Archive for Jay Cutler

Jay Cutler Has His Career Defining Moment — Standing On The Sidelines

Posted in NFL Football, Sports with tags , , , , , , on January 24, 2011 by thelasthonestman

We’re a little more than twenty-four hours after the Green Bay Packers punched their ticket to the Super Bowl by eliminating the Chicago Bears 21-14 at Soldier Field on Sunday (a result I expected, but sadly, wished I had been wrong about).  But the story coming out of the Windy City as the game came to an end wasn’t the tremendous playoff run by the Packers to reach the title game, it wasn’t about the emergence of Aaron Rodgers, and it wasn’t about the ending of a surprising season from the upstart Bears.  Rather, it was about Jay Cutler — not about what he was doing, but what he wasn’t doing.  Namely, playing.

With the Packers leading 14-0 as the third quarter got underway, it was Todd Collins under center for the Bears, as Cutler stood silently on the sidelines, the same blank expression on his face that those of us who’ve followed the Bears closely recognize.    Watching the game at home while trying to assemble a piece of furniture and talking on the phone with my friend Steven, I almost didn’t notice the switch at quarterback at first (it took him to point out that it was Colllins trotting onto the field to me).  I asked my friend if I’d missed Cutler getting hurt — neither of us could remember seeing a play that had suggested that the Bears quarterback had been injured.

With Cutler simply standing on the sidelines, helmet off, showing no obvious signs of pain or discomfort, my first comment was, “He must have gotten a concussion — that’s why he’s not in.”  That was, to me, the most likely explanation — especially when it became obvious that Cutler wasn’t going to be returning to the game.  I guessed that it was a hit to the head and a subsequent concussion diagnosis that, with the stricter rules now in the NFL, would be the only thing that would keep the Bears starting quarterback out of such a huge game — as I told my friend, “All of his limbs are attached and he’s still breathing — I can’t imagine why he wouldn’t be in otherwise.”

I was mistaken.  As it turns out, Cutler had suffered a MCL sprain of his knee — the actual severity of which has still not be officially reported.  Even before the game had ended, I imagine that every Bears fan was in some way questioning Cutler’s toughness or heart — and unbelievably (at least, with the culture of the NFL), Cutler’s peers — other players around the NFL — were questioning him as well.  Some of the most vocal critics were Maurice Jones-Drew, who tweeted “All I’m saying is that he can finish the game on a hurt knee … I played the whole season on one.” Arizona’s Darnell Dockett posted “If I’m on chicago team jay cutler has to wait till me and the team shower get dressed and leave before he comes in the locker room! #FACT.”  Even former coach Mike Ditka had weighed in, saying, “Myself, I would have had to have been paralyzed to come out of the game. I don’t want to say that word. I would have had to be completely knocked out to come out of that football game.”

Harsh words for Cutler — but are they justified?

We’ll never know for sure exactly what Cutler was capable of doing on Sunday and what he wasn’t — only Cutler knows that for certain.  His Bears teammates are sticking by him publicly — for now — most notably, linebacker Brian Urlacher.  His coaches and GM are doing the same — Lovie Smith placed the decision for Cutler not to return on his shoulders and not the quarterback’s, saying, “If you’re going to attack somebody, you should be attacking me. As a head football coach, and our medical staff, we’re the ones … he wanted to go back in.”

The support for Cutler from his teammates and coaches should be expected, and because of that, should be taken with a grain of salt.  It is true, however, that none of us who were watching the game at home were able to examine the knee and determine the extent of the injury, and it’s also not up to us to say whether or not he could have continued or not.

But that’s not going to stop you or I from speculating.  My own take was that I’ve seen other quarterbacks play through injuries that seemed to be far worse than what Cutler experienced on Sunday.  Phillip Rivers once played an entire AFC Championship game on a torn ACL, and I watched Brett Favre play much of the last two seasons  while being held together by duct tape.  Former Bears legend Jim McMahon, during their 1985 Super Bowl season, led the Bears to a comeback win against the Vikings after spending part of the week before the game in the hospital.  Matt Cassell played barely a week after having an appendectomy this season.  And so on.  I found myself asking afterward “Would Tom Brady have left a similar game in that situation?  Or Peyton Manning?  Or Ben Roethlisberger?  Or Joe Montana, John Elway, or a host of other great quarterbacks?”

And there now lies Jay Cutler’s dilemma in Chicago.  Gone is the goodwill he built up with his solid second half play.  Forgotten is the fact that he helped bring the Bears to the NFC Championship game to begin with.  As poorly as Cutler was playing before he was injured (6-14 with 0 TD’s and an interception), the Bears weren’t winning on Sunday even if he had stayed in — but the minute Todd Collins came on, the Bears were finished.  Before yesterday, Cutler’s career had been defined by his often poor attitude, a whiny disposition that led to forcing his way out of Denver, and tons of turnovers — now, that’s been replaced by the image of his standing sullenly on the sidelines while the Bears’ Super Bowl chances slipped away.  And unless he manages to lead the Bears the final step to play for a championship, that’s an image that — for most Bears fans — won’t fade anytime soon.

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2011 NFC And AFC Championship Game Picks — It’s All About The Quarterbacks

Posted in NFL Football, Sports with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 20, 2011 by thelasthonestman

We’re down to the last four standing in the NFL, as the wildly entertaining and exciting playoff season draws closer to its conclusion.  That also means it’s time for my penultimate picks of the football year; after going 3-1 (2-2 against the spread) last week and going 5-3 (4-4) overall, I’m looking to emulate my perfect end from last season to finish strong — but will i have to pick against my favorite team to do it?  There’s only one way to find out — let’s get on with the show!

Pittsburgh (-3.5) over N.Y. Jets

This man is one game away from leading the Jets to the Super Bowl

This game will be a rematch of their Week 15 match-up (also played at Heinz Field) that the Jets won 22-17.  The Jets were reeling at the time, having lost two games in a row and their playoff chances suddenly slipping into jeopardy.  But New York won the game with a great defensive effort and a solid, mistake-free performance by their second-year quarterback, Mark Sanchez.  Sound familiar?

It should — it’s the formula that’s gotten the Jets on the cusp of their first Super Bowl appearance since the days of Joe Willie Namath — and it’s a formula that head coach Rex Ryan’s team will have to follow again on Sunday if they want to beat the Steelers on the road.  If they able to do that, it will be the latest in a stunning series of playoff accomplishments for the Jets.  They’ve already vanquished two of the all-time greatest quarterbacks in Peyton Manning and Tom Brady — with their four Super Bowl rings between them — in hostile environments, and this Sunday they’ll face another Super Bowl winner, two-time champion Ben Roethlisberger.  It’s a feat reminiscent of the Saints march through the playoffs last season (when they beat Kurt Warner, Brett Favre, and Manning en route to their title).

Meanwhile, the Steelers continue to do what they do best — quietly win while the spotlight has shines brighter on other teams.  In the AFC this season, the focus has been more on the Patriots and the Jets all season, while Pittsburgh remained somehow under the radar — an astonishing feat for a team that now finds itself arguably the Super Bowl favorite.  It’s even more of a stunner considering how much the Steelers and their quarterback were in the news all off-season for all of the wrong reasons.

Thankfully for him and the Steelers, it's been a relatively quite season out of the headlines for Big Ben

But Roethislberger has stayed out of the spotlight since his return from suspension, and the Steelers have continue to follow their own winning plan for success.  Their defense was statistically better than the Jets’ much-hyped unit this season — in fact, it was the top-rated defense, and it was by far-and-away the stingiest defense when it came to shutting down the running game.  For comparison, the Jets were ranked 4th in the NFL in giving up 3.6 yards a carry.  The Steelers, however, gave up a paltry 3.0 yards a carry, a full half-a-yard better than any other team in the NFL.  And that’s where the Jets are going to be faced with their biggest problem on Sunday.

Sanchez doesn’t have to carry the Jets on his shoulders if the team can run the ball successfully and take pressure off of him.  But as talented as the Jets running back tandem on Shonn Green and LaDainian Tomlinson are, they’re going to have trouble moving the ball against the Steelers on the ground (they tallied 106 yards the first time around) — and if they can’t do that, then it’s going to be up to Sanchez to put points on the board.  That’s a challenge that the young signal-caller has answered so far in the playoffs — but can he do it again?

I think this week, at least, the answer will be no.  This match-up is similar to the Steelers game against the Ravens last week — two teams with great defenses and two teams that will have trouble running the ball against the other.  And as it was against the Ravens, the difference for Pittsburgh will be in the quarterbacks and their play.  Roethlisberger is better at this point in his career, and if one quarterback makes a crippling mistake to his team’s chances, I don’t think it’s going to be him.  Sanchez has made great strides this season, and he might win a Super Bowl with the Jets at some point.  It’s just not going to be this year.

Green Bay (-3.5) over Chicago

And now, the hard part.

I survived the Bob Avellini era -- though the scars still remain

I asked my friend Steven yesterday if, as a die-hard Bears fan for thirty-five years of my life, as a Bears fan who lived through the agony of a thousand awful quarterbacks (from Bob Avellini to Chad Hutchinson), as a Bears fan who still carries the great memories of Walter Payton, of the glory days of Mike Ditka, and the immortal 1985 Super Bowl team, if I could go against all of that and pick against my beloved Bears on Sunday.

Sadly, the answer to that is yes.

I have to go on record (yet again) that, on the subject of the 2010 Chicago Bears, I couldn’t have been more off on my predictions if I had tried to be.  I (and many others) thought this season was going to be a debacle of epic proportions, while the Bears have instead come together as a legitimate Super Bowl contender.  I thought that Jay Cutler would be a disaster this season under center, while instead he put up one of the finest performances of his young career last weekend at Soldier Field against the Seahawks.  I thought that the coaching staff — which features no less than three former head coaches under head man Lovie Smith (Mike Martz, Rod Marinelli, and Mike Tice) — was going to be hopelessly outclassed this season, while instead the Bears coaching has gotten a great effort across the board, particularly from the much-maligned Martz.

I will maintain, however, that the Bears improvement this season was due to avoiding the problems that I had harped on previously — most importantly, avoiding costly turnovers — and to a fundamental change to the way Martz ran his offense.  As I pointed out last week, the Bears prior to the bye this year were a pass-happy team that made way too many mistakes and were headed for another disappointing season.  The Bears after the bye morphed into a team with an offense that ran the ball effectively, controlled the clock, and added a great defense to boot.  That was a change that led to Chicago reaching the NFC Championship Game across from from their bitter rivals, the Green Bay Packers.

A Super Bowl win would put Rodgers in an elite class of quarterbacks -- if somehow you didn't think he was there already

Green Bay is playing their best football of the season at just the right time.  Their running game has shown a sign of life, but it’s really Aaron Rodgers’ amazing performance at quarterback that’s led the Pack to this point.  Rodgers’ talents and numbers have already made him one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL (even if the general public hadn’t realized it yet), but his playoff run is setting himself up to be talked about in the same conversation those elite who wear a Super Bowl ring — think of Drew Brees at this point the same time last year as a relative example.   What’s worth noting is that, as great a career as he had, Brett Favre won a lone Super Bowl in his time with Green Bay (and in the NFL) — Rodgers can equal that total in just a few short weeks.

Much like the game in the AFC, the NFC Championship clash features two teams with a lot of the same characteristics.  There will be some great defense played from these two teams, and much like their game in Green Bay at season’s end, I don’t think there will be a lot of points scored at Solider Field on Sunday.  As is usually the case in games like these, the winner and the loser will likely be separated by turnovers and mistakes — the winner will avoid them.  That’s where the quarterbacks come in, and like in the AFC, that’s where I think the game will be decided.

Cutler was magnificent in his first playoff start last week — but these aren’t the Seahawks he’s facing this week.  Only four teams gave up fewer yards and three teams fewer touchdown passes than did the Packers, and only one team had more interceptions than Green Bay’s defense did.  As good as Cutler has been most of the time this season, he’s still had ugly moments — and while Martz has had his worst tendencies kept in check, he still is capable of producing some true head-scratchers (like his call for an option throw by Matt Forte that we saw last week with the Bears winning 28-3 — a bone-headed might have led to a comeback if a better team had been on the field against them).

As a Bears fan, what I’m deathly afraid of is exactly those moments rearing their ugly head up on Sunday — and while the optimist in me wants to believe in the Bears winning, the realist in me is sees at least one play where Cutler makes a terrible decision or Martz makes a terrible call.  As evenly as these two teams may be matched, that one play is likely all the Packers are going to need in order to meet the Steelers in the Super Bowl — as much as it pains me to say that.  On the bright side, if I’m wrong, I’m perfectly okay with that.

I’ll Admit It — I Was Wrong About The Bears (So Far)

Posted in NFL Football, Sports with tags , , , , , on November 30, 2010 by thelasthonestman

Okay, okay … I was wrong.

There can’t be anyone that was more critical of the Chicago Bears — and coaches Lovie Smith and Ron Martz — than I’ve been in the past year.  I already spoke at length as to why I thought the pairing of Martz and erratic quarterback Jay Cutler was doomed to failure, and I was more than prepared as the season started to watch my beloved Bears crash into the NFC North cellar; when asked, I predicted to anyone who’d listen that I thought Chicago was a legitimate threat to finish behind the improved Detroit Lions.

Whoops.

Instead of planning for who they’re going to pick in next year’s draft, the Bears are fighting for the NFC title, and are only one game back of the 9-2 Atlanta Falcons for the best record in the conference.  Is it possible that Chicago might not only make the playoffs, but could host a game in January?  I never would have thought it was possible — and yet, here we are.

The reasons for the Bears turnaround are really pretty simple.  The defense has suddenly sprung back to life (the Bears have given up the 2nd fewest points in all of the NFL, just behind division rival Green Bay), giving up 8 points a game fewer than they did in 2009 and putting them in position to win every game they play, while also allowing only 80.5 rushing yards a game, 2nd-best in the league.  They’ve also been better at limiting backbreaking turnovers — or more so, Jay Cutler has been limiting them of late, having thrown only 3 interceptions over his last four games, all wins.

The Bears ... RUNNING THE BALL!!!

Martz’ pass-wacky tendencies have also been limited as the season as worn on.  After early losses in which the running game was nearly invisible, the Bears have focused on giving Matt Forte the ball and establishing the run.  In their 16-0 shutout win over the Dolphins two weeks ago, Forte and backup running back Chester Taylor carried the ball as astounding (for a Martz-led offense, that is) 36 times!  Defense and a running game that can control the clock and wear out defenses: that’s how the classic Bear teams of the past have won, and to a large extent, that’s how they’re winning now.

Can it continue?  I thought Chicago’s early-season victories were fluky — a win on the terrible Calvin Johnson TD-that-wasn’t call that should have resulted in a loss on opening day, and wins against terrible teams in Dallas, Buffalo, and Carolina.  Also, the Giants destroyed them in Week 4, and they have unimpressive losses against mediocre teams in Seattle and Washington — at home, no less.

Yet they did beat Green Bay earlier in the season, and the victory against Philadelphia this past Sunday in a game where Cutler played as good a game as he has in his time wearing a Bears uniform — as well as the impressive performance by the defense in limiting the damage done by Michael Vick — has made me, for the moment at least, a believer.  It’s been a difficult season for me as a Bears fan — I haven’t rooted for them to win, mainly because I believed (and deep down, still believe I guess) that Lovie, Martz, and Cutler all needed to go for the franchise’s future to be bright.

Is this a scene that might be repeated in January?

But at some point, the results on the field are all that really matter — and the Bears are winning — so, sucker that I am, I guess I’m along for the ride.  A question I asked recently of a friend was whether or not someone can “bandwagon jump” if it’s their own team they’re doing it with — I’m now going to find out.  I’m breaking out my Bears jacket from the closet and embracing this team, for better or for worse.  If  Cutler really has matured as a quarterback, if the defense continues to channel the great defenses of years past, if Lovie doesn’t foul it up and Martz can keep his worst tendencies in check — then in what’s been a wacky year already in the NFL, Chicago might just be for real.

Monday Night Musings

Posted in NFL Football, Sports with tags , , , , on December 29, 2009 by thelasthonestman

So — where was that Jay Cutler all this time?

As anyone who’s been a reader on this site is well aware, the Bears quarterback wasn’t anywhere on my Christmas card list this year.  But at least for one night, Jay Cutler is who Bears’ fans thought he might be.

That’s not to say he was perfect.  Cutler’s lone interception was a 2009 classic, an ill-advised throw into double coverage when he should have simply thrown the ball away.  But for most of the night, the beleaguered signal-caller showed flashes of why Chicago thought he was worth trading for in the off-season — and in one magical night at Soldier Field, he gave the weary fan base something to look forward to in 2010.  I’m not convinced he’s the answer for the team — it’ll take a lot more than an isolated performance for me to get on board with Cutler as the franchise’s future under center — but tonight hopefully was a start.

Meanwhile, the Vikings have shot themselves in the foot, possibly blowing the #2 seed and a first-round bye to the Eagles (if they beat Dallas this upcoming weekend).  Part of what made the Vikings attractive as a Super Bowl contender was the idea that they wouldn’t have to travel during the playoffs into cold weather (with the Saints and Vikings long looking like the top two seeds); now, however, a brutal road game in January in the City of Brotherly Love may await Minnesota — and that, I believe, would represent the end of their chances of being in Miami at the end of the season.

It’s hard to say what effect the Favre-Childress dust-up had on the team this week; the Vikings were clearly flat and lifeless in the first half, but they looked like a completely different team in the second half.  It took a Herculean effort by the Bears (and a collapse by the entire Minnesota defense) to hold them off.  With the Saints struggling mightily, the Vikings looking like they’re in trouble, and an Arizona team that I think lacks what it takes to go back to the Big Game, it may this weeks Eagles-Cowboys tilt that, not only decides the NFC East Champion, but the favorite from the conference to reach the Super Bowl.

Random Thoughts On NFL Week 14

Posted in NFL Football, Sports with tags , , , , , on December 14, 2009 by thelasthonestman

— Another Sunday, another close win for the unbeaten New Orleans Saints.  The Falcons are always a tough opponent for thee Saints, regardless of their record, so it wasn’t that surprising to see the game closer than the blowout some people might have expected.  But to be in a position late in the game to be possibly headed to overtime — or even lose — to a team that was missing both its starting quarterback and running back?  Yikes.  But at the end of the day, it’s still another ‘W’ in the column.

Meanwhile, don’t make too much out of Reggie Bush’s two-touchdown performance.  His rushing totals were buoyed by a 19-yard run where an Atlanta defender missed an easy tackle on Bush, who was busy doing one of his patented “Make a lateral move behind the line of scrimmage — Hey, it works in Madden!” dances that usually result in a classic three-to-four yard loss.  Take that one play out and Bush’s totals — 5 carries for 14 yards — would be about what we’d expect from a guy who should never be given the ball on a straight running play (yet still managed to find carries).

Meanwhile, Bush did cough up a fumble on one of these rushing attempts — a play that could have been devastating and game-changing, if the Falcons could have come up with the recovery.  Bush lost the ball without even being hit, a sight New Orleans fans have seen too often from the overpaid bust former second overall pick.

As hard as it is to criticize Sean Payton (though if you tune in tomorrow for the Le Boo Coaching Decision, I plan to do just that), his usage of players at the running back position this season has for me often been a head-scratcher.   The best back of the three-man rotation is clearly Pierre Thomas, yet Payton has a soft spot for the hard-playing, less-effective Mike Bell, and as pointed out, any carry given to Reggie Bush on a straight running play is asking for problems.  If an unbeaten Saints season comes to a shocking end in the playoffs (or even before) because either of these two backs — particularly Bush — is coughing up the football in a crucial situation that they shouldn’t be featured in to begin with, I won’t be surprised.

— I always tell my friend Steve that there are things in this life that are so certain, you could literally make a fortune betting on them.  “We need to go to Vegas,” I always say.  Yesterday, one of those things was San Diego beating Dallas at home.  Somehow, Dallas entered the game a three-point favorite;  clearly, that line didn’t take into account the much-publicized stat of the Cowboys being 0-267 in December (at least it feels that way) during the Wade Phillips/Tony Romo era, or the fact that Chargers QB Phillip Rivers has never lost an NFL start in his career during the month.  Talk about a case of the irresistable force meeting the movable object.

As always, the Cowboys are talented, but undisciplined — and it continues to show, particularly when it counts down the stretch of the NFL season.  From cheap-shot king Flozell Adams to party-boy Romo (who, after his much-maligned trip to Mexico with Jessica Simpson 2007, still took an ill-advised party trip to Vegas after the team’s Thanksgiving Day win against the Raiders) to the befuddled Phillips, the team is a mix of ill-fitting parts who don’t understand what it takes to win in the NFL.  And as long as the team continues to be run with the heavy hand of egotistical owner Jerry Jones, and “yes men” like Phillips are serving as puppets for Jones to call all of the shots, don’t look for that to change.

— Another Bears game, another couple of picks thrown by Jay Cutler, another loss for my Bears.  Now mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, Chicago can focus instead on who they’ll pick with their first round choice that’s getting better and better with each passing loss.  Oh, wait — that’s right — they don’t have that choice anymore.  It belongs to Denver.  Yippee.

With a crumbling, aging defense, a shaky offense line, an immature me-first quarterback, moronic coaching, and a cheap front office, the recipe for disaster in the Windy City is in place.  As ridiculous as it might seem, I think the Bears are looking at a last-place finish in the division next year, even behind the normally woeful Lions.  At least Detroit is headed in the right direction.  The Bears?  They’re not sure where they’re headed — but it sure isn’t back to contention anytime soon without major, major changes.

— Other quick notes:  The Giants/Eagles game last night was tremendously entertaining to watch, even if the officiating left a lot to be desired at times.  However, neither team is going to go very far in the playoffs — if they make it at all — if they can’t play better defense than what we saw last night … The Raiders got a reminder just how bad JaMarcus Russell is, and how much having even a mediocre quarterback means to their chances of winning every week … The Rams have taken over the spot as the worst team in football, and I feel sorry for Steven Jackson having to be a part of the mess that is that team …

Tomorrow, come back for the Le Boo NFL Coaching Move for Week 14.  See you then.

Embarrassment In The Windy City

Posted in NFL Football, Sports with tags , , on November 30, 2009 by thelasthonestman

Some quick NFL thoughts going into the Monday night game:

— The Bears are a complete embarrassment right now.  At this point, everyone needs to go.  To paraphrase the immortal John Blutarsky, “Cutler — he’s a dead man!  Lovie — dead! Ron Turner — dead!  Jerry Angelo — dead!”.

What's the best seats to see quality Bears football at Solider Field the rest of the season? Correct answer: None of them.

Ugh — after the debacle in the Metrodome yesterday, I think that the situation in Chicago absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody’s part.  Of course, if you’re looking for futile and stupid acts, then you don’t have to look too far in Chicago these days, starting with the move to bring Mr. Sunshine, Jay Cutler, in this past off-season.

Since then, it’s been one catastrophe after another for the Bears.  The running game, shuffled aside in importance after the arrival of the Chosen One, has been completely non-existent.  Blocking has become an anathema to the Chicago offensive linemen.  The defense is in complete shambles.  The receiving core has turned into a collection of mediocrity — oh, wait … it was that bad even before this off-season.

The Bears have  no direction, no identity, no passion, and no soul.  They were barely a .500 team coming into the season before the Cutler trade, and while the franchise’s front office might have deluded themselves into thinking that the “franchise” quarterback was all they needed to make the step back towards returning to the Super Bowl, it’s as obvious now as it should have been then that the team is careening in the wrong direction — and the sooner that the Bears realize that and blow the whole organization up and start from scratch, the better.

Head Coach Lovie Smith should be gone — if only the tight wallets of the McCaskeys didn’t take precedence.  Instead, look for Offensive Coordinator Ron Turner to be the sacrificial lamb — but it’s the whole coaching staff who should join him.  Sadly, the Bears wagon is going to be hitched to Cutler for the near future; while it would be great to see someone with the backing of ownership and an iron will, and who understands how to win with defense and ball control  — Bill Cowher, anyone? — take over and rein Cutler’s worst tendencies in somewhat, I won’t hold my breath in waiting for it to happen.

Leinart where he performs the best

— An exciting game in Nashville saw an old, familiar sight — Vince Young beating a team helmed by Matt Leinhart.   I had to laugh at hearing the annoucers talking about the “solid game” that Leinhart supposedly played.  Really?  It must have been some other game than the one I was watching then, since the Leinhart I saw could barely move the Cardinals down the field (to the tune of 10 points on offense — one touchdown was courtesy of the special teams, which ran back a 3rd quarter kickoff).

Leinhart can’t seem to throw downfield with anything resembling accuracy or strength, and the offensive looks completely inefficient with him at the head.   If anything should be learned from watching the Arizona offense on the field during Leinhart’s play this year, it’s that there may be no player more valuable to his team’s chances of winning than Kurt Warner.  With him, the Cardinals are a solid team, capable of making some noise once the playoffs arrive.  Without him, they’re a 6-10 team, even in that putrid division.

Meanwhile, all Vince Young does is win, apparently.  He’s now 23-11 as a starting QB, and he’s led the Titans to five straight victories following the team’s 0-6 start.  After what looked like a completely lost season for Tennessee — remember the disaster against the Pats in the snow just over a month ago? — the Titans are now edging their way back into playoff contention, and Young is busy resurrecting his career.

— My friend Steve and I on the phone early in the afternoon, with the Texas beating the Colts 20-7 early in the 3rd quarter, had this conversation.

“You know the Colts are coming back to win this game, don’t you?” Steve asked.

“Of course they are,” I answered.

Sadly if you’re a Houston fan, that exchange has more to do with the general ineptitude shown by the Texans more often than not than it had to do with the continued excellence by the Colts and Peyton Manning (though that played a huge part as well).

Looking forward to a great game tonight in the Big Easy.  Coming tomorrow — it’s Le Boo time!

What Gets Me Off Of Hiatus And Back Into The Game?

Posted in NFL Football, Rants, Sports with tags , , on November 13, 2009 by thelasthonestman

This guy.

jay-cutler-bears

Must ... avoid ... sack ... so I can ... throw ... interception ...

So let’s get this out-of-the-way first — I’m back updating the blog, but it’ll be on a somewhat limited basis (maybe once to twice a week tops), as the great unfinished novel is still — well — unfinished (but tantalizingly close to completion).  To anyone who’s still been patiently checking me out during the hiatus, I appreciate the visits, and I look forward to getting some new stuff up for your perusal in between working on chapters of the book.

Meanwhile, what are we to make of our good buddy Jay?   My thoughts on Cutler — the way he forced his way out of Denver and the impact I thought he’d make on the Bears — can be found here and here.  And now that the NFL season is slightly more than halfway over?  Those concerns haven’t changed a bit.

A few stats to chew on:  Cutler now leads the NFL in interceptions, with 17.  Cutler is the first Bears quarterback in almost forty years (since the immortal Billy Wade in 1962) to have thrown four or more picks in more than one game in a season, and with last night’s stink bomb, he tied for the most picks in a game by a Bears quarterback since the equally-immortal Zeke Bratkowski threw seven in 1950.  (In all fairness, I bet we didn’t have to give up a ton of draft picks to get the Zekester that year, though.)

Pretty much since Opening Day — and Cutler’s backbreaking four picks in a game that they easily could have won against Green Bay — the Bears feel like they’ve morphed into a team that looks to pass first, and run second — a transformation that can be laid directly at the feet of the coaching staff (both Lovie Smith and offensive coordinator Ron Turner).   I can guess that Turner and Smith, thrilled with the acquisition of their new “toy”, felt that the Bears best chance to win was to utilize Cutler and the passing game more — except for the inconvenient truth that, not only have the Bears never won that way (dating all the way back to Papa Bear and the infant days of the franchise), but the team doesn’t have the personnel on offense to even try (Devin Hester, Earl Bennett, and Johnny Knoxville don’t add up to the talent level of Brandon Marshall).

Granted, the Bears running game has struggled all year.  But to establish the run, often a team has to stick with the run — and having watched most of the Bears action this year, there’s never been an effort for the team to even get into a rhythm moving the ball on the ground.

And why?   Cutler’s temperament — the same one that led to him writing his ticket out of Denver because his feelings were hurt — makes me wonder if Bears coaching believed they wouldn’t be able to bring Cutler in successfully unless the Bears offense was retooled to make him the focus on offense, personnel be damned.   And if the case, then it’s pretty much what I suspected would happen way back when the trade for him was first made.

I’ll repeat what I said back in April:  Cutler simply isn’t going to be a winner in the NFL, no matter how gaudy his numbers look or how strong his arm is.  I’m not backing down on that until I see something to the contrary.  Watching more of his antics on the sidelines yesterday — my favorite was when, on the sidelines, he started barking at Greg Olsen — ironically the one Bears receiver who is as good as anything the QB had in Denver — following a pick.  It’s a familiar pattern for Cutler — blame the offensive line, the receivers, the refs — anything but himself, when game-costing mistakes are made (even in the post-game press conference, he made sure to blanket the rest of the offensive with the blame for the loss, rather than man up and simply say “I threw five picks — we lost — and I just can’t do that if we’re going to win”).

bears fanIf Kyle Orton — or another unsexy “game manager” had been behind center last night for Chicago, the Bears win.  Just like they would have against Green Bay.  And Atlanta.  Would that type of QB have still led the Bears to wins in Seattle or at home against Pittsburgh the way Cutler did?  While all of this is just speculation, this Bears fan wishes we could have found out.  As it stands, I’m preparing myself for a lot of turnovers — and excuse-making — in my team’s immediate future.  The Bears are a team without identity, trying to be something they’re not and being led by someone who, to paraphrase Denny Green, isn’t who they thought he was.

It’s going to be a long rest of the season.