Bears quarterback Jay Cutler couldn't talk enough about Brandon Marshall in the offseason. But now that the Cutler-Marshall connection has withered after a fast start, Cutler has been increasingly prickly when asked about his favorite receiver.
A question about Marshall at Cutler's weekly press conference elicited an awkward and contentious exchange in which Cutler seemed to go out of his way to be uncooperative. Here's how it ensued:
Can you throw too much to Marshall?
What if he's getting a lot of defensive attention?
Cutler: "Like what kind of attention?"
Cutler: ''What coverage?''
Is it better off to throw to someone else when Marshall is getting a lot of attention?
Cutler: ''I need to know specifics like...what are you getting at? I don't know. It depends on what coverage it is. It depends on a lot of things. There's a lot of variables. You can't just make a vague statement of if they're playing and they're giving him extra attention, can you go to him? It depends what route it is, what coverage it is, what's the down and distance? There's a lot of things that go into it.''
Is it worth the risk to sometimes force the ball?
Cutler: ''Like I said, it depends on the situation.''
Thanks for the enlightenment.
Cutler: ''Thank you for your vague question. I'm sure you'll be able to get a lot out of that.''
Ranked 31st in the NFL in passer rating -- that's second-to-last -- Cutler is in no position to be so obstinate. But he's heading in the wrong direction. A week ago, when he was asked why the Packers were able to take Marshall out of the game, it was Cutler who was short on specifics. ''Two-man is different,'' he said. ''That's a different coverage. You can Google that and figure out what two-man is.''
Questions about his vaunted connection with Marshall aren't going to be kissed off with a snippy attitude. In two games since Marshall had nine receptions for 119 yards and a touchdown in the season opener against the Colts, he has seven catches for 95 yards. And most of that -- three receptions for 58 yards -- came when the outcome was long decided against the Packers (a 23-10 loss) and Rams (a 23-6 victory).
So regardless of whether it's only three games into the season or ''it's only the first year of this offense,'' -- as Cutler has reminded us two weeks in a row now -- the issue is a real one. Because you don't need a big sample to see a potentially systemic problem -- ever since the Cutler-Marshall connection put something on tape, opponents have figured it out, with virtually no response from the Bears. In fact, opponents have successfully taken Marshall out of the Bears' offense without getting burned by somebody else.