back a long Alshon Jeffery run. Earl Bennett had an illegal contact penalty that took away a Matt Forte touchdown. They had twelve men in the huddle and a delay of game in the third quarter. A holding call on Craig Steltz erased a Devin Hester touchdown. Jermon Bushrod had a holding call that eliminated a touchdown. On the Rams side, they had a big illegal contact penalty that eliminated a Jenoris Jenkins interception. Scott Wells had an illegal hands to the face. Brandon McGee had two damaging fourth quarter pass interference calls in the endzone. Like Johnston, I'm not sure where the roughing the passer penalty in the fourth quarter near the goal line came from. In any case it cost the Rams seven points as the Bears (finally) scored a touchdown off of it.
  5. Neither side had many dropped passes that I saw. Marshall had a drop at the end of the third quarter. Nevertheless I'm going to credit the Bears with cleaning this up over last week.
  6. Two minutes before kickoff and I was already tired of the brother against brother thing.
  7. Chris Long may have charged out in the second quarter to hold back and protect his brother Kyle during a scrum but he spent the next ten minutes screaming at him and presumably telling him to stop being a moron. I can only agree.
  8. I thought the Rams came out with a lot more energy coming off of their bye week than the Bears did.
  9. I loved hearing the crowd chanting “Let's go Bears” in the second quarter.
  10. Tough day for the Bears. They got no turnovers and gave away three. The continued tendency to commit penalties and the re-appearance of poor gap discipline on defense was disturbing. Fortunately, those two are things that can be corrected. What cannot be corrected any time soon was the distinct talent gap, particularly when the Rams offense was on the field with the Bears defense. The Rams dominated the line of scrimmage all afternoon on both sides of the ball. I'm going to say the Bears just got beat by a better team today.


Do the Bears Miss Cutler in the Red Zone?

I thought Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune made an interesting point at the end of his answer to this question:

What do you think about Marc Trestman’s recent goalline play selection?” — @KtrainExpress from Twitter

“The Bears failed with two tries at a two-point conversion against the Lions and then failed to put the ball in the end zone after reaching the 6-yard line against the Ravens. They even got extra cracks at it following a holding penalty against Baltimore cornerback Jimmy Smith in the end zone. One thing is clear: Against those defenses the Bears didn’t feel like they were in a position to line up and power the ball between the tackles for a touchdown. This could be an area the team missed quarterback Jay Cutler too.”

Did the Bears miss Cutler here? I'm going to say, “Yes.” The windows through which a pass must fit in a throw into the end zone from a short field are necessarily tighter. Cutler frequently uses his arm strength to force the ball through such windows even when the Bears aren't in the red zone. Current starter Josh McCown has nowhere near that kind of arm talent.

Though its easy to blame lack of power on the offensive line (and not without reason), I'm wondering if it's McCown's deficiencies that are keeping the Bears out of the end zone inside the 10 yard line recently. It's going to be interesting to see what plan the Bears come up with to deal with this issue as McCown continues to start.

Fisher Thinks the Bears Pass Rush Is Disciplined

Adam Rams coach Jeff Fisher comments upon the Bears pass rush. Via Adam L. Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times:

“Rams coach Jeff Fisher said it was difficult to judge the Bears’ pass rush against the Ravens because of the field conditions.

“But '[the Bears are] well-coached, they use real good rush integrity, [are] rarely out of their lanes [and] collapse the pocket very, very quick,' he said.”

Fisher's comment surprises me becasue what I saw against the Ravens was exactly the opposite. The defensive line, desparate to get pressure on Joe Flacco (and rightfully so) got a little undisiplined in their efforts. It looked to me like they frequently left gaps for Flacco to escape through to run for yardage.

Admittedly Flacco isn't the most mobile of quarterbacks and perhaps they thought they could get away with leaving him room to manuever if it meant they could be more active in the pass rush. Regardless, it will be interesting to see if anything changes this Sunday.