Bears receiver Brandon Marshall gets it and he doesn't. While he understands why media and analysts have piled on quarterback Jay Cutler for just about everything, he continues to disagree with what they're saying.
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Another week, another former quarterback turned television analyst offering their take on Bears quarterback Jay Cutler. But unlike Terry Bradshaw, Phil Simms had positive things to say about him.
From the play of right tackle Gabe Carimi to footwork in the pocket to parental lessons, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, as always, addressed a number of subjects Monday during his weekly radio show, which is part of "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on WMVP-AM.
A day after the Bears' 41-3 shellacking of the Jacksonville Jaguars and with "Monday Night Football" just hours away, subjects also included the New York Jets' quarterback controversy. The Jets host the Houston Texans, arguably the most complete team in the NFL, on Monday night.
In Mike Martz's eyes, Jay Cutler can apparently walk on water.
To hear the new Bears offensive coordinator tell it, Cutler is well on his way to mastering the new offense, which challenges the quarterback to throw to spots more.
"What we do really fits him," Martz said. "He has that Kurt Warner awareness, if you will. He has such a keen sense of where everybody is at. He can see everything and can diagnose it without even thinking about it.
"We keep trying to challenge him with a lot of new things," Martz said. "Try to keep pressing the envelope. Then when we get back into the season, we'll come back and zero in each week."
Martz said they keep throwing new concepts at Cutler, and he's "handled everything remarkably well."
And even if something goes wrong? Well, Cutler can bail them out.
"He has always tried to do it just the way we've asked him to do it. Then, when things do break down, the really great ones have a sense of just finding a guy, and he can do that," Martz said. "He's been pretty remarkable so far. He's everything I had hoped he would be.
Is Cutler struggling with anything?
"Not really. His retention and everything is better than I thought it would be. There's just nothing I would say that we have to go back and fix. His footwork took a little bit longer, but he's got that down."
Think Martz likes his quarterback?
Other highlights from Martz:
* On where they are with installation of the offense: "I think we're not behind. I think we've progressed as well as we hope we would. We're not any further than that, and we're not behind, so I think that's very good."
* On the tight ends: "The tight ends have been very, very outstanding in camp. They've been pretty remarkable as a group.''
On Devin Hester: "I think Devin is ahead of the curve. He's had a remarkable camp, by the way. He came back after spring, there were times he struggled a bit in the spring trying to figure things out, but he's been mistake free so far. He's been outstanding in his route technique. So he's better right now than I would expect him to."
* On if he has concerns about the offensive line: "The thing biggest thing is settling on our starting five, and we'll do that fairly soon. We're trying to give as many guys inside an opportunity, to see what they have. We love our two tackles. I don't worry about the offensive line at all. I think we have the best guy coaching (Mike Tice). I really do.
"I can't tell you what a comfortable feeling it is for me. You just know things are going to get done right, and you know the approach, so I'm not worried about it at all.
I know that we're still looking at people, trying to give everybody as much chance as possible to define who they are, with an opportunity to help us.
Within the next two weeks, you'll see things sort out.
"Remember this: when a new offensive line comes together like this, in a new system, they are always behind everybody. They're jus so much information for them. Seven on seven guys can go out against air, in shorts, and get timing and learn and be good.
On the offensive line, you've got to put a helmet and pads on, to get timing against live people to really progress. That's why they'll be just a little bit behind. But that's normal."
* On whether he has enough weapons: "Oh heavens yes. I'm very pleased with our personnel. You look at the tight ends and the backs, and the offensive line will come together."
On if the Chicago weather would affect the offense: "No, not really. Remember, if it's not sure-footed for the receivers, it's the same footing for the DBs, and the quarterbacks. The only thing you have to pay attention to in the NFL, not so much the condition of the field, or cold or hot, or rain, it's wind. Wind has more of a factor than anything else."
On how Hester and Johnny Knox have looked: "They look like we want them to be, at this point. The pressman is always going to be issue in this system, with the releases. Darryl has done a great job with our group, getting off the ball against the press.
The thing that happened to me that I was impressed with. This is the first time it's happened to me, when you put something new in. We picked up with the receivers where we left off in the spring. We didn't have go back and redo something. They just came in and they were going pretty good, technically. I'm talking about the depth of things, precision of routes and adjustments. We just kept going. I'm very impressed with that group."
Jay Cutler said he has spoken with Brian Urlacher since the linebacker shared his thoughts on lots of things related to the Bears with Mike Silver of Yahoo! Sports, but was clear that Urlacher didn't owe him an apology for anything.
Urlacher was critical of the Bears' identity as a football team, and specifically an offense.
"Look, I love Jay, and I understand he's a great player who can take us a long way, and I still have faith in him," Urlacher told Silver. "But I hate the way our identity has changed. We used to establish the run and wear teams down and try not to make mistakes, and we'd rely on our defense to keep us in the game and make big plays to put us in position to win. Kyle Orton might not be the flashiest quarterback, but the guy is a winner, and that formula worked for us. I hate to say it, but that's the truth."
Said Cutler: "He doesn't have to apologize to me. I talked to him. I understand what he's talking about. It's frustrating. It's frustrating for everybody in that locker room. So I know where he's coming from."
"I still feel like we're in the mix. If we can correct a lot of things, a lot of the small things, really they're not small. They're turning into big things that we have to take care of.''
Those were the words of Bears coach Lovie Smith Sunday night after the Bears fell to the Philadelphia Eagles 24-20 at Soldier Field, their fifth loss in the last six games and one that all but ends their postseason hopes. No, the Bears are not mathematically eliminated from anything, but there's no way anyone at Halas Hall can say with any level of confidence that this team can go on a run to finish out the season. Nope. Not the way things are going.
Using Smith's glass half-full approach that the Bears are "in the mix," let's set off to identify the small things that really aren't small any longer as we react to the loss.
1. Jay Cutler has gone from throwing passes to the other team to flat overthrowing his receivers. It was good to see him launch one pass out of the end zone when the play was covered up in the red zone (then again, earlier he tried hitting tight end Greg Olsen who was blanketed by your basic triple coverage) but Cutler missed long all game. He overshot Olsen, Devin Hester and Johnny Knox on throws that would have been sure touchdowns. The Knox pass was most deflating. It came with just less than four minutes remaining in the game, and would have been a go-ahead score. Offensive coordinator Ron Turner made the right call, Knox blew past cornerback Sheldon Brown and there was nothing but clear field ahead of him. Turner said they are throws Cutler has been hitting in practice. He throws a good deep ball. It's what we saw all during training camp. Have things become so bad that the Bears can't hit the open man deep?
2. What did we learn on Kahlil Bell's 72-yard run? Well, for starters it's apparent that Knox is a whole heck of a lot faster. The wide receiver showed great speed in getting downfield to throw a block that created extra yardage. The Bears have another running back who isn't a home run threat, but it was nice to see someone bust one long. What Bell's long run is going to do, though, is send fantasy players running to make a waiver claim and increase the questions for Matt Forte, who had another ho-hum effort, 34 yards on 14 rushes. Here are Forte's last six games:
NBC-5 WMAQ caught up with announcer Bob Costas today to speak with him about being turned down by the Bears for a story Sunday night on "Football Night in America.'' The team was asked to supply quarterback Jay Cutler, coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jerry Angelo and was denied.
Costas and NBC will continue with plans to do a story on the quarterback and his struggles of late for the Bears leading into the network's broadcast of the game with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Here is a transcript of the interview supplied by NBC-5. We thank them for the heads up.
Q: Did you see the Sun-Times article today and what were your thoughts on it?
Bob Costas: Well, I'd rather that I and NBC not be the center of the story and I don't think that we are. And I don't think this is particularly a big deal. If let's say Jay Cutler had been removed as the starting quarterback and Lovie Smith had refused to talk about a specific move or something comes up with the commissioner of the league won't address a certain issue, then I think you have reason for complaint. In this particular case, I certainly don't take it personally. It's obvious that they have decided that there is nothing that they can add to it. What else can they say? The team has been playing poorly. Cutler had an especially bad game last time out. There isn't that much more that can be said about that, so they've decided that anything that they say just adds to the noise and they'll just out there and play on Sunday and let that be their answer. So, I understand. I don't have any particular problem with it.
Q: Did it bother you that the Sun-Times seemed to put you out in front of the story?
BC: I certainly don't take it personally. I think the answer would've been the same if it was Monday Night Football or if the request had been made by CBS or by FOX or whomever made the request. It's just the particular point in the Bears' season. I don't know Jay Cutler that well, but I've talked with him before and interviewed him a couple of times, seems like a nice young guy. I don't have any problem with him whatsoever and I'm sure at a different juncture either this season or next season, we'll sit down and talk again when the circumstances are different.
Q: Does it make you uncomfortable to be part of the story? I know broadcasters like to describe the story, not actually be a part of it.
BC: Yeah, you'd prefer not to be, but occasionally it happens because you can't control how other people decide to view it, but I don't think it's a terribly big deal.
Donovan McNabb entered this season with the lowest interception ratio in the history of the NFL, so it's tough for him to relate to what Jay Cutler called the toughest patch he's had to go through in his entire career.
"Uhh, no, not to the extent,'' McNabb said when asked if he'd ever had a Cutler-like streak of picks. "But I mean I've had games where you just don't play as well as you expected or what you prepared to. Every quarterback goes through it. The thing about it is that you just have to have confidence that you're going to pull yourself up, that things are going to turn for the better, but I think with the group of guys that he has around him, everybody is trying to elevate their game to take a little bit of pressure off him and give him an opportunity to get things going.''
McNabb has been his accurate self again this season. He's thrown four interceptions in 219 attempts as compared to Cutler's league-high 17 in 338 attempts. In the last three seasons, McNabb has 22 picks in 1,262 attempts.
"There's a lot of different things that go into it,'' McNabb said. "As far as Jay's play, he's an aggressive guy, he always has the confidence that he can get the ball into tight situations and giving guys opportunities to make plays. Sometimes that's costly for you, sometimes that's great for you. A lot of it could be decision making, some could be just poor judgment, and the list goes on, but I think overall you want your quarterback to be aggressive and play aggressive, to have the confidence that they can make every throw.''
McNabb said that quarterbacks have to be more cautious when they get to the red zone, knowing that a field goal will be a chip shot. But there is a fine line with remaining aggressive and needing to make a play to get in the end zone.
They're weighing in from all corners now on Jay Cutler, and we'll hear ourselves from the Bears quarterback coming up at noon when he holds his weekly press conference at Halas Hall.
Phil Simms visited with Mully & Hanley this morning on the Score and weighed in on the quarterback and his problems as he leads the NFL with 17 interceptions through nine games, one short of the number he threw all last season in Denver when some people chalked up the statistic to playing for a team with a woeful defense.
"I've had this discussion with you guys and I had it with Bill Parcells over the years, and once I got done playing we'd talk about it,'' Simms said. "He would go up to me [and say], `Why do you think so and so threw that pass? And I said because he thought he could get in in there. And he laughs and says. Probably the biggest problem for Jay Cutler is there's no window that's too small. He believes he can fit it into the tight spots and it's gotten him in big trouble this year.''
Ex-Bears safety Gary Fencik, the franchise's all-time leader in interceptions with 38, said that the issue is the undersized wide receivers that he's working with.
"He has a bunch of smurfs at wide receiver and if you look at Brandon Marshall or Larry Fitzgerald or Randy Moss or even Calvin Johnson with the Lions, you know they're 6-3, 6-5, 220 [pounds] to 230, those are big targets.''
Early returns on Pro Bowl fan balloting don't support the Bears.
Not surprisingly, there are Minnesota Vikings leading or among the leaders at many positions.
When you win, your fans show up at the polls (with multiple ballots). But the Bears' skid of late has kept their supporters away from the polls, so far.
In the first numbers released by the league, the Bears have three players among the leading vote getters at their position:
Center Olin Kreutz, 5th
Returner Devin Hester, 3rd
Outside linebacker Lance Briggs, 5th
The bus is either in the junk yard to be sold for parts, or it's on the side of the Interstate somewhere, stripped down by a band of thieves.
The bus I am writing about is the one that Lovie Smith used to announce the Bears got off of running.
Thankfully, we haven't heard that refrain of late because, you know what, it's not accurate anymore. The Bears don't get off the bus running. They get off the bus throwing the ball. The Bears rank 30th in the league rushing with only Arizona (which has a promising rookie in Beanie Wells) and San Diego (which has a future Hall of Famer in LaDainian Tomlinson) below them. The difference is those teams have passing attacks that are winning for them.
But Smith, for some reason, still insists the Bears are a running team. Matt Forte has shown flashes at times this season, but the combination of Forte and the offensive line simply have not gotten the job done. Smith was asked about Jay Cutler's career-high five interceptions on Thursday at San Francisco and whether or not the lack of a running game contributed to the flurry of turnovers. Hey, you could say they get off the bus throwing interceptions, often in the red zone.
"Jay's our quarterback,'' Smith responded. "A lot goes into when you turn the ball over with an interception. Of course the quarterback will get blamed for it all. All of those weren't his fault. The running game will help that a lot. We need to get our running game going. We've said that all along. When you're a running team, the run will set up the pass. That hasn't happened for us yet but we'll stay committed to it. We'll try to run this week. Hopefully, some of that can change.''
Maybe that is one of the fundamental problems for the Bears this season. They don't have an identity. Has Smith miscast them as a running team? Are his expectations something that is unrealistic? Should the Bears look at themselves as a passing team and work to find ways to improve in that area? Just look at the numbers. The Bears have run the ball 201 times. They've passed it 340 times, putting them on pace for 604 attempts. That would be the second-most in franchise history behind only the razzle dazzle Gary Crowton brought to the offense in 1999.
Spent some time before kickoffs to the games on Sunday taking a look at the Bears' situation with those pesky yellow flags the officials seem to be throwing on a more frequent basis.
The Bears tied their season high with 10 penalties in Thursday's loss at San Francisco, and they have had nine or more penalties in four of the nine games. Entering Sunday's games, only one team had more penalties (61) and one team had more yards penalized (509) than the Bears, but obviously that changed with the action. We'll get a clear look at where they rank in the league after the fantastically unappealing Monday night tilt this evening between Baltimore and Cleveland. The Browns could use a break from prime time.
So here's what I found ... with 61 penalties for 509 yards, the Bears are pretty much on pace for what their average is under Lovie Smith. The team had a low in the Smith era of 78 penalties for only 610 yards last season. The average in five seasons under Smith is 106 penalties for 836 yards. At the current pace, the 2009 Bears will finish with 108 penalties for 905 yards.
Let's look at the annual numbers:
* 124 penalties set a franchise high
I have a comprehensive breakdown of every type of penalty and who committed what infraction below. But first, it's time to acknowledge some terrific work done by Greg Bedard at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Yes, the Green Bay Packers have been having their own penalty problems and entered Sunday's game vs. Dallas with 62 penalties, one more than the Bears with one less game played. He cited some work by the fine folks at Football Outsiders that proved that there is very little to link a team's record and the accumulation of defensive and special-teams penalties.
"In their 2007 Pro Football Prospectus, Aaron Schatz and Bill Barnwell from footballoutsiders.com studied penalties from 2002-'06. They found there was "almost zero" correlation between record and defensive or special-team penalties. There was, however, a much stronger correlation with offensive penalties."
Unfortunately, 30 of the Bears' 61 penalties count against the offense, a result of 15 false starts. Right tackle Chris Williams is credited with a team-high five penalties, four of them false starts although there was one false start assigned to the team and replays showed it was likely he was the guilty party. Quarterback Jay Cutler has committed four penalties himself. The Bears have been called for six personal fouls--five unnecessary roughness call and one unsportsmanlike conduct--and they have also been hit with three facemask infractions.
Certainly one of the things that jumped out also was that the Bears have nine offside penalties vs. the defense. That's the same type of a infraction as a false start for the offense and when a team has 24 of those combined, well, that's an issue. Smith has downplayed penalties to this point, and said they're uncharacteristic. If uncharacteristic means he understands they're on pace for pretty much what they average under him, he's correct.
Here is a breakdown of all the penalties: