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Monday, January 31, 2011

In Review- The Quarterbacks

Now that a week has passed in which I have largely managed to stifle my anger and have allowed cooler heads to prevail in the Cutler debate, it's time to look back at the 2010 Bears and wonder what the hell they might look like in 2011. Today I start with the most important position on the field, and I'll eventually work my way through the runningbacks, wideouts and tight ends, offensive line, defensive line, linebackers, secondary, special teams, and the coaches. Most of you won't read me again until you start to get bored come training camp time in July, so I'm just going to take as much time as I want on this.

#6 Jay Cutler- My opinion on Jay Cutler is well known and oft-stated, and I think I elaborated my points pretty well in my last piece as to just how good Jay did this year behind an extremely porous offensive line. In his last 19 starts as a Bear (including playoffs) Cutler is 13-6 with a completion % of 60, 33 TD passes, 220 ypg, and a 90 rating. Those aren't elite numbers, but they're very good, and damn near incredible considering the talent around him.

A large part of the negative impression people have of Cutler still stems from a 10 game stretch last year when the entire Bear organization nearly fell apart, not just Jay. Following the Bears 3-1 start in 2009, and before their 2-0 finish, they went 2-8 and Jay had an 11:20 TD:INT ratio and a passer rating of 64.5. During that time period the Bears allowed 45 points to the Bengals, 41 to the Cardinals, 36 to the Vikings, and 31 to the Ravens in several blowout losses, the team averaged just 87 rush yards per game, and Cutler was sacked 23 times. I think Cutler has borne the brunt of the blame for a shitty, shitty, God awful football team for far too long in that case.

If you look at Cutler's numbers in his other 58 games as a starter his numbers look like this:

62% Completions, 93 TDs, 59 INTs, 7.4 YPA, 88.1 rating.

I'm not excusing the terrible play during those 10 games, but when you separate that 10 game stretch from the rest of his career, he's a pretty good player. Why people choose to regard those 10 games as the norm, rather than the exception, well, we all know, and it's the kind of sheep mentality that chooses to a hate a guy based on his pouty face and a media misconception and it results in an overwhelming majority of idiots apparently finding a sulky guy to be less likeable than a guy accused of multiple rapes and a convicted dog-killer.

Is Jay Cutler perfect? God no. Not even close. He still throws too God damned many interceptions, especially in the red zone. His accuracy comes and goes depending on whether or not he can set his feet and get into a rhythm. He has a tendency to start slow.

The main thing about Jay Cutler is that I don't see anything negative about him that isn't fixable if he's given all of the things that most great quarterbacks have always had. He needs an offensive line that actually allows him to set his feet in the pocket. Everybody loves to jump on Jay for throwing off of his back foot, but he actually is pretty good at that. He'd do it less if he actually had Time to set his feet, though. He needs another year in the same system. He's had four different coordinators in five years in the NFL. He needs a wide receiver that can actually go up and fight for a jump ball once or twice. Get him those (or really just the first one) and I guarantee you'll see Jay in the playoffs more often than not.

#12 Caleb Hanie- I like Caleb. I always have. Including his work against the Packers, he finished the year 18/27 for 208 YDs, 1 TD, 2 INT, a 66 comp.% and a 71.2 rating. Not bad work for a guy getting scout team reps. Generally, when the Bears are scraping "prospects" at QB out of the undrafted FA pile, they get noodle-armed "winners" like Shane Matthews and Chris Leak. Caleb was actually a guy with a big arm, big body, good mobility, and a great completion% who went to a really shitty school and had a terrible winning %. Fortunately your won-loss record doesn't carry over into the NFL, regardless of what Cutler critics would have you believe, and Caleb has turned out to be a very good prospect. I think Jerry and Lovie has always had faith in him, and they were pretty confident both last year and this year going with him as the #2. That's to their credit.

What isn't to their credit is allowing Mike Martz and his precious need for a "system" guy to cloud them into thinking that Todd Collins knowledge of the playbook outweighed his total inability to complete a forward pass. Caleb is a restricted free agent, but I don't see anybody matching the Bears if they put a half-decent offer on the table. Given time, Caleb could turn out to be a Schaub-type guy that the Bears could parlay into draft picks. Most of all, though, he's a guy that could turn into a pretty good quarterback, and they need as many of those as they can get.

#10 Todd Collins- Good lord. If you look at Todd Collins career, it's pretty obvious that the best part was the nine year stretch where he didn't start a game. How unfortunate it is for all of us that the best 3 games of his life came in 2007 and extended his career another three seasons. You never should have left your clipboard, Todd.

Everything about the Todd Collins experience in 2010 was awful. His stupid stat-padding performance against the practice squad of the Cleveland Browns in the fourth preaseason game that apparently gave Martz all the ammo he needed to drop Caleb down to #3. The fact that Mike Martz refused to believe he didn't suck. The fact that the Giants knocked Todd out of the game after he replaced Jay but Didn't hurt him enough to keep him from starting the Panthers game. The whole 6-completions-to-the-Bears-4-completions-to-the-Panthers thing. He was absolutely the most wretchedly ineffective quarterback that I've seen since Jonathan Quinn. Actually, by the numbers, he was much worse. Try wrapping your head around that. In a year in which the Bears were SUPERBOWL CONTENDERS they had a guy that was worse than Jonathan Quinn first in line to take the snaps if Jay went down. Guh. Martz's love of Collins should be evidence why, despite his undeniable acumen as an offensive mind and a pretty good won-loss record, Mike Martz is no longer head coach of the Rams. Shocking that a roster that he once had so much control over averaged 12 losses a year in the last six years before now. Never let him make personnel decisions again. Ever.

So what's next for this unit? Obviously Cutler will be back, and I expect him to have a breakout year if the protection is finally adequate. I think they'll tender Hanie, and I don't expect anybody to try to top them or to risk even a low draft pick for him, so he should be back as well. Todd Collins should be shot on sight if he tries to re-enter Halas Hall. For the third QB next year I wouldn't really be shocked to see the team throw another 6th or 7th round drift pick at a halfway-intriguing prospect as a gift to Martz. Either way, I think we'll see Cutler and Hanie back at the top next year.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Who is Jay Cutler?

That's the question that gasbag Rick Reilly asked last week, and damned if it doesn't appear to have been one of the more successful hack jobs in a long line of them aimed at bringing down Jay Cutler. What I've seen in the last 24 hours has absolutely sickened me. That's the only way I can express it. I'm actually sickened by what I have seen with regard to this whole situation.

From the NFL players taking shots at Cutler on twitter (What's that, Maurice Jones Drew? Cutler should have played with a knee injury in a big game? Where the f&%k were you when the Jaguars had a playoff spot in the line in Week 16 and 17? How the f%&k do you know that Cutler's knee didn't start out right where yours ended up when you had to take a seat?), to the usual talking heads spouting off like always (Trent Dilfer of course, stated that when he had an MCL injury he couldn't stand. That was meant to point out that Jay must be faking, since he tried playing, but it really makes Jay Cutler look all that much tougher than Trent F*&king Dilfer, since we know now the injury was real), to the meatheads raging and acting like general disgraces to the human race. I'm addressing that last one to the troglodytes that posted videos and pictures of themselves as they burned Jay Cutler's jersey. Burning jerseys? Really? What's the next step? Book burning? Lynch mobs? Burning in effigy? Are we protesting Jay's Treaty? Have we really regressed this much as a species and as a civilization? I hope those people don't have children.

All of this revolves around the question that Rick Reilly asked, sadly. Who is Jay Cutler? How many people actually know him? Not many, obviously. I'd argue that his teammates know him, and they've all rallied around him and have vociferously defended him. The sad part is the people like Reilly who claim they want to know him, or that they want to give him a chance to defend himself. Fuck that. They want him to trip into the hole they dug for him and then castigate him for it. This is what happened last night. They've set up everything in a nice little row until an incident occurred that could be easily miscast by a public that already had the gavel floating, awaiting anything that would allow them to slam it down and yell "GUILTY!" Like a wrongfully executed man on death row, the evidence that has come after the fact won't fix the damage that's been done.

So Jay Cutler really was hurt. Sure, it may have been an MCL tear, one that normally takes 3-4 weeks to heal, but Player X once played with (insert completely unrelated injury), why can't Jay?

So Jay Cutler didn't pull himself, it was the coaches. Why didn't he launch into some sideline theater like the warrior Jim McMahon did when he fought his way back into a game in 1985 (McMahon, who made just 61 of 104 possible starts during his Bears career and missed parts or all of the 1984, 1986, 1987, and 1988 playoffs, is a great example I've heard tossed around)?

So Jay Cutler actually did try to lobby with the coaches, take a shot, and forced his way back into the game? Well why didn't he do more on the sidelines?

So his teammates and coaches all stand by him and think he did everything he could? Too bad, he quit on them according to the people at home.

And so on it goes. Nothing will change it, although I have been heartened by the people I have seen stepping in to defend him today. The fact of the matter is nothing will stop the Rick Reillys of the world. Cutler has been condemned in the court of public opinion. Hopefully he'll continue to shrug that off as he has his entire career.

So who do I think Jay Cutler is? I think he's a guy that's done as well as quarterback of the Chicago Bears as he can. If you think that's ridiculous, look at the guy who came before him. I mean that, too. You want to compare Jay Cutler to Kyle Orton? How about you compare them when they had the same level of talent around them? Compare Cutler's numbers in Denver to Kyle Orton's numbers in Denver. Jay has the same passer rating, a higher completion %, a higher touchdown %, a higher YPA. You want to look at Jay Cutler as a Bear vs. Kyle Orton as a Bear:

Orton: 55.3% Completion, 30 touchdowns, 27 INTS, 5.8 YPA, 161.2 YPG, 71.1 Rating
Cutler: 60.5% Completion, 50 touchdowns, 42 INTS, 7.0 YPA, 223.9 YPG, 80.9 Rating.

And that's including a terrible year by Cutler last year, one completely out of line with the numbers he's posted in 4 of his 5 years as a pro. Cutler's light years better.

Hell, in his last 19 games including the playoffs the guy is 13-6 with 33 touchdown passes. I'll take that. He took a team that nearly every prognosticator had buried at the bottom of the division all the way to the NFL's final four. Nothing is good enough, though. I guess Chicago is just too used to elite quarterback play to accept what Jay has done for them.

When I look at Jay Cutler I see a guy who lined up behind a left tackle that was a back up for the f*&king Panthers and had already failed at left guard and right tackle, a left guard that was a failed draft pick with a bad back who already busted out at his first position of left tackle and had to slide over midseason to play a position he hadn't played since his freshman year of college, a center that's been in the NFL for 13 years and has been in rapid decline for the last few years, a guard in Roberto Garza who is also old and required a midseason knee surgery just to stay in the lineup, and finally a 7th round draft pick rookie at left tackle who spent his college years at a Division II school because he wasn't smart enough to meet the rigorous academic standards at Texas.

At wide receiver Jay Cutler has thrown to a guy who is a converted DB and kick returner, a 5th round draft pick from Abilene Christian, a 3rd round pick from Vanderbilt who couldn't even get on the field his rookie year thanks to an inability to learn the playbook (I'm sure he had no trouble digesting the routes in Martz's scheme this year), and a cult hero in Devin Aromashodu who hasn't yet found a practice squad he couldn't make.

At tight end he's got a first round draft pick that can't even get on the field half of the time thanks to his oft-maligned blocking skills and his frequent drops.

Matt Forte had a great year this year but was injured last year and nearly lost his job to Chester Taylor, a guy who gave Cutler a lot of help by amassing the lowest YPC average of any runningback with 100 carries since the NFL merger in 1970.

Cutler's had two incredibly stubborn and erratic offensive coordinators in two years in Ron Turner and Mike Martz, and he's had to carry the load for both thanks to a run game that either didn't work (last year) or was largely ignored (the first half of this year).

So what's Jay Cutler done in that time? He's carried his team to an NFC Championship game, averaged 3500 yards and 25 touchdown passes (both firsts for a Bears QB over a two year period), posted the highest career passer rating in Bears history (despite posting his Lowest career passer rating last year), highest career completion %, and is top five in every other category you want to look at.

What's his reward? He gets his toughness and his leadership questioned in the middle of all the hell he's been through. The man has taken 87 sacks in two years, by far the most of any QB in that time period. Twice I've seen him bleeding from the chin in games following bone-jarring hits. He went back into both games. He took an NFL record for sacks in a half against the Giants and suffered a concussion that guys like Chris Collinsworth actually tried to blame him for. Never has he succumbed to the temptation to throw his linemen under the bus like a certain field general in Indianapolis and his "protection issues." Hell, he plays every game with type 1 diabetes, gets his blood sugar checked every time he goes to the sideline, and doesn't receive the lionization that the same condition rightfully earned Chicago legend Ron Santo. Brian Urlacher called him the toughest player on the Bears, and that guy doesn't throw a title like that around lightly.

I take that all into account, plus the news of the MRI results and the severity of the injury, and I'm even more sickened by what took place yesterday. For everyone out there still quoting Rick Reilly, I have an answer to the question of who Jay Cutler is: He's a damn good quarterback, and you're an idiot. Book it.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

This Hurts

This is a tough loss. It's a damn painful loss. I don't remember ever seeing a game in which so much went so wrong for the Bears and yet they stayed so close till the bitter end. I have to congratulate the 2010 Chicago Bears. I really do. I had them at 11-5 before the year and would have been okay with the knowledge that they would bow out in the NFC title game. Of course, in this situation it's hard to see the positives. So many missed plays, missed opportunities. An absolutely piss poor gameplan.Why wait till Hanie is in to switch to the gun? Why try an end-around on 3rd and four with a hot Hanie? Why was Todd Collins Ever the #2 quarterback for a playoff contender?

Those are the things that will keep me up for awhile. I know already that I'll spend months defending Jay Cutler even more than usual. What I know about Jay Cutler is that I've seen him take 87 sacks in two years. I've seen him twice get hit in the chin so hard that it left him bleeding and he came back into both games with stitches. I've seen him refuse to slide multiple times. I've seen him do this:

So no. I don't think he lacks toughness, and as usual I find the brayings of a bunch of asses sitting at home on their couches to be absolutely ridiculous. If the Bears ever get Jay the protection up front that he deserves, well, he'll answer his critics resoundingly. But I fear that's a long way aways. The sad part is that I think Jay Cutler played a very poor first half this game. I really do. I think it would be fair for people to question his accuracy or decision making, but alas, take the lowest possible reason you can find to criticize someone and they'll do it every time. It's sad. Very sad.

As for the rest of the team? Well, there were some players out there who did some really great things today. Brian Urlacher shrugged off a few early series and some bad missed tackles to come back and have a monster game, although I just can't see how the hell he managed to get tackle by Aaron Rodgers on what should have been a pick six. I just can't. Matt Forte was the Bears only offense for most of the game. Caleb Hanie nearly pulled off the impossible and threw a damning wrench into my respect for Lovie Smith by forcing me to ask why the hell Todd Collins was still #2 on the depth chart after the way he played earlier this year.

Obviously there was plenty of bad. The offensive line got manhandled on the interior. I love Olin Kreutz. I really do, but the statement no one wanted to make all year is that many of the problems the Bears had on the line were his fault. Pressuring the QB consistently starts with a good push by your defensive tackles, and teams have done that against Kreutz all year long. He struggled mightily against BJ Raji and Cullen Jenkins. He had his moments, and he's certainly been in slow decline. I wouldn't even be opposed to bringing him back next year, so long as his replacement is on the roster. That goes for Roberto Garza as well. Chris Williams played well at guard as the year went on. Omiyale and Webb actually played well enough to at least compete to keep their jobs next year. But Garza and Kreutz are on thin ice. Greg Olsen also disappeared in this game, but I have to question whether that was his fault, Martz's fault, or just the lack of a QB to throw to him.

On the defense, well, Tommie Harris and the rest of the defensive tackles really disappeared early. The Packers actually ran the ball well early on and that allowed Rodgers his early success. Julius Peppers had a few pressures and played well in spots, but was also neutralized more than I would have hoped. It's hard to bitch when the Bears gave up just 14 offensive points to the Packers and really held Rodgers to some miserable numbers, but this was still a team loss.

I'd really like to throw the coaching staff under the bus, here. The Bears actually played outside of themselves on defense early on. They stacked the box and over-committed to stopping the run. That doesn't make a fucking load of sense. Green Bay hasn't run the ball well all year long. You line up in your usual defense, assume that you can make a few plays and you focus on stopping Aaron Rodgers. You don't overreact to a few early runs and allow it to shake you. They gave up the big play on those two TD drives and it hurt them big. That isn't their game.

As for Mike Martz, well...this one hurt. Martz appeared to attempt to run the exact same game plan against Green Bay this week that he ran in week 17. Apparently the fact that they scored just 3 points was lost on him. Why he refused to move Cutler out from under center really puzzles me. During the Jets game, Cutler took some shots early, threw a pick six, and was really out of rhythm. Rather than back away, Martz put Jay in the gun, threw early, got him going, kept him from those hits, and they crawled back into the game. Today Martz waited until Hanie was in the game before resorting to the gun. He also didn't attempt to roll Cutler out or do any of the things that had brought them success against defenses of this sort before. He didn't go away from the run, which was nice, but his approach to the passing game was erratic. And that end-around. They had to call a timeout for that? How about throwing the slant to Earl Bennett on that play, since he was uncovered at the line of scrimmage? Or how about running the ball with Forte, since they had struggled to stop him in the second half. A reverse is a low % play with a very, very big chance of ending up with negative yardage. That was the dumbest call of the year for Martz. Without a doubt.

The people who though the Bears would go 5-11 this year are already coming out of the woodwork, as though the Bears suddenly morphed into a bad team with a 7 point injury-plagued loss in the NFC Championship game. Oh well. I know this offseason is going to be long and miserable. I'm prepared for it. Hopefully the Bears will make the right moves they need to get an offense that can actually carry the defense some times and to get the depth they need for an aging defense. Hopefully they'll be right back here next year. But damn, September is a long ways away.

As for Green Bay, I naturally hope that Pittsburgh fucking destroys them, but I'm still impressed with what they've done. Congratulations, even if I say it through clenched teeth.

Go Bears, but damn, this hurts.

Packers 21, Bears 14

That's it for the 2010 Bears. You'll understand if I'm not ready yet to write the post-mortem. I have no idea what just happened there. Too much to process. I'll get to you all tomorrow.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Divisional Weekend Round Up

Steelers 31, Ravens 24
These two teams really are mirror images of each other. In fact, I'd even say that Baltimore's offensive line is much better. They play each other within one score nearly every single time they meet. So how does Pittsburgh keep winning? The fact that most of the games are In Pittsburgh helps, but frankly it seems like Baltimore just can't shake their perpetual little brother image, no matter how much they gloat and blather about hating Pittsburgh. Good luck next year, guys.

Packers 48, Falcons 21
Let me begin by stating that the Green Bay Packers have an amazing football team, one that I knew going in would most likely be coming to Chicago for the NFC Championship game. Aaron Rodgers played like he's capable of playing and it's only fitting that the team to represent the NFC in the Superbowl will have to be the last man standing in the oldest rivalry in the sport. I'm not one for smack-talk before the game, so I'll merely leave it be, hope Sunday hurries the fuck up, and hope the Bears take care of business like they did the last time Green Bay came to Soldier Field.

That said, I'm going to devote a little bit of time to why Atlanta was embarrassed the way they were. All year long Atlanta reminded me of the 2003 Chiefs or, to a lesser extent, the 2001 Bears. Both were 13-3 teams with homefield advantage that bowed out in a big way in their first playoff games. Both benefited from favorable schedules, close wins, and an abundance of turnovers despite a defense that, yardage wise, was not particularly intimidating. The Falcons had the NFL's 16th ranked defense, yardage wise, but were 23rd against the pass, allowed 23 TD passes, and also allowed 4.6 yards per rush. They had a respectable 31 sacks, but outside of John Abraham's 13, no one else had more than 4.0. That's indicative of a team that relies on the blitz to create pressure, and those teams generally fail in the playoffs.

The main reason Atlanta's scoring defense was so respectable was due to their 31 turnovers, but with a defensive line that didn't generate that much pressure and a secondary that was less than outstanding, that would seem to be the product of an abundance of luck rather than any great talent on D. Those 2003 Chiefs had 37 turnovers, which allowed them to win games despite their 29th ranked defense. They also bowed out in their first playoff game against the Colts. The 2001 Bears also thrived on turnovers, as they were 15th in yardage, relied on the blitz, and had 37 turnovers. Philly destroyed them 33-19. Teams that rely on the blitz and a feast or famine defense with regard to turnovers generally can't stop a guy like Rodgers who can recognize and avoid the blitz and won't turn the ball over. Throw in the fact that, like I pointed out before, Matt Ryan averaged just 6.5 yards per attempt and isn't the kind of quarterback that's going to win a shootout, especially against that secondary. And that will close the book on the 2010 Atlanta Falcons.

Jets 28, Patriots 21
All it took was one game of Tom Brady playing like a mortal for the Patriots' porous defense to sabotage their championship hope. The Jets controlled the clock, kept Mark Sanchez out of trouble, and the Patriots were more than happy to throw in some stupid turnovers and mental errors to help out. Great win by the Jets. The field is wide open now, boys.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Bears 35, Seattle 24- Armageddon Cometh

The Bears absolutely dominated the Seattle Seahawks in all three phases today, as they racked up 35 points and a 440-276 edge yardage wise, with all three Seattle touchdowns coming late in the fourth quarter after Chicago had a 25 point lead well in hand. With the win, the Bears set up the most terrifying/exciting match up possible as they bring Green Bay to Soldier Field next weekend. I'll do my best not to worry about that till later. For now I'll just savor the most impressive playoff win (despite a few late game shenanigans that were irritating if irrelevant) in recent Bears memory, and get on with the breakdown:


So many candidates. Let's just go down the list-

Jay Cutler: This team will go as far in this tournament as he can take them, and if he plays like he did today, I'll get fitted for my Super Bowl ring quick. His accuracy was a bit off during the first-half blizzard, but he still finished 15/28 for 274 YDs, 2 TDs, 0 INTs and an absolutely bonerific passer rating of 111.3. He was also a huge factor on the ground, with 8 rushes for 43 yards and two fist-pumping touchdowns. I don't care if Rick Reilly thinks he's the most hated player in the NFL, I love him like no other.

Matt Forte: Nothing came easy for Matt on the ground today, as he ground out 80 yards on 25 carries at 3.2 a clip, but the Seahawks clearly geared their gameplan around stopping him and it opened up alot for the passing game. Matt also added 54 yards through the air, and while his halfback option interception was mindboggling and irritating on all fronts, I'll give him credit for doing a damn good job as a Runningback today.

Greg Olsen: Olsen set a career high with 113 yards receiving, including 58 yards and a TD on the Bears first pass of the game. Mike Martz sent a message today that teams will have to account for #82 on every down, and that's gotta scare the Packers.

The Offensive Line: They gave up three sacks, yes, but two of those were 3rd down coverage sacks where Jay was merely trying to extend the play. On every other dropback Jay had today, he had all the time he needed to look downfield and decide to throw it or run it. They're a 1,000 miles from where they were earlier this year, and Seattle has a good pass rush between Clemons and Brock. Great effort today, guys. This one can be put on your backs most of all. Keeping Cutler clean and paving the way for 176 yards rushing? Excellent.

The Secondary: I'm just going to ignore the last two Seattle touchdowns when the prevent was clearly on and the foot was sadly off the pedal. For most of the game the Bears held Matt Hasselbeck to absolutely nothing, and he still finished the game averaging just 5.6 YPA. Mike Williams finished with just 4 catches and 15 yards after wearing Tillman like a hat all day.

Tommie Harris: Tommie showed up and got two sacks while also being a big part of holding the Seahawks to just 34 yards on the ground (9 fewer yards than Jay Cutler gained).

Everybody else on defense: The Bears had held Seattle to under 150 yards well into the fourth quarter before the last two meaningless Seattle TD's. Marinelli and Urlacher both looked like they wanted to punch a pack of orphans after both of those TDs, so I doubt we can expect any further lapses in intensity.

Mike Martz: the HB pass by Forte was absolutely idiotic, but Martz can't be blamed for that entirely, since he bitched out Forte for not following the golden rule on those plays and throwing the ball away when his first read was covered. Outside of that he dialed up a number of looks that he hadn't showed all year, with some new plays for Olsen that clearly took Seattle off guard as well some wildcat plays that were pretty productive. Nice job, Mike.

The Bad:

Well, those two meaningless touchdowns kinda pissed me off, but only because my inner meathead wanted a shutout. I'm sure as hell not going to bitch on a day like today.

Now it's time to watch New England and try to ignore the pounding of my heart, which is unlikely to survive the next week win or lose.

Go Bears. Green Bay Sucks.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Not Surprisingly, The Playoffs Take a Back Seat to Hating Jay Cutler

The Bears' usual Wednesday presser sent the interwebs a buzzing with tweets by Zach Zaidman, Brad Biggs, SK Jensen and other Bears regulars complaining about national media members like Rick Reilly showing up and asking a ton of questions about Jay Cutler and his personality. A few takes on this can be found at the following:

David Haugh apparently enjoyed Reilly's prodding and blames Jay for not indulging the asshat.

The guys from FoxChicago interviewed Reilly afterward and he gave them a bunch of unfunny jokes ("he looks like he's wearing sandpaper underwear!") that he would re-use in his column.

Reilly pissed off Greg Olsen, who blamed the media for judging a guy most of them have never met.

Rick F*&king Morrissey of all people made the most sense, saying: "In the end, though, if it’s a choice between a nice quarterback who doesn’t win and a dour one who does win, we’ll take dour every time. What is it Al Davis says? Just win, baby. That’s all."

So today Reilly's column went up and it's a real doozy. While he defends Cutler to an extent by remarking how well he's played despite his poor offensive line and by noting his largely unheralded (because Cutler wants it that way since he thinks even good media coverage is pointless, and I don't blame him) charity work, the rest is filled with garbage:

"For a man from Santa Claus, Ind., Jay Cutler is one of the least jolly people you've ever met."

Har har.

"It's hard to say what interests Cutler, but it's definitely not you."

This is really what irks the media the most about Cutler. He doesn't give a shit what they think of him. Not in the slightest. For an industy filled with guys who'd love nothing more than for people to equate them in importance to the jocks they cover, the complete lack of power they have over Cutler is extremely frustrating.

"Once, during his rookie year in Denver, 45 minutes before a game, future Hall of Fame safety John Lynch was trying to explain something to Cutler about NFL pass coverage.

Except Cutler wasn't looking at Lynch. He was texting.

"Man, I'm trying to talk to you!" Lynch protested.

Didn't help. Cutler was all thumbs, head down. Finally, Lynch slapped the phone out of Cutler's hands, smashing it to the floor.

He listened after that."

Ahh, so the guy that broke Jay Cutler's phone isn't the asshole. Cutler is. For not listening to a guy who isn't his position coach, his offensive coordinator, or a coach of any sort. John Lynch is a defensive player. I understand logic would dictate he'd understand coverages, but he also doesn't know how to play quarterback. This may have been slightly dickish, but it was hardly any worse for Cutler not to listen than it was for Lynch to break the phone.

"One time, Broncos coach Mike Shanahan thought it would be helpful for Cutler and Broncos legend John Elway to have lunch. Let Cutler drink in some of Elway's experience.
The three of them sat down at a Denver steak joint. Elway, polite as ever, tried to impart some wisdom. Except Cutler wasn't looking at Elway. He wasn't looking at Shanahan, either. He was looking at the TV. The whole time. With his baseball cap on backward. All the way through dessert. Elway did not leave impressed."

I don't care what John Elway thinks of Cutler or any other quarterback. John Elway just got fooled and lost 15 million dollars in a Ponzi scheme. John Elway relied on his athleticism and posted mediocre numbers for the first decade and a half of his career before Shanahan arrived. I'm 98.9% positive he'll be a complete failure as an executive. Nothing about Elway merely playing quarterback means he really is qualified to really offer Cutler advice. I hate franchises that think they need to pander to former players.

Also, both of these stories, I'm sure, come straight from Elway and Lynch's mouths. Lynch may have been trying to paint the story of the time he broke Cutler's phone in a light that doesn't make him look like an asshole that just broke somebody's cell phone. Elway is now an executive for the organization that booted Cutler before setting themselves on fire. He has a very good motive for making Cutler look unappealing to his fanbase. Forgive me if I'm not buying.

"He's an arrogant little punk," former Broncos radio color man, Scott Hastings, once said on a national show. "He's a little bitch."

Imagine that, another Broncos employee. Where were these people Before Cutler got traded, by the way? They couldn't possibly only be saying this now because they look bad for getting rid of him, right?

There's plenty more where that trash came from. Go and read it yourselves if you like. Sad that this is the shit the media chooses to cover in the middle of the goddamn NFL playoffs.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Bears vs. Seahawks, the Statbook

Bears: 11-5
Seahawks: 7-9

Points Scored
Bears: 334 (20.9 PPG)
Seahawks: 310 (19.4 PPG)

Total Offense:
Bears: 289.4 YPG (30th in the NFL)
Seahawks: 297.8 YPG (28th in the NFL)

Pass Offense:
Bears: 188.4 YPG (28th in the NFL)
Seahawks: 208.8 YPG(19th in the NFL)

Rush Offense:
Bears: 101 YPG (22nd in the NFL)
Seahawks: 89 YPG (31st in the NFL)

Passing TDs:
Bears: 23 (20th in the NFL)
Seahawks: 14 (28th in the NFL)

Rushing TDs:
Bears: 10 (21st in the NFL)
Seahawks: 13 (12th in the NFL)

Points Allowed:
Bears: 286 (17.9 PPG)
Seahawks: 407 (25.4 PPG)

Total Defense:
Bears: 314.3 (9th in the NFL)
Seahawks: 368.6 (27th in the NFL)

Pass Defense:
Bears: 224.3 YPG (20th in the NFL)
Seahawks: 249.6 YPG (27th in the NFL)

Rush Defense
Bears: 90.1 YPG (2nd in the NFL)
Seahawks: 118.9 YPG (21st in the NFL)

Passing TDs Allowed:
Bears: 14 (2nd in the NFL)
Seahawks: 31 (29th in the NFL)

Bears: 21 (5th in the NFL)
Seahawks: 12 (25th in the NFL)

Turnover Differential:
Bears: +4 (11th in the NFL, 31 Turnovers, 35 Takeaways)
Seahawks: -9 (27th in the NFL, 31 Turnovers, 22 Takeaways)

Individual Leaders:
Chicago: Jay Cutler- 261/432 (60.4%), 3274 yds, 23 TDs, 16 INTs, 86.3 Rating, 7.6 YPA, 218.3 YPG
Seattle: Matt Hasselbeck- 266/444 (59.9%), 3001 yds, 12 TDs, 17 INTs, 73.2 Rating, 6.8 YPA, 214.4 YPG

Chicago: Matt Forte- 237 attempts, 1069 yds, 6 TDs, 4.5 YPA, 66.8 YPG
Seattle: Marshawn Lynch- 165 attempts, 573 yds, 6 TDs, 3.5 YPA, 47.8 YPG

Chicago: Johnny Knox- 51 catches, 960 yds, 5 TDs, 18.8 YPC, 64.0 YPG
Seattle: Mike Williams-65 catches, 751 yds, 2 TDs, 11.6 YPC, 57.8 YPG

So there you have it. The Bears have a significant edge in nearly every statistical category. Obviously that adds up to nothing in the playoffs (ask the Saints), but it should tell you each team's general strengths and weaknesses and what to look for. If I may make excuses for the Bears, I'd like to mention how their numbers on offense are dragged down by A) Using five different offensive line combinations before the bye and B) Six full quarters of Todd Collins in which the Bears managed 0 passing touchdowns, five interceptions, and only 110 and 247 uards offense. Since the bye week, the Bears offense has been much more respectable, averaging 23 PPG (28 PPG in their seven wins since that time). I'd add that their starting position, thanks to Dave Toub's awesome special teams and a plethora of takeaways, is the best in the NFL and thus their yardage numbers are hurt somewhat in a good way. Their turnover differential, minus Todd Collins, is +9, which would put them at 5th in the NFL.

My prediction? I think Seattle will have a very difficult time running the ball and I don't think the Bears will be susceptible to the big plays that doomed the Saints. I'd expect Seattle to regress to the mean and the Bears to win the turnover battle. I'm aware the Seahawks won in Chicago earlier this year, but we can all agree that Bears team barely resembles this one and was also missing Lance Briggs, a key component of the Cover 2. Also, Seattle went just 1-6 in their other seven road games, with a win over the lowly Cardinals. I think Seattle is vulnerable against the run, something the Saints failed to exploit due to their devastated depth at runningback and having to play from behind in the second half. I'd say 27-14 Bears, with Matt Forte's performance being the key on offense.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Bring on...the Seahawks?

What an interesting weekend of football this was. If you saw a Bears-Seahawks rematch coming, you're a ballsier man than I. Let's see what happened:

Seahawks 41, Saints 36
The Saints' defense had had it's ups and downs all year, but it was hard to see this coming. Their secondary just fell apart. I haven't seen so many blown coverages since Thomas Smith was still wearing a Bears uniform. They're going to have to work hard this year to upgrade a very old defense and get some kind of pass rush going. If they're going to play the 4-3 they can't constantly rely on the blitz for all of their pressure. As for the Seahawks? Well, I'd have to believe the Bears are a much better and smarter team than the one that lost 23-20 earlier this year while Mike Martz continued to ignore the very existence of Matt Forte. The Seahawks defense played terribly as well, so that ought to give even more hope to Bears fans. This is probably the best possible matchup they could have gotten for this round, but damned if I don't hate the fact that it came at the cost of a Green Bay win.

Jets 17, Colts 16
I'm torn in two by this. On the one hand I'm glad to see Manning fail in the playoffs again, but I'm also sad because I feel the Colts would have had a better chance at upsetting the Patriots. I don't expect another 45-3 massacre, but I have a hard time seeing how the Jets can top the Patriots in Foxborough.

Ravens 30, Chiefs 7
Sigh. Another Chiefs playoff appearance undermined by the overrated caretaker they have under center. Whether it's Steve Bono, Elvis Grbac, Steve DeBerg, or Matt Cassel, the Chiefs are the best in the NFL at getting to the playoffs and not having a quarterback who is even remotely a threat against a top-flight NFL defense. The Ravens took away the Chiefs' running game quickly (made even easier by Todd Haley's continued refusal to ride Jamaal Charles as far as he can go) and dared Cassel to beat them with his arm. The result? 70 yards, 3 ints. Our reward is yet another entertaining Steelers-Ravens matchup.

Packers 21, Eagles 16
Two of my favorite excuse-making fanbases met up, and the Packers walked away. A lot of Bears fans are happy about this because it brings Seattle to Chicago, but I still think the best thing for everyone is for Green Bay to exit these playoffs as quickly as possible. Either way, the Bears won't make it to the Superbowl unless they're capable of beating the best, so I suppose it doesn't matter. But dammit, I loathe Green Bay. That said, I was a little shocked that the Packers played so conservatively against a rather spongy Eagles defense. James Starks was a surprise, but I still think the Packers offense' biggest weakness is a lack of balance. We'll see if it costs them in Atlanta for a second time this year or if, (assuming the Bears take care of business) we'll see the first postseason game between the Packers and Bears since 1941.

That's it for now. Sorry I've been rather quiet during this bye week, but I'm always antsy during the long wait. Y'all stop in next weekend as I plan on SKOscasting all four divisional matchups.

Go Bears.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Around the NFL, Week 17

Patriots 38, Dolphins 7
I admire the New England Patriots. I really do. We can all say they're evil and that they cheat and that they run up the score but in the end every single bit of it comes down to jealousy. I would cut off appendages just to have the Bears run exactly the same way. The ruthless efficiency with which they destroy teams even in meaningless games is both appalling and beautiful in its own way.

Lions 20, Vikings 13
The Lions end their season at 6-10 following their first four game winning streak since 1999. That was of course the year that Cade F*&king McNown helped to drown their playoff hopes by exploding for 300 yards and four touchdowns. That there should tell you how long it really has been since Detroit was even really mediocre. Congratulations to them, though, on picking up some momentum and possibly rounding the corner, assuming they can ever get a healthy year out of Matt Stafford.

Falcons 31, Panthers 10
You're on the clock, Carolina.

Raiders 31, Chiefs 10
The Raiders destroy the Chiefs to finish 6-0 against the AFC West. They went 2-8 against everyone else and ended up 8-8. The Chiefs were 2-4 against the AFC West and and 8-2 and against everoyne else. These numbers mean nothing, but I find them interesting.

Steelers 41, Browns 9
Damn. That mid-season stretch of not-awful play by the Browns had me feeling lukewarm about their potential to not lose 10 games next year. Now I'm not so sure. Later, Mangini.

Jets 38, Bills 7
This is what happens when you hire Chan Gailey, you get destroyed by 31 points by a Jets team starting Mark Brunell and Joe McKnight. Bills fans, you have nothing but my sympathy, but you're f*&ked until Ralph Wilson dies.

Buccaneers 23, Saints 13
Tampa, I'm really sorry. I wanted the Bears to get you into the playoffs. You're a good story, you're much less douchey than Green Bay, and you're really a fun young team to watch. Alas, it was not to be. If you're a Bucs fan you have to be excited for next year, though. I've always liked Josh Freeman, but damned if I ever thought he'd be this good this fast.

Ravens 13, Bengals 7
The Bengals are a god damned mess. Their owner is a moron who thinks he's a general manager, they're not at all sure which way to go with Carson Palmer, and they'll say good bye to Marvin Lewis, a guy who managed to turn them around for a few fleeting moments before the darkness that is that franchise enshrouded him.

Giants 17, Redskins
Sure. Now you fucking win. Thanks alot, assholes. Enjoy another year of Tom Coughlin.

Texans 34, Jaguars 17
This was apparently enough to save Gary Kubiak's job. Standards in Houston are just a tad low these days.

Cowboys 14, Eagles 13
It's not fun to be Kevin Kolb.

Colts 23, Titans 20
The Colts get the Jets while the Chiefs get the Ravens, most likely setting up an Indy-New England divisional round matchup. 'Cuz those are always f*&king fun.

Chargers 32, Broncos 28
I think the fact that Tebow played just well enough to merit a shot at starting next year is a good thing. His colossal failure will be that much more epic (and if you think his erratic three game stint this year (50.0% completions) is enough to put the egg in my face or any of his doubters, think again. I'm filled with hate. I can keep it coming for YEARS).

49ers 38, Cardinals 7
Sorry, TEC. Perhaps hidden in this year's draft is the next Jake Plummer.

Seahawks 16, Rams 6.
Well. It happened. Now if Breesus tore something and the Seahawks and Packers advanced to bring Seattle back to Chicago for a divisional round rematch, well, I wouldn't be upset.

That's all for this regular season. I'll give my take on the playoffs as we go.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Packers 10, Bears 3. I've Seen This Movie Before

Hopefully another season ending in an ugly loss to Green Bay leads to a Superbowl berth. I'm not really sure what the Bears hoped to accomplish yesterday. They obviously straightened some stuff out on defense, and yet the offensive game plan seemed almost vanilla. The Bears didn't make any of their usual adjustments, they never used Cutler out of the shotgun outside of third and long, and it appeared as though they didn't want to show their hand for the playoffs. My question then, of course, is why even bother playing their starters the whole game? A Bears offensive line attempting to block Green Bay's front seven in a straight a man-to-man approach is a terrible idea, and the six sacks of Cutler prove that. Either way, my biggest complaint about yesterday is undoubtedly the game plan. Why not put Cutler and the offense into a hurry up Before the two minute drill? Even then nobody seemed to be in That much of a rush. The Bears really needed to decide before the game if it mattered to them, because their approach in that department was inconsistent at best.

I'm not trying to take anything away from the Green Bay Packers, however. That was an excellent slugfest on defense and unfortunately they won. I'm not particularly panicked about a seven point loss at Lambeau, considering they split the season series and an unlikely rematch would take place at Soldier Field. They've got a tough game against the Eagles next week and they'd have to follow that up with a win in the dome against Atlanta in order to make it to the NFC title game and while they're certainly a talented enough team to pull that off, I don't think they'll make it.

As for the Bears? Well, I'd try not to lose much sleep over this. There's a reason you play for homefield advantage. You avoid having to go into hostile environments to face tough teams in their element like the Packers. Of the teams the Bears have lost to this year, the Packers, the Redskins, the Giants, the Seahawks, and the Patriots, the Bears can't run into the Skins or Giants again. As for the he Seahawks game, well, the Bears are a much better team than they were then, and rematches with the Patriots and Packers would be deep into the playoffs and problems I'd be willing to worry about then. The important thing is that Cutler and the Bears have every opportunity to wipe out the bad taste of this ultimately meaningless loss by making some noise in the postseason. Let's hope they take advantage.

The Good:

The front seven- Green Bay could muster little in the way of the run game, and the defense made some huge stops in short yardage situations. GB struggled on third down, and the first goal line stand was a thing of beauty. Morons are bitching about the secondary again, but if you hold the Packers to 10 points you're doing something right. This can't be pinned on the defense.

Tommie Harris: Good to see Tommie get his first sack.

Matt Forte: He went over a 1,000 yards on the season and 500 yards receiving, the first Bears RB to pull that off. His 1,547 yards from scrimmage and 9 total touchdowns are damn good numbers.

The Bad:

Lovie and Martz: Was this game important or not, guys? I'm extremely disappointed with everything I listed above, along with not giving Webb any help against Clay Matthews and allowing Cutler to take a beating by waiting until the fourth quarter to switch to the short game.

Jay Cutler: This was the worst game he's played all year, and I mean that. He was off target all day. Of his two picks, one was a terrible decision in the end zone and the other was just a really bad throw. He made the right read in Hester but didn't step into the throw and the ball sailed high and ended the Bears hopes. He, more than anyone else, needs to do something great in the postseason to get the monkey off his back.

The Offensive Line: You guys suck.

That's all for now. See you all in the playoffs.