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.