Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune on quarterback Jay Cutler‘s performance Sunday:
“[C]an we take a quick intermission here for a PSA to remind our audience that Cutler’s career arc did not experience a dramatic shift based on Sunday’s final drive? Can you imagine how different the discussion would be this week had he and the offense not converted a fourth-and-5 from their own 25 with 1:30 to play to extend the game-winning drive?
“Yes, it’s acceptable to credit Cutler for another fourth-quarter comeback victory. But only if you also acknowledge that Sunday’s game probably should have become a routine Bears win had their quarterback simply added to a 19-17 lead earlier in the period rather than throwing a back-breaking interception.
“Cutler’s toughness? Documented long ago. Cutler’s error-prone tendencies in key moments? Documented long ago. Cutler’s ability to bounce back? Documented long ago. So give him credit for Sunday’s effort. It’s deserved. Let’s just slow down the parade proclaiming that the entire organization has now fully rallied behind him and will never look back.”
Few people are more critical of Cutler than I am. So let me first say that I actually mean what I’m about to say – all credit to him for the game winning drive. I thought it was great and I’ll say that not every QB could have done it. Jimmy Clausen probably doesn’t move in the pocket like Cutler and probably doesn’t win Sunday. Some of those throws threaded the needle. Honestly, I was thrilled.
But I think its necessary to point out that it was at home against a below average team that has been a tire fire in the defensive backfield for four games now. It appalls me to see people like Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com give Cutler an “A-“ for an effort that yielded a QB rating of 60 just as it disturbed me to see people heaping praise on him for an effort in week one against the Packers where that same rating was less than 30.
In any case, we’ve known for some time that Cutler can look good against teams like the Raiders under those conditions. The problem is that he saves his worst performances for when the team needs him most at his best – on the road against an very good teams in prime time.
Thanksgiving at Lambeau still looks like a very ugly match up to me. That’s not entirely because of Jay Cutler but its going to remain an ugly match up as long as he is the Bears quarterback.
Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune on the performance of Marquess Wilson:
“[W]ilson stepped up with his biggest game in three seasons with six catches for 80 yards. He caught two balls on the game-winning drive, a 6-yarder on third-and-3 and a 9-yarder that put Robbie Gould in field goal range. They came after a drop with a minute remaining.
“‘I thought Marquess did a heck of a job,’ [quarterback Jay] Cutler said. ‘Coming up big. Some big-time catches. He had the drop, came back, had a couple of catches in a row.'”
No one benefited from the return of Cutler more than Wilson did. He had dramatically under-performed in the previous three games, particularly when you consider that he was on the field for the vast majority of the Bears snaps. Perhaps his time on the sideline in Seattle provided him with some perspective but Cutler seemed determined to get Wilson more involved in the absence of Alshon Jeffery. Cutler showed great confidence in Wilson even after he had a terrible drop in an important spot on the game winning drive. Wilson justified Cutler’s confidence and came through.
Wilson has done almost nothing for the team for 2 seasons and a quarter despite the confidence that two coaching staffs have shown him now. Hopefully Sunday will finally provide the jumping off point he needed to progress to better things.
Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune on left guard Matt Slauson taking over at center after Will Montgomery was injured Sunday:
“Former general manager Phil Emery said Slauson was a potential candidate to replace Garza in the future but his experience at center was limited to just a few occasions with his former team the New York Jets.
“‘A couple of quarters here and there with the Jets but that was a dire emergency type of deal where if I was ever called upon to come in it was a deal where, ‘All right, Slauson is in. We’re not going ’gun the rest of the game,’’ Slauson said. ‘Just because it is hard to get those reps when you are starting at one position and backing up at another. You don’t have the time to work on the other. I just have to do mental reps at center throughout the week.'”
Indeed, Slauson said after the game that he only got three or four reps in training camp at the position. This was poor planning on the part of the coaching staff. It could be that the initial plan was to keep Hroniss Grasu active on game day as the first guard or center off the bench. But if that’s true, once it became clear that he’s not big enough to play either position (yet) they should have given Slauson and quarterback Jay Cutler more snaps in the event that they would need a center and Grasu wasn’t active.
It will be interesting to see what the Bears do at the position this Sunday. Grasu says that he’s gained about 10 pounds since he joined the Bears, putting him just over 300. That will undoubtedly help. But he still may not have the knowledge to make the proper line calls, in which case Slauson will remain at center and, presumably, Patrick Omameh at left guard. Assuming that’s the case, will they decide to make Grasu active as the first interior lineman off the bench or will they sign someone else to come in? Which it is will tell us a lot about what the staff currently thinks of Gasu.
Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune from his excellent “10 Thoughts” column after the Bears – Raiders game:
“The biggest difference on defense a week after the Bears showed improvement in a loss at Seattle was the play of Tracy Porter. He stepped into the starting lineup even though Alan Ball, who was questionable with a groin injury suffered during the week in practice, was active. Porter looks like someone who will stay in the starting lineup after successfully handling an assignment to follow Raiders rookie wide receiver Amari Cooper from side to side.”
“His comeback [from a hamstring injury] against the Raiders was strong and while the Bears ultimately would surely prefer to have Kyle Fuller in a place where he can be the matchup cornerback, he’s not there right now. The Bears have to hope he sees elements of Porter’s game in this scheme that can help him improve along the way.”
I like the way that the Bears handled Cooper, who is the Raiders biggest offensive threat by far. It’s true that the Bears chose to put Porter on him, a show of some confidence. But its also true that Porter got a lot of safety help – as well he should. You could argue that Fuller got the tougher assignment in that he was in man coverage on the other side most of the game without that kind of help. It was against much inferior receivers but still, its nothing to sneeze at.
To Cooper’s credit, he still found some success on Sunday. But the Bears limited him in a way that hasn’t happened often in the young season. As Biggs points out, there can be little doubt that the Bears will try to handle Jeremy Maclin the same way when they play the Chefs next week.
- Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune puts the Bears at the bottom of his power poll. Once again, I can’t argue but I have some hope that they’ll be better than the Saints by the end of the year. The Bears are rebuilding but the Saints look like dead men walking to me.
- I was surprised the Bears ended up tied for second in the waiver wire order. The tie breaker is strength of schedule and the first three games have been pretty rough in that respect. I would have thought they’d have been behind all of the other 0-3 teams. Apprently there are nuances that aren’t evident.
- Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune quotes head coach John Fox on the depleted Bears passing attack:
“‘We’re missing some integral parts that hopefully at some point we get back,’ coach John Fox said Monday. ‘But the good news is that we’ve gotten to look at some other people and see how they react in those situations. And hopefully we’re learning some stuff that will help us moving forward.'”
He’s talking about you, Jimmy Clausen and Marquess Wilson. And so far it’s not a good look.
Adam Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times suggests an interesting Raiders to keep an eye on Sunday:
“RG J’Marcus Webb
“The former Bears tackle has moved inside and become a starter for the Raiders, who have Mike Tice as their line coach. The Bears will attack Webb.”
One Final Thought
I know that the game seems like it was ages ago but for those of you who are still stuck on it, Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com rips the NFL for not reversing the ruling on the field that a Chicago punt didn’t hit the Seattle punt returner’s leg last Sunday:
“‘Does this ball really jump that far to the right where we think the ball clearly hit his leg?’ [NFL V.P. of officiating Dean] Blandino asks. ‘It’s reasonable to assume that it hit his leg. But, again, we cannot make a decision based on the ball changing direction. We have to see clear evidence that the ball absolutely touched his leg.'”
“If that’s the standard the league intends to apply to replay review, that’s fine. But we should all remember this standard moving forward, because there inevitably will be occasions when a decision is made not based on what is absolutely clear and patently obvious to the eye, but which is absolutely clear and patently obvious based on the application of common sense.
I’m not going to sit here and blame poor officiating for a 26-0 loss to the Seahawks. But Florio’s point is well taken. If this is the standard that the league is going to set for replay review, we’re going to see some pretty bad calls stand under his watch.
Former Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall (top) and Bears tight end (for now) Martellus Bennett (bottom)
Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times on the Bears rebuilding project:
“Nobody is more bullish than Pro Bowl tight end Martellus Bennett. The same guy who boycotted the Bears’ offseason program — strength-and-conditioning and the voluntary organized-team-activity workouts — to try to get his contract renegotiated is ‘all-in.’ “
“‘That’s kind of like what it is right now. There’s a lot of construction going on — a lot of guys trying to get where they need to be. I’m all-in. I really love what [head coach John] Fox and [general manager Ryan] Pace [are] doing. Everything Goose [offensive coordinator Adam Gase] is doing. And I’m excited about the future of the Chicago Bears.”
Bennett might be all in on the Bears but are they all in on him?
When I read Bennett’s statement above, the first thought that came to mind was, “That’s exactly the kind of thing that former Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall would have said.” And, like Bennett, I’m convinced that Marshall would have meant it. But almost everyone agrees that Marshall was a bad locker room presence and he was moved to the New York Jets in the offseason.
I don’t think that it’s a coincidence that the Bears also were rumored to be trying to trade Bennett in the offseason. I’m guessing that they’re not done trying. When Bennett threw cornerback and first round pick Kyle Fuller to the ground in training camp in 2014, the stories about who he is and how he acts started to come out. Bennett is extremely immature and has a serious problem with authority. That doesn’t make him the same kind of disruptive force that Marshall was. But it’s almost certainly not the kind of veteran influence the Bears want hanging around a young team.
Like Marshall was, Bennett is very productive and if the Bears eventually do trade him, they’re going to miss him badly. But make no mistake about it. The Bears aren’t just rebuilding on the field. They’re building a culture around the team and the organization. Despite the fact that Bennett appears to be “all in”, you have to wonder if he has a place in it.
Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:
“Looking forward to the quarterback situation in 2016, it appears to me Jay Cutler will be back with the team next year even though his guaranteed money has expired… Obviously they will pick up a free agent quarterback but what is your opinion at this point regarding the probability Cutler is back in 2016? — Patrick B., Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.”
“For starters, Cutler currently has $10 million of his $16 million base salary for 2016 fully guaranteed. If he is on the roster on March 11, the remaining $6 million becomes guaranteed.”
“It’s way too early to start predicting precisely who they will have but it could be Cutler and a draft pick at the position or the Bears could go with another veteran and a draft pick. Or it could be some combination of the current collection of quarterbacks. I would guess the Bears take a long and hard look at quarterbacks in the 2016 draft class but we’re getting way ahead of ourselves right now.”
It drives me insane that the Bears didn’t draft a quarterback in the 2015 draft. Garrett Grayson was there in the third round when they chose an undersized center in Hroniss Grasu. Bears general manager Ryan Pace doomed the franchise to once again go with Cutler in 2016 by failing to address the position and use 2015 to develop a prospect.
It’s true that the Bears could draft a prospect in the first round and deal with the growing pains that come with starting him out of the gate. But a much better plan would have been to draft in a later round and develop, as his old team the Saints did. Worse, yet, a preliminary look at the draft prospects for 2016 has left me less than impressed. If there’s one that’s worth a high first round pick, I haven’t seen him, yet.
As it stands the odds are very good that we’ll hear the same thing in March 2016 that we heard in March 2015: “Who are you going to replace him with?” And that question is going to continue to echo as the Bears drift in mediocrity until someone finally implements a plan for the future at the position.
Bears special teams coordinator Jeff Rogers
Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune reviews the history of safety Chris Prosinski and linebacker LaRoy Reynolds, replacements on the roster for Jon Bostic and Brock Vereen, respectively.
“Prosinski, a fourth-round pick out of Wyoming in 2011, is known for his ability to run. He left the Jaguars last year on an injury settlement related to a biceps issue. He finishes 2014 with the Eagles and was cut after the preseason. He has played 56 games with nine starts and has 27 special teams tackles.
“The Jaguars waived Reynolds on Saturday to clear a roster spot. He had 18 special teams tackles, along with three starts over the last three seasons with the team. He entered the league as an undrafted free agent out of Virginia.”
Most people are focusing upon the fact that Ryan Pace is moving on from the Phil Emery regime. And rightfully so.
But you will note that both of these players are veteran special teams contributors. Most people have identified poor special teams play as a major contributor to the Bears 0-3 start. And I would concur. Kick return coverage has been poor as the Bears allowed a 105 yard return for a touchdown to open the second half of what was a very close game at that time. It set a tone for the rest of the contest.
These moves are likely Pace’s response to requests from special teams coordinator Jeff Rogers and head coach John Fox for better players. You could take it as a sign that the front office and the coaching staff are on the same page with the former trying hard to fulfill the needs of the latter. In any case, we can hope that these additions will help prevent the debacle we saw on Sunday.
Mike Mulligan at the Chicago Tribune aaddresses the claims by fans and some media that Matt Forte will be traded in the Bears fire sale:
“The problem with trading Forte is that you would never receive proper value in return. Set aside the sentimentality of trading away your most productive offensive player and effectively betraying every other guy on the team. As a practical matter, the team that trades for Forte would have to pay him $414,705 every week along with another $66,625 roster bonus in every game check.
“In other words, a team trading for Forte would have to have nearly $7 million in salary-cap space available.”
The Bears aren’t trading Forte but the facts won’t keep Bears fans from suggesting that they should, as they have for years now.
But the current situation is relevant to Forte in one respect – it calls to mind the question of whether they will re-sign him in the offseason. Forte is in the last year of his contract and the Bears appear to have a very good running back waiting in the wings in Jeremy Langford. Can the Bears afford to pay a 30 something year old Forte what he’s worth in the midst of a prolonged rebuilding effort? Doubtful.
Whoever signs Forte next year is going to get a heck of a football player. I’m sorry to say that I can’t see it being the Bears.