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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.

KC Joyner received such a spirited response from Bears and Jay Cutler followers last week in his online chat at that he's back with more analysis, this time on the New York Times' blog The FIfth Down.

Joyner's comment that Cutler "will make Bears fans remember Rex Grossman'' has sparked controversy here and in plenty of other places, including Joyner says that Cutler is a risk taker who will win some games for the Bears with his aggressive approach and lose some for them as well. Cue the fireworks.

"I understand that fan scrutiny comes with the territory, so I don't mind that, but what I don't understand is why those fans are treating Cutler differently than they did either Grossman or Kyle Orton. Grossman was on fire during the first part of Chicago's Super Bowl season, and yet as soon as he had the bad game against Miami, it seemed the entire city turned on him. It didn't go that much differently for Orton. He had a tremendous start to the 2008 season, but when he struggled down the stretch, the populace seemed to say goodbye and good riddance without much of a second thought."

Joyner points out that while Cutler passed for more than 4,500 yards in Denver last season, he was second in the league with 616 attempts and his yards per attempt on vertical throws was 9.8 yards, 20th in the league. The stat that has readers here most agitated is the bad decision rate of 4.6 percent with Joyner defining a bad decision as one that leads to a turnover or a near turnover. Presumably (we're interested in learning more about this), it doesn't include a ball that goes off a wide receiver's shoulder pads and bounces 10 feet to the nearest defender before being intercepted. The bottom line is we don't have those numbers in front of us other than the 4.6 percent rate for Cutler was worst in the league.

One of the common replies, at least here, to all of this has been that Cutler played with one of the worst defenses imaginable on an 8-8 Broncos team and had to keep chucking the ball to try to keep his team in games. (Every quarterback is going to make more mistakes when they are playing from behind). Denver's defense was 29th in yards allowed and 30th in points allowed. The good folks at Football Outsiders ranked the defense 31st in the league, so we can agree it was sufficiently lousy.


Our daily countdown to training camp is being thrown off schedule just a little bit by some more company-imposed breaks, and Saturday is one of those days. So we'll post another countdown to training camp right now and get back to it on Sunday when we're welcome in the office again.

Once again, Jay Cutler dominated the conversation in an online chat hosted by KC Joyner. Talking football for an hour on on Thursday, Joyner got hit from many angles on Cutler. As you might imagine, he stuck to his theory that Cutler will win some games for the Bears but he will also lose some because of his risk taking. If you want to take a look at the entire chat, it's right here. Joyner watches as much tape as anybody doing statistical analysis out there.

"I've said it many times and I'll say it again, Cutler will make Bears fans remember Rex Grossman,'' Joyner said. "He'll make just as many crazy passes but won't suffer the Grossman fate because Chicago's fan base is so in love with him that they will forgive the nutty throws he makes in ways that they never forgave Grossman."

Think it could be so? Grossman came under fire during 2006 even when the Bears were winning. Could the same thing happen to Cutler? Our bet would be that he will have an extended honeymoon.

So, one chat follower responded, "That's the craziest assumption I've ever heard in my life. If Cutler is as bad as Grossman, you'll get promoted and Jay will be run out of town with JA [Jerry Angelo], Lovie [Smith] and company.''

Responded Joyner: "It's funny. Whenever I say Cutler will remind Bears fans of Grossman, they get all up in arms. All Grossman did was take Chicago to their first Super Bowl in years and the Bears fans couldn't run him out of the starting spot quick enough. They'll win with Cutler but man will they grit their teeth when he blows a game or two with his over the top risk taking.

"You know what really bothers me about Cutler? The idea that fans can't comment on him in a non-emotional manner. Every Bears fan thinks he is the next coming of Jim McMahon. When I point out that he has performance issues and that Grossman had those same issues, they just go overboard instead of saying, `Hey, that's a good point, can he improve in that area?'

"I'm basing my Cutler comments on three seasons of Denver tape breakdowns. He's a huge risk-taker and that equates to about 1 in 20 of his passes being an [interception] or near [interception] because of a mistake on his part. He'll win games in the Windy City and when he does, I'll hear it from Bears fans. I just want to hear from those same fans when his risk-taking costs the team a big game and I'll all but guarantee that will happen.''

If that wasn't enough Bears chatter for a one-hour session, Joyner was also asked about running back Matt Forte.

"Forte will be this generation's Brian Westbrook,'' Joyner said. "He'll have a great year no matter who is behind center for Chicago."

That stopped us for a minute and got us thinking. Typically, Forte has been compared to other tall running backs, Eddie George is the first that comes to mind. Running backs Tim Spencer, who coached George at Ohio State, has even drawn the parallels. We've heard people use Marcus Allen and Eric Dickerson as comparables also but think linking a second-year back to Hall of Famers is a little premature, maybe a lot premature. But Westbrook has been a dominant force in Philadelphia for some time. He's been an integral part of the Eagles' offense since coming into the league in 2002, and he topped 2,000 combined rushing and receiving yards in 2007.


Rex Grossman is on the verge of signing a contract and it isn't to play in the United Football League.

Agent Drew Rosenhaus announced on his Twitter account that Grossman will visit the Houston Texans tonight. Provided he passes a physical--there's no reason to believe he will not--Grossman is expected to sign a one-year contract on Friday.

It's been a long process for the Bears' former first-round draft pick. He watched as less experienced quarterbacks were scooped up on the free-agent market, including Dan Orlovsky, who went from Detroit to Houston earlier this offseason. Grossman and Orlovsky will be behind starter Matt Schaub along with Alex Brink.


Most are in agreement expectation levels for Jay Cutler in his first season as Bears quarterback are at third-and-long or fourth-and-forever by now. It is going to be challenging for him to meet them, in his first season anyway.

"Anytime a team wants to make a trade like that and give up what they gave up, it's going to be a lot of pressure, a lot of high expectations,'' Cutler said last week after an OTA. "I welcome it. It's going to be fun. It's going to be a good challenge.''

The Bears don't need Cutler to replace John Elway. They need him to be Elway. They've never had that quarterback in franchise history and much is being expected of him even though little has been done with the exception of some new and moving parts on the offensive line. Now that the Bears have their quarterback, they can go out and build around him.

One analyst who is tempering enthusiasm is KC Joyner, who publishes The Football Scientist. No one tackles more game tape than Joyner and he's not convinced Cutler is going to do more than make the Bears' receivers better alternatives in fantasy football.

"Regarding Cutler, I've said many times and I'll say it again, he'll make Bears fans remember Rex Grossman quite fondly,'' Joyner said Thursday in an online chat on

He bases this opinion on what he calls the "bad decision rate" Cutler has in comparison to other quarterbacks. Joyner finds that Cutler is even more of a risk taker than Grossman was. One gunslinger has been replaced by another, a guy who just happens to be carrying a bigger gun.

"His bad decision rate is 5 percent,'' Joyner said. "That means one out of every 20 passes he throws is either an interception or a near interception because of a mistake he made. A high YPA [yards per attempt] can offset a high bad decision rate but the upper limit for offsetting tends to be around somewhere between 3 and 4 percent. Cutler has got to stop making so many mistakes, period.''

Cutler threw 18 interceptions last season in Denver. Only Brett Favre, after a disastrous stretch at season's end, had more with 22. His yards per attempt average was 7.3, which ranked 10th. The thinking is that now without Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal to throw to, Cutler could wind up pressing.


A tip of the cap to the Sun-Times' Kevin Allen, who reached agent Drew Rosenhaus by text message. Rosenhaus denies swirling reports that the next stop for former Bears' first-round draft pick Rex Grossman is the United Football League.

"Rex will be playing in the NFL this season," Rosenhaus said in a text message today. "We have not considered any other leagues. He will be on a NFL roster by the start of training camps."

The UFL has private workouts upcoming for players as it prepares for its inaugural season. Grossman has yet to land with a team and switched to Rosenhaus more than a month ago. Initially, the agent said he expected to land Grossman before the draft. He's been shopping Grossman for the veteran minimum since the get go according to multiple league sources.


Let's get right to it.

Q: I am glad to learn that the Bears are considering Corey Graham to be the free safety this coming season because I have long felt Charles Tillman or Graham would be the best option on the roster. Why has it taken the team so long to reach this possible conclusion? Sometimes these things seem so obvious.

Phil S., Concord, N.H.

A: This isn't a revelation the coaching staff just arrived at, the possibility that Graham could fill a role at free safety. Steve Wilks, the defensive backs coach, said during training camp summer that the idea of trying Graham at safety and nickel back had been kicked around in meetings. Graham was actually introduced to safety during December 2007 when injuries were once again making a mess of the safety position. Well, injuries and the ill-conceived effort to revive Adam Archuleta's career. The Bears were short on bodies at the position at the end of the season. But how was the team going to get Graham up and running at safety last season? Remember, Tillman missed the bulk of training camp to be with his family as his daughter went through serious health issues. The Bears had to operate with what they had and that meant using Graham at left cornerback. He showed real strides from his rookie season. It was Trumaine McBride, who was drafted two rounds after Graham in 2007, who started as a rookie that season. But Graham moved ahead of him on the depth chart in training camp and made the kind of strides necessary for him to replace Nathan Vasher when injuries struck early in the season. We've given an awful lot of attention to the safety position--and for good reason--but issues at cornerback can be far more troubling. That's why the move of Graham to free safety will not be a possibility unless the team feels comfortable in Vasher or rookie D.J. Moore manning the job at right cornerback. There is going to be plenty of time to sort this out. OTA's begin two weeks from today on May 20, and this could easily carry into training camp and preseason but the hope would be the coaching staff would have an idea what the starting lineup will look like by then. It just seemed awkward going into the third preseason last summer when Brandon McGowan was benched and they started shifting parts around in the secondary.

Round and round.

The Bears quarterback carousel started spinning before Jerry Angelo came on the scene prior to the 2001 season.

But until Thursday's blockbuster trade for Pro Bowl quarterback Jay Cutler, Angelo was destined to have the following words written on hios tombstone one day: Could never find a quarterback. Now, that space has been cleared. Perhaps one day it will read: Finally found Bears a QB.

When Cutler starts the season opener Sept. 13 at Lambeau Field, it will mark the 36th change in starting quarterbacks for the Bears over a span of 156 regular-season games. If you don't have your calculator handy, that's one change every 4.3 games.

The collection of displaced football professionals continues to grow.

Torry Holt wants to join the group. Soon.

The veteran St. Louis Rams wide receiver reportedly has asked to be released. The Rams owe Holt a $1.25 million roster bonus on March 17 and are believed to be looking to cut their salary cap and get younger by moving on. The problem is with Holt's contract they have not had any success finding a taker. Why trade for a guy when he's going to reach the open market where you can write your own contract?

That brings us to the possibility Holt would be a fit for the Bears. Before we go forward, we're going to estimate the chances of this marriage happening are slim. Real slim. But we'll make our case later. Holt, who turns 33 in June, led the Rams in receiving last season even as they worked to phase him out and promote exciting rookie Donnie Avery. Holt finished with 796 yards on 64 catches with three touchdowns. It snapped a streak of eight consecutive 1,000-yard seasons for him. To put that in perspective for a second, the Bears have had 10 1,000-yard receivers in their entire history.


In a quiet free agency period for the Bears, longtime NFL coach and front office man Pat Kirwan raised the volume around Halas Hall with his comments Tuesday on Sirius NFL radio.

The sounds you heard were fans screaming in protest.

Kirwan and co-host Tim Ryan had a caller on the line who wanted to discuss the Bears. The caller said he was mostly supportive of general manager Jerry Angelo but was frustrated by the lack of moves this offseason, specifically pointing to wide receiver and safety as issues that were not being addressed. Kirwan, who has known Angelo for more than two decades, came to the defense of Angelo quickly. What it turned into, however, was something completely different. Instead of trying to interpret this for you, and paraphrase what was said or try to tell you what was meant, we're just going to lay out the transcript from the ``Movin' The Chains'' show in Sirius:

"Jerry came to Chicago as a proven entity, all right,'' Kirwan said. "He ran the drafts in Tampa, all the drafts that had all those great players. So he came with credentials. The next thing is he brings the team to a Super Bowl. That's on his resume now in Chicago, with Rex Grossman under center that team got to a Super Bowl. The other thing is, if you're a real Bear fan, you know that this is not exactly the most generous spending team in the history of football. So he's got restrictions and restraints and he's not going to [say], `Hey, I'm trying to sign this guy but my owners won't let me,' You think he's going to say that? No.

Kevin Jones listed the Buffalo Bills as one of the teams interested in him on Saturday and that interest has materialized into a visit. reports that Jones will visit the team at its Orchard Park, N.Y., headquarters on Wednesday.

The Bears have made a contract offer to Jones with hopes of bringing him back to share the workload with Matt Forte and Garrett Wolfe. The Bills could potentially offer a situation with more play time. Marshawn Lynch finds himself in legal trouble for the second consecutive offseason and Fred Jackson is the only other back in place. Buffalo had tried to lure Fred Taylor before he signed in New England.


John St. Clair isn't the only Bears player to reach the open market that the team wants back.

Add running back Kevin Jones to that list. The Bears have made him a contract offer but there is considerable interest in him right now. Jones told the Sun-Times that most of the teams in need of a back, including Buffalo, Cincinnati, Cleveland, the New York Jets and Tampa Bay have expressed interest in him. It's not known if he has fielded any other contract offers.

Jones said last season that he would like to return to the Bears even though he was used sparingly, getting just 34 carries and being a healthy inactive for a stretch of four games late in the year. He petitioned coach Lovie Smith for a chance to participate on special teams and then got back into the mix.

"I've have been telling you all along, and you may have thought, `This kid is crazy,' during last year, I want to come back to the Bears,'' Jones said. ``I like the staff, I like all the teammates. If you want an example of what an NFL team should be like, the coaching staff, everything, that's it. I'd love to be back but sometimes business gets in the way."

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