Chicago Sun-Times

Four Down Territory, March 12: Revisiting the Cutler situation

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Full day of football with the trip up to Evanston this morning for the Northwestern pro day. There were 32 players from other state schools at the workout too. More on the pro day action later. Right now, let's get into the mailbag. We'll have one more Four Down Territory on Friday--get your questions in now--and then we're going to move to an abbreviated schedule next week with minicamp. Here we go.

Q: I was just listening to the Score and they were saying Tampa was in trade talks for Jay Cutler. If Tampa can be in trade talks for Cutler, why can't the Bears be? Tampa doesn't have a quarterback and the Bears have a higher first-round pick than them. Shouldn't Jerry Angelo at least try to get in there for a quarterback of his caliber? Did he not say fixing the quarterback position was a priority? With all of Angelo's first-round busts would this not be a safe move? Cutler is not Matt Cassel, he has all the good and has shown it, he is a fan of the Bears and has the type of arm and feet you need in Chicago.

Creighton, Parts Unknown

A: I haven't found one report that the Broncos and Bucs have engaged in any recent contract talks involving Cutler. Tampa Bay, of course, was in the three-way deal that was proposed prior to free agency and included the New England Patriots. But nothing indicates Cutler trade talks have happened again. The Broncos finally got Cutler on the horn earlier this week and that didn't go over so well. It will be interesting to see if he shows up next week for the beginning of the voluntary offseason program, a pretty big step under new coach Josh McDaniels.

That being said, Cutler has come off looking rather petulant in this whole thing. There are questions out there whether or not he indeed is a franchise quarterback. He led a team that lost four of its final six to not make the playoffs. Worth a first-round pick? Probably. The Bears pick 18th, one slot ahead of Tampa Bay. Ultimately, I believe the Broncos will work to smooth this thing out but you have to believe they're chuckling about it in Kansas City, where a division rival landed Cassel, the player McDaniels coveted.

Certainly, if Cutler was on the market the Bears would have to investigate. What Angelo said is he needs to stabilize the position. You cite his draft track record and I'll cite his unwillingness to part with draft picks--I don't think it would happen. That Cutler may have been a Bears fan at some point is immaterial. I think signing Byron Leftwich would be a good move and it's a surprise he's still available. Someone will eventually get a pretty good player in Leftwich.

Q: With more teams moving away from the cover two, like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who started the Tampa Two or at least put a name to it, is the defense going the way of the dinosaurs? Are the Bears running a soon-to-be extinct defensive system under Lovie Smith?

Allan W., Streator, Ill.

A: There's no question the Bears didn't make their version of the cover two look real proud last season, not when they ranked 21st in the league on defense. It's a total misnomer to say that is the defense they are always in, or even in half the time, but it is their base defense and it's predicated on getting a pass rush from the four down linemen. Because the Bears absolutely couldn't do that, they blitzed more than any team in the league. The results were mixed and it opened the defense up to other problems at times.

We're not going to pretend we can predict trends in the league or anything like that, so we inquired with a defensive coordinator in the league about his thoughts. Has the cover two run its course?

"More and more people are moving away from it because when you have to move that eighth defender in the box to stop the run it gets a little hairier if you don't have the cover corners to play the pass,'' he said. "More people are moving to the 3-4 to get pressure on the quarterback and get that eighth guy in the box. Listen, every defense has a known weakness. I don't care what scheme you are talking about. Every single one of them has a weakness. Against the cover two, it's the inside. As soon as someone sees two deep safeties, they're going to pass the ball inside. That's what happens. Now with three wides and the back getting out in space, there's just a lot of stuff out there. I don't know if the cover two has run its course. Everything is cyclical in our business."

The Bears were torched on the inside by slants and quick passes and you need no better example than tape of the awful home loss to Tampa Bay. It will be interesting to see what kind of new wrinkles are in place starting with minicamp next week.

Q: You've referenced major turnover in the secondary at safety, the kind of change the Bears make at quarterback usually. Can you run down the starters and changes made?

Brian F., Gurnee

A: Certainly.


2004--Mike Brown, Todd Johnson, R.W. McQuarters, Johnson
2005--Mike Green, Chris Harris, Green, Brandon McGowan, Harris
2006--Harris, Danieal Manning
2007--Brown, Manning, McGowan, Manning
2008--Brown, Kevin Payne, Manning


2005--Brown, Johnson, Green, McGowan
2006--Brown, Johnson, Harris
2007--Adam Archuleta, McGowan, Archuleta, McGowan
2008--Payne, Brown, Payne

Q: Are you going to steer us wrong, Brad? You wrote a couple times that John St. Clair would be done by the end of this week. Did I miss something or are you teetering on being wrong? What is the holdup? The Bears need him and he needs a job.

Carl, Parts Unknown

A: If I'm wrong, you can just add it to the collection of mistakes. There's no drop-dead deadline here that says St. Clair has to be in place by the end of this week, or even by Tuesday when the Bears have their first minicamp practice. It's not like they have another option, not with the stated goal of using Frank Omiyale at guard, at least to start with. It's pretty evident what the holdup is--money. St. Clair, no doubt, wants to be paid like a starter. He's started the last 19 games for the Bears and if he returns, he's probably the starting right tackle this season, at least to start the year. Whatever that amount is, the Bears aren't close to it. At this point, it's unlikely anyone is close to it or he would have probably signed for starting money and a starting job elsewhere. So, what you have left is a delicate negotiation. The club doesn't want to insult the player, but everyone knows the team wants him back. This happy medium is proving elusive to this point. Stay tuned.

Thank you for all of the participation and questions. As always, thanks for reading. Send in your questions and we'll get back to the mailbag again on Friday.

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The Bears don't need no freekin QB, if the Ravens can win it all with Trent Dilfer why can't the BEars? I say bring back Bobby Douglas, he will get the job done.

Cutler who needs Cutler?

Cover two is a past tense defense and the Bears lost last year because they were stuck on old school technique. They were repeatedly burned on slants and on the inside. duh!! No halftime adjustments same old Bears, predicatable oh yes and that is why they lost and of course the lack of a 60 minute commitment to finish as previous Bears teams had.

Last years Bears were an embarrasment for the effort they gave, in the past even if the BEars were beaten by better talent the other teams always knew that the Bears game would be one of the most physical games of the year. The Bears were always intimidating, not anymore, just milk toast if you ask me.

Walter Payton and the greats of Chicago are probably ashamed as to the lackluster effort a very talented group of Bears gave last year.

Jay Cutler? Why would we need that wimp when we got the sweetest beard in the league! ORTON RULES!!!!!

Brad, do you think it would be a prudent move to look at Kevin Shaffer, released by the Browns, as another option to the John St. Clair waiting game? He's an eight year vet that is 2-3 years younger than St. Clair. Shaffer failed as a LT but performed reasonably well as a RT (especially two seasons ago).

You have to ask yourself why the Bears were killed by the slants !!

The answer is comoplicated, some could say the secondary sucked, some could say that Urlacher has degraded, some could say our DE's aren't very good, the DT position is weak, others could say it was all Bob Babbich's fault.

I believe that the lack of a consistant pass rush from the front four was the part most responsible for the Defenses failures last season. Babbich knew it in pre-season, that he couldn't generate an adequate pass rush with Harris, Dusty, Ogunleye and Brown so he started having the LB's mug up the LOS to create confusion for the O-line. It worked against the Colts superbly and it was effective for a while but teams adjusted.

Knowing that Urlacher and Briggs were on the LOS created a huge area that the WR's could roam freely in and they started hitting the quick slants with Urlacher and Briggs running full speed into coverage with their backs facing the QB. Babbich had to play the CB's off the WR's bcause he didn't want to give up the big play's down feild.

Having to roll up a safety to help make the run defense a top-5 also contributed to the demise of the secondary. on play action we not only had a safety in the box but (2) LB's out of their zones in coverage because they played closer to the LOS....

I believe that the Bears/Lovie knows he needs to get back to basics to get the Defense back to normal again. The cover2 is not dead, every team uses variations of it and the Bears themselves say they don't use it as much as people think they do. The key is to get the D-line to pressure the QB without the need to blitz. They can fix that by personal moves and by coaching. The obviouly feel the Marinelli will help with the technique ascpect, they also feel the Tommie Harris will take a step back to his old form this season after getting some of them lingering injuries he carreid the last few years behind him.

I think they need to find a missing peice, either on the squad already or through free agency and draft. I think Ervin Baldwin could be a player that gets some playing time this year at DE. Maybe Marinelli can fix what went wrong with Mark Anderson. If not I think both Anderson and Dusty could be shown the door as pre-seaoson cuts if they don't step up their play.

Go Bears !!

Re the Tampa Two and getting burned over the middle: the Steelers, who run a 3-4, repeatedly dropped their safeties and gave up the middle. They put safeties on the GA borderline cuz they were determined that Larry Fitzgerald wouldn't beat them. Sounds like the Bears, huh? And you know what, he DID burn them on that 64 yard catch and run when the safetis dropped deep. So, it's not just the Tampa.

Brad correctly states the key is pressure on the QB, which Pitt was able to get for at least some of the game. But the fact that AZ almost won was as much a product of the Pitt D falling down as the AZ O making plays. Watch the game again.


Actually dissing people keep forgetting that Trent Dilfer is a big, tall quarterback that had a big time arm and was pretty accurate. He had the same mobility as Soldier Field, but he could throw. Now that I say that, it made me think that Trent Dilfer then, was a lot like Byron Leftwich now.

For the right price, I would take Cutler in a heartbeat. I think what is happening right now is an organizational attitude adjustment in Denver from the Shannahan way to the Patriot way. The Patriot way is that the players shut up and play. They thought if they started with Jay Cutler, the rest of the players would adjust a lot quicker. There is just the right amount of diva in Cutler, and he is struggling with that.

I tend to agree with you about the Bears embarrasing defensive play last year. What is still a mystery is whether it is an effort issue or a talent/injury issue. I don't think there is a thing wrong with cover 2 that can't be fixed by corners that cover, a free safety that makes big plays instead of allowing them, and a D-line that get's to the quarterback.

The Bears got ripped on D last year for a lot of reasons. Didn't it seem like the corners were a mile off the receivers? They'd set up 6-10 yards deep to begin with...sometimes even when the opponent had the ball inside our 10 yard line. To top it off, the corners seldom, if ever, took away the inside. Release to the center of the field was way too easy for the receivers we faced. I don't get it. Seems better to use the sideline as an additional defender. Isn't that football 101? Granted, the pass rush was weak, but the approach didn't work. Half-time adjustments seemed nonexistant. Whether our corners are healthy or not this year I hope we see appropriate techniques in 2009. Improvement in the pass rush would be nice too.

You can run any scheme you want if you get consistent pressure from the front four. So, to say that the success of the cover-0 is predicated on said pressure is like saying to have a good hamburger you need to start with a cow.

ORTON RULES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I still lay part of the blame on the lack of jamming at the line by our corners. They don't seem to practice it so in practice our receivers look as good as the other team's receivers do on game day. Then, on game day, our receivers get jammed at the line by the other team, and so the Bears continue to delude themselves that their receivers are just fine too because they looks so good in practice. Just take a receiver out of his route for a second buys the d-line an extra step on getting to the qb.


Cool metaphor dude, but it just ain't true. You have to have both a pass rush and coverage.

For example a couple years ago the Bears had good pressure from their front 4 in a regular season game with the Panthers and blew them out. Against the same pressure in the playoffs Fox went to max-protect and Steve Smith killed the Bears coverage all by himself.

Actually I feel you are all correct
1. Our Corners played way too loose
2. We had no pass rush
3. Babich had no adjustments or Coaching changes to stop the offense adjustments.

`It worked against the Colts superbly and it was effective for a while but teams adjusted.'

We surprised the Colts with that method (they had some injuries but hey so did we in the SB so forget that s...)
and other teams adjusted to the fact. We sure looked like Giant Killers in that first game though.
And I agree our lackluster play was embarrassing to the fans, the city (not the McCaskey's they are used to it) and themselves.


You are exactly right, it was the D-line, but I'll take it one step further. It was the DTs. Ogunleye, Brown, and Anderson looked great when Harris and Johnson were causing havoc with the pocket. Dvorocek should be cut at the end of camp.

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This page contains a single entry by Brad Biggs published on March 12, 2009 10:03 PM.

Northwestern pair help themselves at pro day was the previous entry in this blog.

NU receiver Peterman knows special teams could be his ticket is the next entry in this blog.

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