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Friday, May 28, 2010

Start or Sit Bradford? It May not Make a Difference.

I read an article a few weeks ago by a St. Louis journalist (I can't remember which one and I didn't want to look it up again because it sort of sucked, but I'd bet it was Bernie Miklasz. If it's St. Louis and it's awful, it's Bernie) who said that the Rams should start Bradford all year. My knee jerk reaction was to say that that was a terrible idea, since St. Louis' offense is royally boned outside of Steven Jackson (do the names Daniel Fells, Donnie Avery, Mardy Gilyard, or Keenan Burton mean anything to you?) and Bradford and his injured shoulder would have to be under fire behind a terrible offensive line with very little to throw to at wide receiver. Knee jerk reactions never last, however, so I decided to crunch the numbers on 1st round quarterbacks and the number of games they start their rookie year. The conclusion I came to, surprisingly, is that it doesn't appear to matter whether Bradford starts 0 games or 16.
For this study, I looked at all 61 quarterbacks drafted in the first round between 1983 (the greatest quarterback draft ever and the one that featured three of the first truly modern quarterbacks of our era in Marino, Elway, and Kelly) and the present. I threw out every player who hadn't been in the league for three years, since, fair or not, that seems to be the evaluation period given to everyone in the NFL, which dropped the number down to 54. Of those 54, I came up with 23 that I considered "Busts", 18 "Average" QBs, and 13 "Franchise" QBs.

Out of those 54 quarterbacks, 13 didn't start a single game their rookie year. Four of those quarterbacks became Franchise players (Aaron Rodgers, Philip Rivers, Carson Palmer, Jim Kelly (for fairness sake, it should be noted that Kelly spent two seasons playing for the USFL's Houston Gamblers), five became average, serviceable starters (Jason Campbell, Chad Pennington, Daunte Culpepper, Jim Harbaugh, and Ken O'Brien), while four went bust (Brady Quinn, JP Losman, Kelly Stouffer, and Todd Blackledge). Obviously the results of this group show that sitting the bench for one's rookie year has no quantifiable effect on future performance, as the distribution is almost identical for each group (4 franchise, 5 average, 4 busts.)

The biggest, and least successful group, were the 20 quarterbacks who started 1-5 games their rookie year. Only one Franchise quarterback is in this group (Steve McNair), while there are a whopping 11 busts (JaMarcus Russell, Patrick Ramsey, Akili Smith, Jim Druckenmiller, Trent Dilfer, Tommy Maddox, David Klingler, Todd Marinovich, Dan McGwire, Andre Ware, and Chuck Long), and 8 average QBs (Rex Grossman, Michael Vick, Vinny Testaverde, Chris Miller, Jim Everett, Tony Eason). My logic as to why this group is so unsuccessful? Looking at those busts, almost all (outside of JaMarcus), were guys with overrated skills that would probably not be first round picks today.Ware and Klingler were average guys who had inflated numbers in a Run N' Shoot offense, Long was simply a guy who started a lot of games at Iowa and thus set a bunch of records, while the others all were lacking in talent as well. The most logical explanation for why those busts failed to start more than 5 games is simply that they weren't talented enough to be the best quarterbacks on the roster, which doesn't appear to be the case for Sam Bradford.

The 6-10 games started group is mostly hit or miss: John Elway, Dan Marino, Eli Manning, and Donovan McNabb were/are all franchise players, while Kyle Boller, Ryan Leaf, Heath Shuler, and Cade McNown went bust, and only Alex Smith appears to be blossoming into an average quarterback.

The 11-15 games group has only a few names at the extremities (Aikman and Roethlisberger are franchise guys, Joey Harrington and Matt Leinart are busts), but plenty of average players (Tim Couch, Byron Leftwich, Kerry Collins, Vince Young, Jeff George, and Drew Bledsoe).

Only five rookies have started all 16 games in that time period, two of which don't make this list yet (although if I had to guess, both Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan will be in the Franchise category). Of the three who do, the results are complete polar opposites, with Peyton Manning representing the Franchise QBs and David Carr and Rick Mirer hanging out with the busts.

So what does all this mean for Sam Bradford? Does it really not matter at all how many games he starts? I'm submitting that (outside of the injury risk, which is huge no matter when you play), it really doesn't matter whether he starts or sits. What matters more is the team's approach to him in the future, meaning how do they build their team to help Sam Bradford?

Let's look at the Busts and Franchise QBs on this list and determine why they succeeded or failed, outside of the # of games they started as rookies:

JaMarcus Russell, Brady Quinn, Matt Leinart, JP Losman, Kyle Boller, David Carr, Joey Harrington, Patrick Ramsey, Akili Smith, Cade McNown, Ryan Leaf, Jim Druckenmiller, Trent Dilfer, Heath Shuler, Rick Mirer, Tommy Maddox, David Klingler, Todd Marinovich, Dan McGwire, Andre Ware, Kelly Stouffer, Chuck Long, and Todd Blackledge.

Now, first of all, in many of these cases, as I mentioned above, the scouting system simply failed and these guys were unsuccessful because they lacked the talent (McNown, Shuler, Maddox, Klingler, McGwire, Ware, Stouffer, Long).

Another group consists of guys who had NFL caliber arms but had accuracy issues and decision-making problems that were destined to preclude them from being consistent NFL starters (Losman, Boller, Ramsey, Akili Smith, Druckenmiller, Dilfer, Blackledge)

All of those guys above were simply just poor draft decisions by the team that took them. The last group (Russell, Quinn, Leinart, Carr, Harrington, Leaf, Mirer, and Marinovich) all failed for a number of reasons. JaMarcus Russell has been dissected a lot since his release, and there are two main reasons for his failure: poor work ethic and a dysfunctional organization. Brady Quinn and Matt Leinart both struggled by being blocked by two guys that weren't Supposed to block them (Derek Anderson and Kurt Warner) and have had to endure changes in the coaching staff and a lack of support from the new regimes. Ryan Leaf , Rick Mirer, and Todd Marinovich all failed for mostly personal reasons (Leaf's immaturity, Mirer's stupidity, and Marinovich's drug habits).

Harrington and Carr, however, arguably failed because of terrible supporting casts. Carr had a god awful offensive line that allowed him to get sacked 72 times as a rookie and 249 times total (an average of almost 3 1/2 sacks per game) during his time with the Texans, and was never the same afterwards. Harrington had a good offensive line, but mediocre talent at runningback (James Stewart, Kevin Jones), notoriously terrible draft picks at wide receiver (Charles Rogers, Roy Williams, Mike Williams), and a truly dysfunctional organization that had no idea how to handle a young quarterback. No one can ever truly absolve Harrington or Carr of All of the blame, I suppose, but they were placed in extremely difficult situations.

Now, looking at the 13 franchise quarterbacks-

Jay Cutler, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, Phillip Rivers, Carson Palmer, Donovan McNabb, Peyton Manning, Steve McNair, Troy Aikman, John Elway, Dan Marino, and Jim Kelly

-One theme is fairly common here. Almost all of them played for good teams when they were rookies. Rivers, Palmer, Rodgers, and Kelly didn't play their rookie years, but the Chargers were a winning team the two seasons in which Rivers sat the bench and had an extremely talented core around him when he finally did take over in 2006 and went 14-2. Carson Palmer's Bengals were 8-8 in his rookie year and his first year as a starter in 2004, and featured a talented group of wide receivers with Chad Ochocinco (nee Johnson) and TJ Houshmanzadeh, as well as a strong running game with Rudi Johnson. Rodgers sat beyond Brett Favre, and while he went 6-10 as a starter his rookie year, he inherited a team that went 13-3 the year before (and 11-5 the year after) and had an extremely talented offensive unit, with wideouts like Greg Jennings and Donald Driver and a strong running game behind Ryan Grant. As I mentioned, Jim Kelly played for the Houston Gamblers of the USFL, and by the time he came to the Bills in 1986 they had the brilliant Marv Leavy at head coach and already had wide receiver Andre Reed. Despite going 4-12 in Kelly's "rookie year", the organization was clearly on it's way up.

Of the quarterbacks who did start games their rookie year, 4 of the 9 (Jay Cutler, Ben Roethlisberger, Dan Marino, John Elway) played for team's with winning records that had talented offensive players around them.

Of the 5 quarterbacks who started for losing teams their rookie years (Eli Manning, Donovan McNabb, Peyton Manning, Troy Aikman, Steve McNair), 4 of the 5 had non-losing records the next year, while 3 of them (the Mannings and McNabb) took teams to the playoffs in their second year, meaning they had teams that rebuilt quickly in other areas as well (the Giants adding Plaxico Burris on offensive to help Eli, the Colts drafting Edgerrin James). McNair's Titans built up a strong offensive line and drafted Eddie George to help in the run game, while Aikman's Cowboys added Emmitt Smith the year after Aikman (as well as Michael Irvin the year Before Aikman) to create the famous "triplets."

So what's the secret to sucess for Sam Bradford? Play for a winning team. Since that looks unlikely, hope to God that the Rams recognize that the most important thing for Bradford's development is to spend high picks the next few years on getting him offensive talent. Steven Jackson should help, but I'm not sure the Rams have the wide receivers or tight ends needed to make plays for Sam, and I'm definitely sure their offensive line is atrocious.

In conclusion, history tells us little as to whether it's better or not for Bradford to start. What it does tell us is that, assuming that he has the talent to be an NFL quarterback to begin with (and I think he does), his team's approach to the 2nd and 3rd years of his career will be far more important. Do they keep the same coaching staff and ensure stability? Do they draft players at their areas of need on offense? Far too many times there are teams like the Lions with Harrington and the Texans with Carr who just assume that quarterbacks will just keep "progressing" until they transform into Pro Bowl quarterbacks. It doesn't work that way. Yes, players should improve each year (Harrington and Carr both did, actually), but they can't take that proverbial "next step" without NFL-quality talent around them. Bradford won't be able to, either.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Tice on the Offensive Line

I think most of us remember Mike Tice as the befuddled-looking coach of the Vikings, but as an offensive line coach he seems to know what he's doing. Here's a really great interview with him from that I highly recommend you all read.

The things I like most are when he talks about what Chris Williams needs to improve upon as well as his potential, rather than just heaping praise upon him like Tom Thayer. I agree that Chris really looked promising after the switch to left tackle. Given the importance of that position, if Chris takes that next step the entire offensive line could improve.

The other thing I really liked was this:

"We’re very athletic. So we’re gonna try to get our guys out in space. I think we’ll be very good in the draw game. I know we’re gonna be able to run the inside zone because in my tenure, everywhere I’ve been, we’ve been able to run the inside zone. So we’ll be able to run the inside zone. We’ll dabble a little bit with power, but probably not as much as they ran it here last year."

Part of the problem with last year's offensive line was Turner's dedication to the power run game. I think the zone run game, and the inside zone particularly, is a great way to open holes through scheming and athleticism rather than pure physical power, and that'll help compensate for some of the issues the line had in blowing their guys off the ball last year. Smarter, not harder, as they say. Obviously, as he says, the draw play should be effective if the passing game improves like it should.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Giving Vince Young a Fair Shake

I don't particularly like Vince Young. I haven't made this a secret. I think his mechanics are vomit-inducing, I hate his side-arm arm slot, he relies too much on his legs, and he, like his predecessor Vick, is a product of too much hype. Iggins!, however, loves the sonofabitch. We made a bet on draft day in 2006, wherein I said that Matt Leinart of all people would be a better NFL quarterback than VY. The best part of it all is that I didn't think that highly of Matt Leinart and still don't. This year will be the first time that both go into camp as the starters for their teams since 2007. Leinart by default, since Kurt Warner retired, and Young because he earned his job back after an impressive late season surge by the Titans under his direction. Since Vince played fairly well (although an 82.8 rating is hardly world beating), I've decided to give him another look. Here is the video of Vince's 99 yard game winning drive against the Cardinals last year, who were ironically being led by Leinart while Warner was out with an injury (Leinart was a respectable 21-31 for 220 yds, 0 tds, 0 ints):

I'm going to go ahead and see what Vince does well, and what he still needs to work on.

At 0:24...his first pass is a good one. He shows really good pocket presence here. Many quarterbacks have a tendency to panic when backed up in their own end zone (see Orlovsky, Dan), and mobile quarterbacks especially tend to feel the need to try and gain some breathing room with their feet. Vince does a good job of shuffling, resetting his feet, and getting the ball to his receiver and giving him a chance to get out of bounds. Golf clap.

At 0:41...his dropback and his footwork are good, but he leads the receiver too much. I still think that damn side arm release of his tends to pull his ball slightly to the right. But I'm nitpicking.

At 0:49...that pass just went too far low and away. My guess there is he needs to get the ball out sooner. Britt initially had a step on his DB. As Bill Walsh would say, when throwing a slant, "throw [the] ball to middle of receiver and above his waist - if anything slow him up to catch it." Sometimes you can get that ball out far enough to lead the receiver and let him run after the catch, but the most important thing, especially in this situation, is to complete the pass.

At 1:13... the 4th down play is a nice read of the coverage. The DB is clearly playing the receiver, so VY did a good job of simply putting it in a spot where Britt could make a play, although he's showing a lot of faith in Britt, because that's not an easy catch at all.

At 1:29...this is just pure luck. The batted pass is the exact reason why I hate that arm slot of his. A guy that's 6'5'' like Vince shouldn't have any trouble clearing the line of scrimmage. By dropping his arm down like he does he negates a few of those inches. The read was okay, as Scaife was open on the crossing route, but he also had Chris Johnson wide open with room to run. I think I'd have liked to see what CJ could do with his speed after you got him the ball in space like that. I'd be willing to bet he'd gain more than Scaife did.

At 1:54...meh.

At 1:57...good read, good ball, good run after the catch. Nice play.

At 2:10...his footwork here is good. I can't see whether any of his other receivers were open, so I don't know if he made a good read or not, but he did a nice job of putting the ball where his receiver was going to get it or no one was.

At 2:18...nice run. He kept his eyes downfield, too, and the decision to run was obviously his last recourse. Nice job to pump fake and freeze the defender long enough to get out of bounds and stop the clock.

At 2:34...good job getting rid of the ball.

At 2:44....this may be his best pass of the drive. Great read..ball comes out quickly and smoothly and the receiver has plenty of time and room to get to the sideline.

At 3:04...another good, quick release. Surprising that the Cardinals didn't try harder to deny the sidelines.

At 3:12...the ball needed to be out sooner. Washington was open, if he brings that ball down a bit and zips it without getting so much air under it..that ball could get there before the safety comes over the top.

At 3:30...another good pass on the crossing route. He's really improved on throwing the ball over the middle of the field.

At 3:50...that was just a bad pass that could have been intercepted if the safety was quicker. His receiver in the right corner of the end zone had a step on his man. If Vince throws that ball towards the right sideline the game could be over right there.

At 4:11...bad decision to run. The pocket wasn't collapsing and the hole wasn't big enough. With just 12 seconds on the game clock you need to throw that ball out of bounds and conserve as much time as possible.

At 4:34...he rushed this throw. I'm not sure why. He set himself up in the pocket well, he had time, and he just rushed it. That ball could have easily been intercepted. Again, I'm not even sure it was the right read. The guy in the right corner of the end zone seems to have a step again. He's not going through his progressions here. He's trying to force it to the middle of the field. Again, I suspect that it's because his accuracy to the right sideline isn't all that great.

At 5:15....the game winner is just an outstanding play by a player who has definitely matured. He had room to run. Not enough to get the touchdown, probably, but enough that two years ago he'd have probably tried and lost the game. He fakes the defense just enough, though, that he can pull up at the line of scrimmage and make a great throw to Britt. It wasn't the easiest ball for Britt to catch, but all you can ask of your quarterback in that situation is to just give his receiver a chance, and that's what Vince did.

Looking over this, and I realize it's an extremely small sample of the 10 starts he made last year...I can really see some actual improvement. His pocket presence is drasticall improved from years past. His footwork is probably the area where he's advanced the most. His decision-making has gotten much better, and he seems to have reached that zone that a guy like Michael Vick never did, where the run is always the last option. He made one hasty, ill-advised run, but that's it. All in all, he's becoming a quarterback.

However, I still see some things here that could be exploited. His arm release will still get him into trouble. If team's really clog his passing lanes he could see a drastic increase in tipped balls, something that's not supposed to happen to a guy his size. I'm also not convinced that he can really make a quick, hard, accurate throw to the right sideline with consistency. There are definitely weaknesses in his game, but nowhere near as many as there were before his benching.

My final verdict? He's going to be better. He may actually be a legitimate starter this year. Granted, I certainly hope not, as I'd like to win my bet, but since that's looking like a longshot anyway, I applaud Vince for actually taking his time on the bench to improve his game.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Kyle Orton Wasn't Better Than Jay Cutler

I still love ya both

During the season, I wrote this piece discussing the reasons why, despite Kyle's "superior" numbers at the time, the Broncos offense was actually no better than the Bears. While I made a few mistakes and a few wrong predictions (a running theme throughout last year), the overall point still stands: despite the yardage, the pro-style/spread hybrid offense that Josh McDaniels runs is just like any other offense: it takes good players to score a lot of points. This is what I said at the time:

"I've said all along that Josh McDaniels' offense is the perfect scheme for Kyle's strength. It makes use of multiple wide receiver sets, it features a lot of underneath throws and crossing routes, it makes the most of his two good runningbacks (Buckhalter and Moreno, who've combined to give Denver the league's 4th ranked rushing attack), and his four quality wide receivers (Brandon Marshall, Eddie Royal, Brandon Stokely, and Jabar Gaffney), and his two quality tight ends (Daniel Graham, Tony Sheffler). The Broncos offense is basically the closest you'll find to a true spread offense anywhere in the NFL, and that naturally favors our friend Kyle, who ran the "basketball on grass" spread offense of Joe Tiller at Purdue.

A lot of people act like McDaniels' version of the spread, which has worked so well in New England, is the first version of it to hit the NFL. It's not. The Run and Shoot was pretty much the same attack back in the '80s and '90s. A closer version to a pure spread like the ones seen in the NCAA came to our very own Bears in 1999 under Gary Crowton. Remember 1999? The Bears actually had the 3rd ranked passing offense (yardage wise) in the NFL, which was the team's highest finish in that category in the modern era, and that was with the pathetically weak arms of Shane Matthews and Cade F%&king McNown at the helm for 13 games. That team scored just 17 ppg and went 6-10, however. The reason for this was the criticism common to all spread offenses- that they struggle in the red zone.

The problem is that when teams move from the "bend but don't break" philosophy that most defenses are forced to employ to their red zone defenses, the underneath stuff is taken away and teams have to revert to conventional out routes agains tighter coverage, the kinds of throws that NFL quarterbacks are made of. Orton, as we know, struggles with these, and the Broncos offense is a perfect example of the tendency of spread offenses to rack up yards and not points. The Broncos, despite Orton's 1,236 passing yards and the great run game leading to a 6th place ranking in total yards, are just 22nd in the league in scoring at 19.8 ppg.

This offensive scheme worked in New England two years ago and many people took it as proof that the spread could consistently succeed in the NFL. This isn't quite true. The Patriots attack of 2007 worked because it had in Tom Brady and Randy Moss a quarterback who can make all of the throws and a holy terror of a wide receiver. This opened up countless opportunities for Wes Welker underneath and made the whole spread work. Orton, no matter his great stats, isn't Tom Brady. Teams still don't have to cover every inch of the field, and the threat of the deep ball isn't a factor on every single play. Right now the Broncos are getting by on defense, and this offense is controlling the clock and scoring just enough points to win. At some point that probably won't be enough. The Broncos defense isn't the 2000 Ravens or the 2002 Bucs. They'll need an offense that can challenge downfield to win a big game, either to get into the playoffs or to win in the playoffs. We'll see if that works out."

All of that turned out to be true, for the most part. The Broncos defense, while it finished 12th in points allowed and 7th in yardage, was not as good in the second half as it was during that six game streak to start the season, and Orton and the offense failed to compensate by scoring more points. In the end, the Broncos were the league's 20th ranked offense in ppg at 20.4, despite being 13th in passing yards and 18th in rushing yards.

As we know, the Bears offense struggled under Jay Cutler. Cutler had a quarterback rating 10 points lower than Orton and threw 26 picks to Orton's 12, so clearly Orton had the better season, right?

Wrong. I'm actually going to fly in the face of most of my stat-based reasoning and state that it was, at worst, a wash, and at best, that Cutler was better.

Why? Because Orton's numbers are hollow. He had more yards than Cutler, he took fewer sacks, he had a much better running game in support, and yet the Bears offense outscored the Broncos. The Broncos scored 326 points last year. Subtracting the four special teams and defensive touchdowns they scored 298 points, or 18.6 ppg. The Bears scored 327 points. Minus the two touchdowns they scored on special teams (0 on defense), the offense scored 313, or 19.6 ppg. Neither total is outstanding, but it's curious that the Bears managed to outscore the Broncos despite having the 23 ranked offense in yardage to the Broncos 15th. The Bears outscored the Broncos despite turning the ball over 34 times, compared to 23 for Denver.

How did this happen? Well, here's my hypothesis: Cutler has the arm that Orton doesn't. The Bears, for all of their turnovers and struggles in the red zone, simply scored more touchdowns than the Broncos did. Sure, Orton may have thrown the ball away and gotten the team a field goal where Cutler threw an interception, but the fact is, Cutler got his team enough touchdowns that it didn't matter. He outscored Orton. Like I've said, the spread offense does a great job of helping an offense that would otherwise be completely inept move the ball. Those field goals certainly helped the Broncos. In order to take the next step, however, they need a quarterback who can take advantage when the defense tightens up and the underneath routes won't get you into the end zone. Jay Cutler could have been that guy.

I'm not saying Jay Cutler had a good year this year. I'm not really saying Kyle Orton had a bad year. For his abilities, it was a great year of doing what he does best, the oft-maligned cliché of "managing the game." The offense allowed the Broncos to stay in games and be respectable. Orton played as well as he could with a great supporting cast, but was ultimately unable to be a game-changing quarterback. Cutler played below his abilities in many cases, but was also let down by his offensive line. The best conclusion you can draw from all of this is that Bears fans who think they would have been better off with Kyle Orton last year are wrong, while Broncos fans who think they might have been better off with Jay Cutler are probably right.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Kyle's Next Stop

The Denver Broncos have four quarterbacks on their roster. One is last year's starter, our patron saint, Kyle Orton. One is Brady (Rhymes with Lady) Quinn. One is second year player Tom Brandstater, who Josh McDaniel apparently thinks highly of. The fourth is Tim Tebow. No team really carries four quarterbacks. Oh sure, every team that has four decent options always says in May that they might, but by September one of those guys is on the practice squad or on the street. Common sense would seem to dictate that Brandstater get the axe, but most reports actually have the Broncos considering moving Kyle Orton. Those bastards.

Granted, the original source of these rumors was Woody Page, who is a notorious asshat. However, Michael Lombardi of NFL Network has also stated that he believes the Broncos will move Orton, and I actually like that guy. While that jackass Page says that "Orton is an average quarterback who couldn't start for 21 other teams in the league," I'm going to go ahead and look at all 31 teams in the NFL other than the Broncos and gauge the possibility that they might be interested in Kyle. I'll rank each team's potential need/interest in Kyle from low to high.

Buffalo Bills- Right now they have Trent Edwards, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brian Brohm, and unheralded rookie Levi Brown. They could definitely use what Kyle Orton brings to the table. Edwards proved last year that he's incapable of handling the pressure of playing behind a subpar offensive line, as he regressed to a 73.8 rating and threw for just 146 ypg in his third year. Fitzpatrick sucks. Brohm has proven to be such a poor fit for the NFL that he couldn't even hack it as the Packers third string quarterback, a mighty fall for a guy who was originally supposed to be the top pick in the 2008 draft. Buffalo, therefore, makes the HIGH category.

Miami Dolphins- Chad Henne is the future there, and they have Chad Pennington coming back in reserve, along with Pat White and former Kansas City quarterback Tyler Thigpen. LOW.

New York Jets- Mark Sanchez is the franchise, Kellen Clemens is a serviceable backup with a strong arm. Third stringer Erik Ainge is entering his third year as the third stinger. LOW.

New England Patriots- The Patriots have their usual group of no names and rookies behind Tom Brady (Brian Hoyer, Jeff Rowe, Zac Robinson), and, as usual, seem uninterested in changing that. Low.

Cleveland Browns- Well, god knows they could USE Kyle Orton, with Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace competing for the starting job, but having just acquired those two and having just drafted Colt McCoy, I don't see a trade happening. LOW.

Cincinnati Bengals- Carson Palmer doesn't seem healthy anymore, and JT O'Sullivan hasn't ever impresesd. Jordan Palmer is only there because of his brother. MODERATE, just because Cincy may want some insurance.

Baltimore Ravens- They're set with Joe Flacco, fourth-year man Troy Smith, and John Beck, who's played for Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron all of his career in both Miami and Baltimore. LOW.

Pittsburgh Steelers- They've already stocked themselves up on quarterbacks to prepare for Roethlisberger's suspension. Charlie Batch, Dennis Dixon, and Byron Leftwich all know their offense and would be ready to start right now. LOW.

Indianapolis Colts- Peyton Manning's never missed a game, and his back up is actually Kyle Orton's successor at Purdue, Curtis Painter. LOW.

Jacksonville Jaguars- They're unhappy with David Garrard and both the owner and the head coach have called him out in the media over the last few months. They reportedly called the Broncos and asked about Brady Quinn and got rebuffed. Luke McCown and an undrafted rookie named Trevor Harris are their only back ups. They could just ask for the other veteran Bronco QB. HIGH.

Houston Texans- They have Matt Schaub, who has a history of getting hurt. His backups are Dan Orlovsky and John David Booty, who both suck. Moderate, just in case they realize how badly they're screwed if Schaub gets hurt again.

Tennessee Titans- Vince Young is determined to prove me wrong, and has thus reclaimed his starting job so that he may once again fail epically. Kerry Collins is, on last report, still alive and sober and is the back up quarterback. They've got Chris Simms and rookie Rusty Smith as well. LOW.

San Diego Chargers- They've got Philip Rivers and Volektricity, and for some unknown reason they drafted Jonathan Crompton. LOW.

Kansas City Chiefs- They gave Matt Cassel (who is actually just Kyle Orton with better PR) a 63 million dollar contract and they still have Brodie Croyle, who I think would actually be a better starter. They've also got former Patriot back-up Matt Gutierrez. LOW.

Oakland Raiders- They just traded for Jason Campbell and still have Charlie Frye, Bruce Gradkowski, and Kyle Boller competing for the #2 and #3 spots. LOW.

Dallas Cowboys- They have Tony Romo, Jon Kitna, and second-year player Stephen McGee. LOW.

Philadelphia Eagles- They're committed to Kevin Kolb and have the league's most famous back-up in Michael Vick. They also just drafted Mike Kafka. LOW.

New York Giants- They have Eli Manning, Jim Sorgi, and Rhett Bomar. LOW.

Washington Redskins- They have the oft-injured Donovan McNabb, and the oft-intercepted Rex Grossman. They may spring for a reliable back-up. MODERATE.

Chicago Bears- Well, Martz wants a veteran back up? I don't think Kyle's a good fit for the offense though. LOW.

Detroit Lions- Stafford is the guy, and they've signed Shaun Hill to back him up. Drew Stanton is still there, too. LOW.

Green Bay Packers- They've got Matt Flynn and Chris Pizzoti behind Aaron Rodgers, who takes a lot of hits. They may want a veteran back up, although this would be heartbreaking indeed. MODERATE.

Minnesota Vikings- I'm sure Favre is coming back, and they already have Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels. LOW.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Josh Freeman is the guy, and they like Josh Johnson as his back-up, and Jon Gruden is no longer there to collect 9,000 quarterbacks. LOW.

Atlanta Falcons- They're set with Matt Ryan and serviceable veteran Chris Redman. DJ Shockley and John Parker Wilson aren't bad options at third string. LOW.

Carolina Panthers- Matt Moore played pretty well last year, and they just drafted Jimmy Clausen and Tony Pike to amp up the competition. LOW.

New Orleans Saints- All that they've got behind Breesus is Chase Daniel. They could use an insurance plan. Moderate.

Arizona Cardinals- They have to choose between the suck of Matt Leinart and the suck of Derek Anderson, but they won't be in the market for another potential starter. LOW.

San Francisco 49ers- Despite playing well last year, Alex Smith still has a lot to prove. He could falter again, and back-ups David Carr and Nate Davis are unimpressive. It's unlikely that they'd go outside to find help, but it's not impossible. MODERATE.

St. Louis Rams- Honestly, this makes the most possible sense. Sam Bradford isn't ready to start, and it would be a terrible idea for the Rams to run him out there behind that offensive line and let his shoulder get driven into that artificial turf over and over. Playing AJ Feeley, the most-likely veteran starter on the roster, will only guarantee that the temptation to start Bradford will grow with each passing week. Kyle would be a great person to hold down the fort until Bradford is ready, and he could even help Bradford with the transition from playing the spread in college to playing in an NFL offense, as Kyle had to do it as well. High.

Seattle Seahawks- They've already opened up the competition between Matt Hasselbeck and Charlie Whitehurst, who cost them a third round draft pick. It's unlikely they'd go with anyone other than those two guys. LOW.

So there you have it, if the Broncos trade Kyle, the most likely suitors would seem to be the Bills, the Jaguars, and the Rams. The best situation for Kyle would be the Jaguars, as there's talent and at least a slight chance to contend there. The Bills have a terrible offensive line and hired CHAN GAILEY, so there's no hope whatsoever for that entire franchise from now until the end of time. The Rams make the most sense, and Kyle would be extremely valuable as a mentor to Bradford, but they also have little chance to contend. Either way, the future looks murky for our hero.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Jay Cutler and Aaron Rodgers, or All Sacks Are Not Created Equal

Pictured: Cutler (Top) runs for life, while Rodgers (Bottom) stands tall in pocket.

I've been a pretty fervent defender of the season Jay Cutler had last year. While I agree that Jay should have simply eaten the ball on a number of the interceptions he threw, there's still no doubt in my mind that most of his problems last year stemmed from a god awful offensive line. One of the rebuttals I've heard to this argument is that "Aaron Rodgers took more sacks than any other quarterback in the league and he still had a great season."

On the surface, this argument is solid and compelling. Rodgers did, in fact, take 50 sacks, which makes Jay's 35 seem paltry by comparison, and Rodgers (who, though I'm loathe to admit it, is a phenomenal quarterback), did have an outstanding season, with a 64.7 completion %, 4434 yards passing, 30 tds, 7 ints, and a stellar 103.2 rating. However, there are a number of different reasons why quarterbacks take sacks, and, quite frankly, almost all of the other evidence supports the notion that Green Bay had a better offensive line than Chicago this year.

1. Rodgers took sacks because he threw the ball deep.

As the 42.8 sacks averaged each year by a Mike Martz offense will attest, any time you have a quarterback take mostly 5-7 step drops and go for a vertical passing game above all else, your quarterback is often going to get hit before he can let it loose. Rodgers averaged 8.2 yards per attempt, good for 4th in the NFL, and he averaged 12.7 yards per completion, good for 5th in the NFL. That's indicative of a high number of completed deep balls, and Rodgers was 9th in the league with 55 passes over 20 yards, and 1st in the league with 17 passes that went over 40 yards. In an offense that features that many deep balls, the chances for sacks goes up.

In Cutler's case, the deep ball wasn't as much of an option. While Cutler actually had 1 more completion over 20 yards than Rodgers, he had just 6 passes go 40 yards or more. He averaged a career low 6.6 yards per attempt and a mere 10.9 yards per completion (vs. the 7.4 ypa and 11.8 ypc he managed in Denver (11.8 yards per completion? Why that's the exact same as Peyton Manning's career average! Odd)). Jay took far fewer 7 step drops than Rodgers and was forced to dump it off much more, thus bringing down his averages in those categories, since we know it isn't out of any physical inability to throw the ball deep.

2. Rodgers holds the ball too long.

This is one explanation that gets thrown out any time a quarterback takes that many sacks, but in Rodgers case, it seems to be true. I won't dwell on this very long, because it's the weakest part of the argument and it's hard to prove statistically, but from what I've seen in the games, Rodgers should take at least some responsibility for holding the ball too long.

Cutler, unfortunately, tends not to hold the ball long enough and rushes throws that become interceptions, but the sacks he does take tend to come rather quickly after the snap.

3. The Packers actually had a running game.

While some offensive lines are much better at pass blocking than run blocking or vice versa, there's generally some level of correlation. If you're good at one, you're probably not awful at the other. The Bears offensive line sucked at both, with the 35 sacks surrendered going along neatly with their 29th ranked rushing attack.

The Packers? Well, their run game was actually pretty good. They rushed for 1885 yds (118 ypg), good for 14th in the league, and we're 13th in the league in yards per rush (Bears were 26th). This means that teams actually had to respect the run when playing the Packers.

Simply put, Cutler had to face far more pressure against defenses that knew, more often than not, that the Bears Had to pass if they had any hope of moving the ball. He was alone on an island with little help from the run game and inexperienced wide receivers. Rodgers had the threat of the run to take the pressure off, as well as one of the best wide receiver corps in the game with Greg Jennings and Donald Driver, who were much better at making adjustments and coming back to the ball than the young Chicago corps.

4. The Packers offensive line improved as the year went on.

After 10 games, the Packers had given up 43 sacks and were stuck in the middle of the pack at 6-4. Over their last 6 games, however, their offensive line showed drastic improvement and gave up just 7 sacks as the team went 5-1 to clinch a wildcard spot. Rodgers was sacked just once in each of the Green Bay's last five games.

The Bears? Well, they remained consistently awful. Granted, most of us will remember that they actually did improve slightly after Orlando Pace was benched, but they still remained far below average, as they gave up at least 2 sacks in all but 3 games last season. On average, Cutler was sacked 2.5 times per game as the Bears folded down the stretch, while Rodgers went down just 1.2 times per game as Green Bay raced to the playoffs.

So there you have it. Now, let me make this clear to anyone who thinks I'm being completely irrational: Aaron Rodgers is better than Jay Cutler (right now). You'd have to be really thick-headed to take the league leader in interceptions over a guy who currently holds the highest career passer rating in NFL history. However, it is not, as I've said, an invalid argument to blame many of Cutler's problems on a poor offensive line while ignoring how well Rodgers played despite 50 sacks. Frankly, all of the other numbers outside of those 15 extra sacks clearly show that Green Bay had a much, much better offensive line.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Dammit, People, It Wasn't Tim Couch's Fault

It's okay, Tim. I understand.

I'm going to digress from the Bears today (what's that? I do it all the time? Well, no one's reading anyways) and talk about an anecdote from this article by Steve Wyche of In the article, Wyche makes the case for JaMarcus Russell supplanting Ryan Leaf as the greatest draft bust of all time (which, while I may disagree, is an argument with a great deal of merit), but he also lists his top ten draft busts of all time. Wyche has Tim Couch at #3. This cannot stand.

Tim Couch was not a bust at all. I repeat, Tim Couch was Never a bust. Let's look at the statlines of the QBs Wyche has in his list:

JaMarcus Russell- 31 Games, 25 Starts (7-18), 354 comp./680 att. (52.1%), 4083 yds, 18 tds, 23 ints, 6.0 ypa, 131.7 ypg, 65.2 rating

Ryan Leaf- 25 games, 21 starts (4-17), 317 comp./655 att. (48.4%), 3666 yds, 14 tds, 36 ints, 5.6 ypa, 146.6 ypg, 50.0 rating

Tim Couch- 62 games, 59 starts (22-37), 1025 comp./1714 att. (59.8%), 11131 yds, 64 tds, 67 ints, 6.5 ypa, 179.5 ypg, 75.1 rating

Akili Smith- 22 games, 17 starts (3-14), 215 comp./461 att. (46.6%), 2212 yds, 5 tds, 13 ints, 4.8 ypa, 100.5 ypg, 52.8 rating

Heath Shuler- 29 games, 22 starts (8-14), 292 comp./593 att. (49.2%), 3691 yds, 15 tds, 33 ints, 6.2 ypa, 127.3 ypg, 54.3 rating

Notice how Tim Couch is light years ahead of the rest of them (including the two who were BELOW him on this list) in every single category? Hell, compare him to some other first round quarterbacks in the last couple decades who were much worse, like Brady Quinn, Matt Leinart, Alex Smith (he may have turned it around last year, but he was garbage his first four years), Kyle Boller, Joey Harrington, Cade F*&king McNown, Jim Druckenmiller, Trent Dilfer, Rick F*&king Mirer, David Klingler, Tommy Maddox, Todd Marinovich, Dan McGwire, Andre Ware, Kelly Stouffer, or Chuck Long, just to name a few. Statistically speaking, Couch is better than all of them. And that's just the quarterbacks. That doesn't include colossal busts at every other position on the field. That also doesn't include the off-field problems of many of those busts (Cade's assholery, Matt Leinart's partying, Marinovich's drug abuse, Leaf's total dickishness, JaMarcus' missing work ethic), none of which Tim Couch was ever accused of. Tim Couch shouldn't even sniff a top ten busts lists, let alone wind up at #3.

Sure, there are people who will argue that he didn't live up to the expectations of the number one overall pick, or as Wyche says, "he didn't have the makings of an NFL quarterback," but that's absolute horseshit. Couch took over the reigns of an expansion team from the 2nd game of his rookie season and improved each season until he took them to the playoffs in 2002. Couch's rookie season alone was a testament to his ability to perform as well as possible despite the total dearth of talent around him. Couch was sacked a league leading 56 times in 1999, and yet he managed to 223 of 399 passes (55.9%) for 2447 yards, 15 tds, only 13 interceptions, and a 73.2 rating. Compare that to some other quarterbacks placed into similar situations for first year expansion teams:

David Carr (2002 Texans)- 233/444 (52.5%), 2592 yds, 9 tds, 15 ints, 62.8 rating

Mark Brunell (1995 Jaguars)- 201/346 (58.1%), 2168 yds, 15 tds, 7 ints, 82.6 rating

Kerry Collins (1995 Panthers)- 214/433 (49.4%), 2717 yds, 14 tds, 19 ints, 61.9 rating

Jim Zorn (1976 Seahawks)- 208/439 (47.4%), 2571 yds, 12 tds, 27 ints, 49.5 rating

Steve Spurrier (1976 Buccaneers)- 156/311 (50.2%), 1628 yds, 7 tds, 12 ints, 57.1 rating

As you can see, Couch was better than any of those quarterbacks other than Mark Brunell, and he was certainly better than the other three rookies (Carr, Collins, Zorn). Also, Brunell and Collins both benefitted from the fact that the Panthers and Jaguars were both expansion teams run by non-morons that added talent and actually advanced to their respective conference championship games in their second seasons.

Hell, compare Couch's rookie season to that of some other QBs taken #1 overall in recent decades:

Matthew Stafford, 2009: 10 G, 10 GS (2-8), 201/377 (53.3%), 2267 yds, 13 tds, 20 ints, 6.0 ypa, 226.7 ypg, 61.0 rating.

Eli Manning, 2004: 9 G, 7 GS (1-6), 95/197 (48.2%), 1043 yds, 6 tds, 9 ints, 5.3 ypa, 115.9 ypg, 55.4 rating.

Tim Couch, 1999: 14 G, 14 GS (2-12), 223/399 (55.9%), 2447 yds, 15 tds, 13 ints, 6.1 ypa, 163.1 ypg, 73.2 rating.

Peyton Manning, 1998: 16 G, 16 GS (3-13), 326/575 (56.7%), 3739 yds, 26 tds, 28 ints, 6.5 ypa, 233.7 ypg, 71.2 rating.

Drew Bledsoe, 1993: 13 G, 12 GS (5-7), 214/429 (49.9%), 2494 yds, 15 tds, 15 ints, 5.8 ypa, 191.8 ypg, 65.0 rating.

Troy Aikman, 1989: 11 G, 11 GS (0-11), 155/293 (52.9%), 1749 yds, 9 tds, 18 ints, 6.0 ypa, 159.0 ypg, 55.7

You can see from these stats that Couch actually played better than most, and comparable in many categories to Peyton Manning. But whereas Aikman or the Mannings played on teams that went out to add talent around their young quarterback (Irvin and Emmitt Smith for Aikman, Edgerrin James, Marvin Harrison, and Reggie Wayne for Peyton, and Plaxico Burress, etc. for Eli) Couch played for the Browns, who failed to take a single offensive lineman in the first two rounds during Couch's tenure, or to draft a runningback until they picked the woeful William Green in the first round in 2002. The four second round wide receivers the Browns picked during that time, Kevin Johnson, Andre' Davis, Quincy Morgan, and Dennis Northcutt, proved to be major disappointments, leaving Couch largely isolated without a running game or playmakers to take the pressure off of his offensive line. Couch was thus sacked almost 10% of the time he dropped back to pass, and the injuries began to pile up. He simply wasn't put in a position to take the next step forward like many of his fellow #1 picks.

The ineptitude of the Browns (and the fact that it wasn't, in fact, Couch's fault) can be seen in the performance of every other Browns quarterback but Couch since the restoration:

Tim Couch (posted again for comparison's sake): 62 games, 59 starts (22-37, 0.373 win%), 1025/1714 (59.8%), 11131 yds, 64 tds, 67 ints, 6.5 ypa, 179.5 ypg, 75.1 rating.

All other Browns QBs since 1999: 149 games, 117 games started (37-80, 0.316 win%), 2075/3685 (56.3%), 22731 yds, 127 tds, 147 ints, 6.2 ypa, 152.6, 69.6 rating.

As you can see, Couch is, once again, superior to all of the rest of the QBs the Browns have thrown into the fire, and the franchise as a whole had a better winning % when he started than when he hasn't.

Tim Couch's problems are entirely the fault of the Brown's organization. Tim was a guy that played in a spread offense at Kentucky before anyone really knew what that means. Rather than letting him sit the bench and learn a pro-style offense for a year or two, they threw him out there and let him get clobbered behind a god awful offensive line. Even then he performed far better than most rookies, and far better than most rookie spread QBs (I'm looking at you, Alex Smith). His arm strength wasn't great, but it was at least NFL-quality and it was nowhere near as poor as most people have retroactively graded it until he suffered repeated shoulder injuries. The shoulder injuries are also the reason he's failed in every comeback attempt. The Packers cut him when they saw just how frayed his ligaments were. The Browns organization truly had ruined him.

You can say that the Browns never got what they hoped for out Tim Couch. His career was indeed a disappointment, but not for any failings of his own. I think it's more apt to say that Browns fans, and Tim Couch, haven't gone what they hoped for out of the Browns organization.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Marc Bulger? I'll Pass.

If you're an obsessive football fan like I am, you know how useful ProFootballTalk is. The up to the minute rumors are very helpful for..obsessing over football. However, you also probably hate Mike Florio, the guy that runs the site. I've taken shots at his snarky, sniveling shots at Jay Cutler before, but really he's not biased against Cutler anymore than he is any other player he doesn't likes. It's shit like this article, however, that really gets my goat. In article talking about how the Jerry Angelo stating that the Bears are continuing to look into the notion of signing a veteran quarterback (specifically, Marc Bulger), Florio has this to say:

So why hasn't it happened? Because, in our view, Angelo doesn't want Martz and coach Lovie Smith to have a guy who can help salvage the season -- and their jobs -- if Cutler struggles through an early-season schedule that includes games against the Cowboys, Packers, and Giants. (We focused on this specific issue last month for If the Bears fail with Cutler, Smith goes but Angelo likely stays. If Cutler gets benched and Bulger can't turn things around, Smith and Angelo likely will go, since Angelo pulled the trigger on giving up two first-round picks for a guy who ultimately couldn't hold off a player signed off the street.

Sure, Angelo shouldn't be motivated by protecting his position. But there has to be a reason for the fact that the Bears haven't already signed Bulger. And that's the most logical explanation for it.

Look, I'll buy that Jerry Angelo might do or not do something just to cover his own ass, but you really think that's the MOST logical explanation? Here, I'll give you some more logical explanations:

1. They just drafted a quarterback
Dan LeFevour is a very talented player with a lot of potential who could be a legitimately good quarterback after some time on the bench. He's not going to displace Cutler, but it's very possible that he could be a quality back-up or even a guy other teams will take a look at (sort of like Favre's former backups Mark Brunell, Matt Hasselbeck, and Aaron Brooks, or Charlie Whitehurst, who brought a 3rd round pick to San Diego in a trade with Seattle). If you can take a quarterback like that in the 6th round and redeem that pick later with a higher round pick, that's a great move, and worth more than a veteran who'll probably spend 16 games holding a clipboard at best.

2. They already have a quarterback in Caleb Hanie
True, Caleb's only thrown 11 NFL passes and looked mediocre doing so. However, I don't think throwing him into the fire in a late game blowout against the Ravens defense is a fair test for the guy. He's looked great in both of his preseasons, and while preseason numbers don't meant shit, his technique and his arm strength and mobility have looked good. I realize Martz isn't sold on him yet, but he's another guy with great potential. I have confidence that Caleb Hanie wouldn't embarass himself if he has to start and gets all of the practice reps.

3. They just spent an assload of money on free agents, have yet to sign their draft picks, and Bulger would probably cost more than Hanie/LeFevour/Basanez combined.
..That sums it up.

4. Marc Bulger isn't that good.
I realize the Rams offensive line and wide receiver units have gone down hill. I realize Marc Bulger has been injured. I just don't buy that he could return to form, or that part of that wasn't his fault. In his last three seasons Bulger has a stat line of :

36 Games Started, 612 comp./1065 att. (57.5%)/6581 yds/27 tds/34 ints/6.2 ypa/182.8 ypg/70.9 rating.

None of those numbers are spectacular. All are well below a league average effort. Like I said, I'm quite confident that Caleb Hanie could come in and put up a 70.9 quarterback rating, and at least have more mobility and durability than the statuesque Bulger, all at a lower cost.

So really, Florio, tell me again what the Most logical explanation is for not signing Marc Bulger?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Fun with Math!

JaMarcus Russell was released today. As this article notes, the Raiders will have paid him a grand total of 39.4 million dollars. That means the Raiders paid JaMarcus:

$1,576,000 per start (25).
$5,628,571.43 per win (7).
$2,188,888.89 per touchdown pass (18).
$111,299.44 per completion (354).
$604,294.48 per quarterback rating point (65.2).

When they institute a rookie salary cap in the next bargaining agreement they should name it the JaMarcus Rule.

How to Succeed in Football Without Really Trying.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Because I'm an Asshole, That's Why.

"Tebow ranks among the greatest college players ever. A dual run-pass threat, Tebow won a Heisman Trophy and was part of two national champion teams.

Even so, there are legitimate concerns such success won't translate to the NFL. Pittsburgh Steelers personnel director Kevin Colbert said Tebow would need one to three years adjusting to a pro-style offense after playing in a spread system at Florida. Sirius NFL Radio analyst and ex-NFL quarterback Jim Miller is concerned that Tebow will revert to old habits - like holding the football too low on his wind-up - when under pressure in games. Miller played for Chicago in the late 1990s when the Bears unsuccessfully attempted to change Cade McNown's sidearm throwing motion.

"They tried to get him to become more accurate by throwing over the top and he just couldn't do it," Miller said. "He spent the whole offseason working on it, then lo and behold, everything went to crap on the first day of practice. He threw the way he always threw.

"For Tim, it's not just the motion or footwork involved. It's everything."

Article discussing, once more, the similarities between Tebow and McNown.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Trying to be Positive

....which, as you may have realized, isn't my strong suit. I've obviously been opposed to the hiring of Mike Martz as Bears offensive coordinator since the beginning of the offseason. However, now that it's happened, I have to go ahead and figure out some way to find the positive in this situation, because if I can't muster up some false enthusiasm for football season it's going to be one long, long, looong fucking summer. So here's what I've got:

1. Mike Martz improves quarterbacks.

No, seriously. I mean this. Take a look at some of the QBs Martz has had as either an offensive coordinator/head coach:

Trent Green before Martz: 54.5 completion %, 81.8 rating, 6.8 ypa, 215.1 ypg.
Trent Green under Martz: 60.4 completion %, 101.8 rating, 8.6 ypa, 257.9 ypg.

Jon Kitna before Martz: 58.8 completion %, 75.3 rating, 6.4 ypa, 198.5 ypg
Jon Kitna under Martz: 62.8 completion %, 80.4 rating, 7.1 ypa, 258.6 ypg

Marc Bulger under Martz:64.6 completion %, 89.7 rating, 7.8 ypa, 275.2 ypg
Marc Bulger after Martz: 60.0 completion %, 79.9 rating, 6.7 ypa, 209.7 ypg

These are the most noticeable examples of improvement under Martz's system.The other quarterbacks that Martz has developed in his career (Warner, O'Sullivan, Shaun Hill) were all undrafted or unheralded players that Martz made into serviceable-to-outstanding quarterbacks. I guess. Either way, I think we can agree that Jay Cutler is clearly a better quarterback than Jon Kitna, Marc Bulger, J.T. O'Sullivan, or Shaun Hill, and is at least more talented than Trent Green. The quarterback that he compares most favorably to is Kurt Warner, which possibly bodes well.

2. Martz's offense is not inherently opposed to tight ends.

One of the biggest complaints that I and many other Martz detractors have is that his offense doesn't feature the tight end, which takes away Greg Olsen as one of Jay Cutler's biggest weapons. This isn't necessarily so. Martz himself said:

"If there's a player that can't fit a system, then something is wrong -- if he's a good player -- with the system. Don't you think?," Martz said Tuesday at Halas Hall. "Our deal is, we will give everybody an opportunity to find who they are and how they will contribute. Everybody will get that opportunity, and Greg will, too. He's learned things very quickly, very pleased with just the few things we've done on the field. Not disappointed in any respect."

This is a nice start. Another thing to look at is that Martz's offense is (schematically speaking) nearly identical to the offense his former head coach Dick Vermeil took with him to Kansas City. Vermeil inherited Tony Gonzalez and knew the best option was to make the system work with him, and the rest is history as far as that goes. Greg Olsen is no Tony Gonzalez, but the idea that the Martz offensive scheme is inherently opposed to utilizing the tight end as a pass-catcher is wrong.

3. Simply put, he gets results with talented players.

When Kurt Warner, Trent Green, or Marc Bulger were healthy and surrounded by the talented receiver corps and runningbacks of the Rams, Martz's offenses rolled up points by the bunches. His struggles toward the end of his St. Louis career coincided with key injuries to Warner and Bulger, as well as the decline of Isaac Bruce and the defense. He did well with the limited talent in Detroit, with Jon Kitna racking up back to back 4,000+ yd passing seasons, and the 20.4 ppg the Lions offense averaged under Martz was it's highest total since Barry Sanders retired. Likewise, the 21.2 ppg the 2008 49ers averaged was a higher total than they've managed in any season since Jeff Garcia and Terrell Owens left after 2003. Since he's left St. Louis, they've averaged just 16.9 PPG vs. 27.5 PPG under Martz. Granted, the talent level has diminished greatly, but many of the key players during that time period (Bulger, Holt, Jackson) were the same as they were in the last years of the Martz era.

So there you have it. Disastrous hyperbole aside, there's real reason to be hopeful that Mike Martz can get results with Jay Cutler and the Bears offense. The key skill position players (Jay Cutler, Matt Forte, Chester Taylor, Greg Olsen, Desmond Clark, Brandon Manumaleuna, Devin Hester, Devin Aromashodu, Earl Bennett, and Johnny Knox) are all much, much better than anything he's had to work with since the glory days of his run with the Rams. The biggest problem, however, is the offensive line. If the line struggles to block and Cutler starts taking the style of beating that Kitna did (114 sacks in two years) in Detroit, Martz has to be willing to mix things up (focus on the run, abandon the seven step drop, move the pocket, etc.) in order to keep Cutler alive and upright. Martz also has to make good on his promise to use Greg Olsen.

Well, that's what I've got. If you don't like it come back after Martz has Cutler throw 60 passes and gets him sacked 6 times in week one and I start frothing at the mouth. Go Bears.