Thoughts on the Five Year Anniversary of the “Open Season on Jay Cutler” Game

Jeff Dickerson at ESPN “celebrates” the fifth anniversary of the Bears playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers. Bears fans will remember the game as much for the Jay Cutler knee injury as for the loss.

Dickerson points out yet again that Cutler was, indeed, legitimately injured. Personally I have never questioned Cutler’s physical toughness. His mental toughness, on the other hand, I think was a legitimate issue as Dickerson also accurately points out what a miserable first half Cutler had as the Bears got dominated and Cutler certainly looked to me like he gave up well before the injury.

But none of that is really why I remember this game. Dickerson comments:

“Because Chicago initially announced Cutler as ‘questionable’ to return, NFL players started to question the severity of the quarterback’s knee injury on Twitter (a rare occurrence at the time).

“‘All I’m saying is that he can finish the game on a hurt knee. … I played the whole season on one,’ former Jacksonville running back Maurice Jones-Drew tweeted.

“Ex-Arizona Cardinals defender Darnell Dockett added: ‘If I’m on Chicago team jay cutler has to wait till me and the team shower get dressed and leave before he comes in the locker room! #FACT'”

Never have I ever seen a player publicly savaged by his peers under those circumstances the way that Cutler was on that day. The guess here is that I never will again. The NFL is a fraternity and almost every player who has ever been injured knows how unfair it can be to question such things. Could you hear some trash talking in the days preceding a game? Sure. But never this.

The most lasting impression that I have of that game is how hated Cutler must have been amongst his peers to evoke these kinds of public comments. You wonder how much of that still lingers even five years later.

Kiper Regrades the Bears 2015 Draft

Bears 2015 DraftMel Kiper at ESPN regrades the 2015 draft. Not surprisingly, the Bears came out pretty well.

“Post-draft grade: B-plus

“Give the Bears’ front office a lot of credit, because it was a bad break to lose Kevin White for an entire season. They still managed to get some important building blocks out of this class, and they did it while winning more games than the year before. Progress was made, and the draft helped. Eddie Goldman was a good value in Round 2, and Jeremy Langford could take over for Matt Forte if the Bears and Forte part ways. A true steal was Adrian Amos in Round 5. I know I’m supposed to have a soft spot for him since we went to the same high school, but I certainly didn’t pump up his value for that reason and was actually surprised at how well he played. I’d keep the grade the same for now, and it goes up or down based on what White delivers.

“New grade: B-plus”

Though I’m not sure Amos holds onto that starting safety spot as the Bears upgrade their talent and the Bears didn’t draft a quarterback of the future, if White turns out to be a good receiver and Hronis Grasu turns into a good starter, this draft gets a solid ‘A’. Every pick from top to bottom either contributed in 2015 or showed the potential to contribute in the near future. You can’t expect any better than that.

Coaches Need to Inspire Trust of Only One Particular Kind

Mike Florio at interviews former Bears offensive coordinator and new Dolphins head coach Adam Gase on how to get the best out of his quarterbacks:

“‘I think it starts with the group of guys that you’re working with,’ Gase said when asked about his ability to work so well with quarterbacks. ‘I feel like lucky enough to be around some great staffs. The head coaches that I’ve worked for in the past were guys that were very personable and quarterbacks gravitated to as far as creating an environment where they feel like the head coach had their back. And I really think that helps when you’re going through adversity, [with] John Fox being a great example. You always felt like he was always right behind the quarterback. He always made sure that the quarterback knew that no matter what happened he was side by side with them and then when you’re the coordinator or the quarterbacks coach, when you’re head coach has that aspect you know that really helps the confidence. It helps you sustain that fight that you have to have because it’s not always going be good. And as the season progresses you just see guys get more confident.'”

I find it hard to believe that former Bears head coach Marc Trestman didn’t have quarterback Jay Cutler‘s back. He certainly talked about it enough.

Good coaching really comes down to one thing – your ability to help the player succeed. You can be his friend and you can have his back. But there’s really only one kind of trust that you need to get from him – trust that you know what you are doing and can put him in the best position to perform. Looking back on it, its evident that Trestman (and virtually every other offensive coordinator and head coach dating back to Ron Turner) didn’t do that. It’s evident that Fox does. It will be interesting to see if Gase can engender the same kind of trust.

Bears Will Face Stiff Competition for a Guard in Free Agency

Dave Birkett at the Detroit Free Press thinks the Lions could be big spenders in free agency:

“With a projected cap north of $150 million, and the likelihood they free up more room with cuts or retirements, the Lions have the potential to be significant players in free agency if new general manager Bob Quinn chooses.”

“The Lions have holes on both lines, at linebacker and at receiver this off-season, and their need for a pass catcher could amplify if Calvin Johnson retires, as he’s hinted he might do.

“If Johnson retires, the Lions, who currently have more available cap space than 11 other teams, will gain an additional $11 million in spending room.”

The Lions, like the Bears, might have plenty of cap space but they are one of many, many teams that have needs on the offensive line including playoff teams Minnesota, Seattle and Arizona to name a few. All of these teams will face stiff competition for any offensive lineman who is worth his salt and who hits free agency. That’s going to drive the price up into the stratosphere.

The Bears, at least, are going to have to look for their right guard in the draft. Any team hoping to fill their holes in that area through free agency and is willing to put out the money needed to do it is likely building the foundation of their offense on sand.

Draft May Lack Linebackers but Other Defensive Positions Look Strong

Eric D. Williams at ESPN comments upon Mel Kiper‘s first mock draft:

“Kiper said he felt cornerback, offensive guard and defensive line — both defensive end and defensive tackles — are deep position groups in this year’s draft.

“Twenty of the 31 players in Kiper’s initial mock draft were defensive players, and 11 of those 20 defensive players were defensive linemen.

“‘Defensive line probably and corner are the strong positions in this draft by a mile,’ Kiper said.”

That’s good news for a Bears team in desperate need of playmakers on the defensive side of the ball. Though, like Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune, I’d prefer a pass rusher and the high end of the draft looks bare of worthy inside linebackers, the Bears have needs at every level of the defense. Especially the defensive line.