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BOURBONNAIS, Ill.--Had a nice chat with Erik Kramer last week and we talked about the Bears' offense and Jay Cutler and the explosive offense he headed up back in 1995 in offensive coordinator Ron Turner's first stint with the organization.

Here is the entire conversation:

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON JAY CUTLER JOINING THE BEARS?

I went ahead and when Jay got traded to the Bears I went ahead and got film of every game he played last year. I've been watching it and as far as just his quarterbacking ability, the Bears have never had anybody close to him. That's as far as the things he can do on the field, the throws he can make, the way he moves around, he is a phenomenal athlete. He's a phenomenal athlete that is a great quarterback. There are not too many guys that move around the line of scrimmage at quarterback that are as good as he is as a quarterback. He's a true passer who happens to be an exceptional athlete.

ARE YOU STUDYING CUTLER JUST BECAUSE YOU'RE DOING THE PRESEASON BROADCASTS FOR FOX-32, OR IS IT FOR YOUR QUARTERBACK TRAINING?

Both. I train guys getting ready to come out of high school and train guys coming out of college, so I try to look at everything. In terms of the whole package, what you see on the field, to me he is as good as it gets. The one thing I would say is that his decision making sometimes could be a little bit better. Maybe that is something that comes through with age and experience. Part of it, I believe, is it's part of Jay's makeup. Guys that are that talented, I can only imagine what would be going through their head because I have never been that way. A guy like me had to rely on precise reads and placing the ball where it needed to be placed. A guy like Jay can get away with some throws where that is not necessarily the case. He can be a little late on some throws and still make them work. I would love to see Jay be a little more detailed in the way he reads things and be a little more disciplined in the way he moves from one receiver to the next. That's in looking at him on film, but I've got to tell you first that he is by far, he's in a present elite category. I can't think of a lot of guys out there who can do what he does. Now, I think the thing so far, when you look at Tom Brady and Peyton Manning and the guys that are in that group that have won Super Bowls, looking at them as quarterbacks, they're players that have supreme command of what they're doing out there. With Jay, it still remains to be seen but the Bears are working with an incredible piece of clay.

How many wins is Jay Cutler worth?

With expectations for this Bears' season at an all-time high for late July, at least in the last decade, that is a question that is central to a lot of what is being discussed. Bears fans are banking on 10 or more. Now that the offseason is winding to a close (Buffalo opened its training camp Saturday), we can get down to business on the field.

In the New York Times' Fifth Down Blog, Brian Burke tackled just that issue this morning. Seems like the New York Times likes covering Cutler and the Bears these days, probably a good indication of the national focus that is going to be on the team this season. Burke is a guest blogger there who has his own site, Advanced NFL Stats. Burke looks at how much better the Bears should be with Cutler as the trigger man compared to Kyle Orton. To do so, he focused on a statistic called Adjusted Yards Per Attempt. Basically, it's yards per attempt with a penalty for interceptions.

"YPA is a great stat in a lot of ways. It beats total passing yards because teams far behind in the second half can easily generate lots of total yardage in "trash time." But interceptions are a critical part of the equation, so I like Adjusted Yards Per Attempt (AdjYPA), which is YPA adjusted by a 45-yard penalty for each interception. A 45-yard adjustment is the accepted statistical equivalent for an interception. AdjYPA certainly doesn't factor in everything, but it encapsulates most of passing performance into one handy number."

Cutler's YPA was 7.3 last season, 10th in the league and a full yard better than the league average. Orton checked in at 6.39. To put Orton's number in perspective, Rex Grossman was at 6.65 during 2006 and prior to that the Bears had a string of quarterbacks averaging under 6.0. The last Bears' quarterback to average more than 7.0? Erik Kramer in 1998. Too bad he couldn't play the entire season.

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The game of baseball lends itself to endless statistical analysis. You could just talk numbers from now until Tuesday's all-star game about the struggles of the Cubs without even mentioning the sideshows that have dominated the season to this point on the North Side. There is a statistical explanation or trend for everything.

Football isn't broken down in quite the same way, or at least it has not been in the mainstream. But the good folks at Football Outsiders are doing all they can to introduce some new tools for examining the game. Just this past week they released the Football Outsiders Almanac in PDF format. The actual book should be available in a few weeks on Amazon.com. This is the same publication that previously was Pro Football Prospectus.

If you put stock in their work you can call your travel agent. Football Outsiders projects the Bears to win the NFC this season. That's right, they have the Bears returning to Miami three years after losing Super Bowl XLI there.

"We have them with the highest projected record of any team in the NFC,'' managing editor Bill Barnwell said. "Thanks to improvements along the offensive line and a defense that we expect to be much healthier."

The addition of Jay Cutler has a little bit to do with their forecast as well. We've done a little light reading through the 517-page book and it's loaded with some very interesting analysis, some of which we will touch on right here and more of which we'll get into later this week and as we get closer to training camp. The PDF version of the book is available on their Web site here if you want to check it out yourself.

The statistic at the center of almost everything Football Outsiders does is DVOA--Defense Adjusted Value Over Average. It's not quite as simple as yards per carry or even the often misleading passer rating. What DVOA does is put yardage gained into better perspective. An eight-yard pass on third-and-10 isn't very helpful. It's going to lead to a punt. But a one-yard run on third-and-one is effective, right? A one-yard one on third-and-one vs. the Williams Wall or the Pittsburgh Steelers is more impressive, too, than say an identical outcome vs. Detroit. DVOA evaluates every single play during the NFL season and strips out plays such as Hail Mary passes, kneel downs, spikes, and every play is studied after adjusting for down, distance, situation on the field and the quality of the opponent. So every third-and-one play across the entire league is analyzed. Every third-and-12 is studied. Every snap for all 32 teams goes under the microscope. The DVOA is the percentage vs. the league average. So a 10 percent DVOA is pretty good. A running back with a 10 percent DVOA is doing 10 percent better than the league average. On defense, a negative DVOA means a team is allowing fewer yards than the league average.

So where do the Bears stack up? Well, it's been since 1995 that they had a positive DVOA on offense. Erik Kramer's big season when he passed for 3,838 yards and 29 touchdowns hasn't been replicated since. In fact, no Bears' passer has come close. According to Football Outsiders, the Bears had a 17.7 percent DVOA that year as an offense, which is tremendous production. Last year, they were minus-4.3 percent, similar to the minus-4.2 percent they registered during the Super Bowl season of 2006. The worst during their 14-year stretch in which they had just the one positive season (1995) came during the Terry Shea Experiment of 2004 when the Bears were at minus-36.5 percent, worst in the league.

Defensively, the Bears fared much better last season than their total defense ranking of 21st, which measures just yards allowed. When Lovie Smith says there is more to defense than yards allowed, perhaps he has his DVOA in mind. The Bears' DVOA on defense in 2008 was minus-6.8 percent, which ranked seventh. That was one spot better than where they were in 2007. Football Outsiders' system had the Bears as the second-ranked defense in the league in 2006 at minus-19.7 percent and tops in 2005 when they were minus-21.5 percent. The lowest they have finished under Smith was ninth in 2004. We'll get into a few reasons why the DVOA was solid last season a little later on.

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