Monday, March 25, 2013

The Well, I Guess I Am Doing This Afterall 2012 Bears Position Reviews: Quarterbacks

I told myself I wasn't going to do this awful, time-consuming position-by-position recap of the Bears roster this year. It's often depressing, I'm usually burnt out after another late season collapse, and half the people I review are usually gone in free agency by the time I actually finish it. That said, well, the draft is a long way and I'm bored, and so you get to benefit.

Starting today with the quarterbacks:

#6 Jay Cutler: 15 games, 15 games started. 255/434 (58.8%), 3033 YDs, 19 TDs, 14 INTs, 81.3 Rating, 7.0 YPA, 11.9 YPC, 202.2 YPG

More than anything else in 2012, Jay Cutler was the victim of one thing. You could say poor protection, once again, but the culprit was something other than that: wishful thinking. You see, before this year the Jay Cutler camp was pretty neatly divided into the people who have hated him since day one and always will, barring anything but a Superbowl victory, and the more rational part of the fanbase that saw him as a very good quarterback frequently struggling to overcome a supporting cast that's anything but. We'd drawn up those battle lines three years ago, and things had worked out pretty well so far.

Then Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery came along. Mike Tice replaced Mike Martz. Gabe Carimi was going to be the starting right tackle, finally. All of these things meant change, we told ourselves. We even believed that Mike Tice, who had never called plays, had to automatically be an upgrade over Mike Martz, a guy who once directed the NFL's highest-scoring offense in history, simply because he was going to eliminate seven step drops. All of us, including myself, fell into this trap and refused to accept any of the possible evidence to the contrary. The result was that we assumed the problems that ailed the Bears offense were solved before they'd even played a down, and Jay Cutler now pays for this mistake.

As it turned out, while Brandon Marshall is great, there's only so much one wide receiver can do, while Alshon Jeffery and Earl Bennett struggled to even stay on the field, Devin Hester regressed for the fourth straight year, and the tight end position was a black hole where one of every three passes clanged off of stone hands and fell to the ground. Gabe Carimi was even worse in pass protection than the turnstiles the team had thrown out there before him, and was just one of the offenders on Pro Football Focus' 30th ranked offensive line. Perhaps worst of all, Mike Tice proved to be nothing more than a slightly more ballsy John Shoop, a guy with a motley collection of plays that lacked any of the founding principles or cohesion of a legitimate offensive system who often seemed to be just throwing shit at the walls in hopes that something would stick.

But I know, I know. No more excuses for Cutler. You're tired of them. Hell, I'm tired of them. I'm not sure anymore he can be the top ten quarterback I long believed him to be, but I also know that they still haven't created an environment that would allow any quarterback to be one.

In case you haven't heard, from Rosenbloom, Bernstein, or any of the other hacks, this year the story is the same: No more excuses for Jay. Before they've even taken a snap, Jermon Bushrod and Martellus Bennett have fixed the offense, so everything that happens is to be pinned, once again, on the shoulders of number 6. Should they fail, as so many Bears free agents have before them, it doesn't matter, because they're not supposed to, and it'll be Jay's fault if they do.* This time, though, there'll be no reprieve because time will have run out.

That'll be a shame, because, all bullshit aside, Jay's still a damn good quarterback. Pro Football Focus gave him a +8.7 grade this year, his best since his Pro Bowl season in 2008. That doesn't necessarily jive with his conventional numbers, but it turns out you get a much different picture if you factor out the 12% of Jay's passes that were dropped, or consider that, with Tice calling deep balls on a whopping 15.9% of his passes, Jay didn't often have the luxury of padding his stats with routine completions. It's also impressive that he was 3rd in the NFL in completion % while under pressure, considering he was under duress more than any other QB on a contending team.

So yeah, the excuses are gone, even if the problems may not be. After years of "defining moments" for Jay Cutler that actually weren't, he will make or break himself next year. I sure hope he pulls it off, because I don't want to look back on the last five years as a waste. With just one more 3,000 yard season he'll assume his place as the leading passer in Bears history, and yet some people think they'll be better off without him. I have a hard time believing that.

#2 Jason Campbell: 6 games, 1 game started. 32/51 (62.7%), 265 YDs, 2 TDs, 2 INTs, 72.8 Rating, 5.2 YPA, 8.3 YPC, 44.2 YPG

I always wonder why the people who criticize the sometimes underwhelming numbers Jay posts as the Bears starting quarterback never bother to compare them to the numbers of everyone else who has tried starting a game for the team in Jay's absence the last three years. Sure, there's more than enough reason to believe Todd Collins and Caleb Hanie would suck even if you place them on the Patriots, but Jason Campbell has always put up respectable numbers on terrible Redskins and Raiders teams with shoddy offensive lines of their own. Even he, however, seemed completely shell-shocked, indecisive, and overwhelmed by the poor situation he was placed in in this offense. Oh well. At least the Bears sabotaged him enough to lower his asking price to a point where they can probably re-sign him to back up Jay again this year?

#12 Josh McCown

Cut at the end of the preseason and re-signed when Jay was concussed. Probably back coaching high school football again.

That's it for now. Tomorrow (maybe) I'll move onto the runningbacks.

*- I don't think Bushrod or Bennett will be disappointments. I certainly hope they won't, but we still shouldn't jump the gun, again. 

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