Bates hiring hints at more 'O' changes

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Bates hiring hints at more 'O' changes

He passed on even interviewing for the Bears offensive coordinators job in 2010. Now, Jeremy Bates is working for the Chicago O.C. as quarterbacks coach, getting back together with quarterback Jay Cutler, with whom Bates worked three years while the two were with the Denver Broncos.

The biggest issue with the move, along with the switch from Mike Martz to Mike Tice, is what it will mean for Cutler and the Chicago offense overall. The Bates-Cutler record suggests that the change could be a very, very good one.

Cutler is on his third offensive coordinator in four Bears seasons and third quarterbacks coach as well. The Bears have to hope that this association goes more smoothly than previous ones.

Im very excited to be working with Jeremy Bates again, Cutler told the Bears website Tuesday. We got the right guy for the job.

Cutler didnt have the same to say for Pep Hamilton in 2009 nor even Shane Day in 2010 when Day came in under Mike Martz.

His history with Jay was a big thing, said coach Lovie Smith, who interviewed Bates in Tampa as part of the process. And not just history but a good history, a productive history with him helping Jay as a quarterback.

Bates hiring still leaves the Bears without a passing-game coordinator or offensive line coach. And it suggests some interesting possibilities for where the Bears offense will be going.

New O directions?

Installing Tice as offensive coordinator to replace Martz takes the offense in new directions from the Martz years, which were marked with growing Tice influence in 2010 and 2011. Adding Bates, who is a far more NFL-offense-savvy quarterbacks coach than his immediate predecessors, points to the position coach having input into more than just Cutlers techniques.

Bates comes from working with Mike Shanahan in Denver and Pete Carroll at USC and Seattle. Those are coaches from a West Coast foundation, closer to the balance favored by Tice and Smith.

And the scheme should more than agree with Cutler despite his bad relationship with Ron Turner, a West Coast practitioner, in 2009. The reasons were not all his quarterback coach, but Cutlers release and health were both better under Bates.

Cutlers three-year passer rating under BatesShanahan was 87.1. He has failed to reach that level in any of this three Chicago seasons.

With BatesShanahan, Cutler was sacked a total of 51 times in three Denver seasons. He was sacked 52 times in 2010 alone.

In 2008 Cutler threw for a Denver franchise record 4,526 yards. The Broncos had the second-best offense in the NFL in terms of yards per game (395.8). Cutler completed 762 of 1,220 passing attempts (62.5 percent) for 9,024 yards, 54 touchdowns and 37 interceptions for an 87.1 passer rating in 37 starts in Denver while Bates was there.

The last couple years he had full control of my development and our plays coming in, Cutler told ChicagoBears.com.

Hes a grinder. Hes a guy thats going to work extremely hard to find weaknesses in defenses and hes going to be able to present it to us in a way we can understand and will be able to make plays where we can take advantage of those weaknesses.

Rapid-fire career changes

After the three successful years in Denver, Bates career path took sharp turns.

Bates left the Broncos when Shanahan was fired after the 2008 season. He went to USC under Pete Carroll as quarterbacks coach in 2009 but that lasted just a year. Carroll left to become Seattle Seahawks head coach and took Bates as his offensive coordinator.

But that lasted only a year and Bates was let go over differences of philosophy with Carroll, a curious problem to have after two years with Carroll.

Bates joins the Bears with eight years of coaching experience with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2002-03, offensive quality control; 2004, assistant quarterbacks), New York Jets (2005, quarterbacks), Denver Broncos (2006, offensive assistant; 2007 wide receiversquarterbacks; 2008, quarterbacks), USC (2009, assistant head coachquarterbacks) and Seattle Seahawks (2010, offensive coordinator).

Bad blood fueled Bears-Vikings playoff bout profiled in 'Bears Classics: Eclipsing Moon'

Bad blood fueled Bears-Vikings playoff bout profiled in 'Bears Classics: Eclipsing Moon'

From the high ground of hindsight, what unfolded in the Metrodome that day in 1995 was actually quite a big deal. But not for reasons that you could have really understood at the time watching the Bears stun the Minnesota Vikings 35-18 in the wild card round of the 1994 playoffs.

It was not so much the game alone. It was the overall context of the time for the Bears, before and after.

Though the 1995 season would get off to a 6-2 start for the Bears before their near-historic collapse, the Minnesota game would prove to be the high-water mark for the coaching tenure of Dave Wannstedt. This was the postseason, and the Bears looked to be going where then-president Mike McCaskey envisioned when he made the play to beat the New York Giants in securing Wannstedt, who was unquestionably the hot coaching prospect coming out of the Dallas Super Bowl pantheon after the 1992 season.

To fully grasp the situation, you need to understand the undercurrent of venom that had developed between the Bears and Vikings. Bears-Packers might have been the glitzy rivalry, but what had grown between the Bears and Vikings was true hostility, with little of the respect that the Bears and Packers had managed. The Vikings carried grudges for Pro Bowl slights going back almost to the Bears' Super Bowl win. One Bears defensive lineman remarked that his most hated opponent was Minnesota right tackle Tim Irwin, adding, "He's a guy that, if I ran over him with a car, I'd back up over him to make sure I got him." Dwayne Rudd's backpedaling taunt after an interception came a couple years later, but you get the idea.

What's easily forgotten looking back through the mists of time was the epic decision made by Wannstedt to make a quarterback change, from a quarterback he wanted in free agency to one he knew well from their time together at the University of Miami. That was every bit the turning point of the season and the real reason the playoff trip and win ever happened.

The Bears had been annihilated in their first game against the Vikings in the 1994 season — 42-14 — and something was really, really wrong, which become glaringly more evident just a few weeks later, even though the Bears were reaching a 4-2 mark under quarterback Erik Kramer, the centerpiece of an aggressive offseason foray into free agency. But the Bears then lost — badly — to the Lions and Packers, with Kramer throwing three interceptions against Detroit and two against Green Bay, the latter in only 10 pass attempts.

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I talked privately to Kramer after the Green Bay game, specifically about why it was that he was playing his absolute worst against Detroit, Green Bay and Minnesota, all teams with which he was intimately familiar. My thought: You know those defenses and where their people are going to be.

Kramer shook his head: "The 'other guys' I know. It's my own guys. I don't know where they're supposed to be."

It wasn't a comment on his receivers whatsoever. It was Kramer admitting bluntly that he was not getting the West Coast scheme of coordinator Ron Turner and its timing element.

Wannstedt knew it wasn't working and made the change to Steve Walsh, who'd been the Hurricanes' quarterback under Jimmy Johnson when Wannstedt was the defensive coordinator.

That was the tipping point, and Walsh and Wannstedt are among the principals of "Bears Classics: Eclipsing Moon," airing on Monday at 8 p.m. on CSN.

Anyone with any time spent in or around the NFL knows that beating a team three times in a season is incredibly difficult. The Bears had been blown out in the first Minnesota game but had pushed the Vikings to overtime in the second and would have won had Kevin Butler not missed a 40-yard field goal try.

The playoff meeting was No. 3, and after the Vikings put up a field goal in the first quarter, the Bears scored with a Lewis Tillman touchdown in the second and just pulled steadily away from the winner of the only NFL division that produced four teams with winning records.

From there it would be another decade-plus — 2006 season — before the Bears would win a playoff game.

Bears numbers don't indicate 3-13, yet still lie

Bears numbers don't indicate 3-13, yet still lie

In doing some post-season wrapping up of my Nerdy NFL Notebook as we begin turning the page to the 2017 season, part of it involves compiling where each team finished in big-picture team offensive and defensive categories: overall ranking (total yards), as well as team rushing and passing ranks on both sides of the ball.

So if the Bears wound up ranked 15th overall in total yards gained and allowed, they should've finished…oh, 8-8, right? It adds to the deception of some of the deeper issues that focus on a lack of playmakers, which tied into their inability to make plays when it matters most. In John Fox's 9-23 start, 18 of those games have been decided by six points or less. They've won just six of those games. 

Offensively, the Bears ranked higher in total offense than five playoff teams: Kansas City (20), Detroit (21), Miami (24), New York Giants (25) and Houston (29). They wound up 17th in rushing offense, better than four teams who advanced: Seattle (25), Green Bay (26), New York Giants (29) and Detroit (30). And their 14th-ranked passing offense ranked better than the Giants (17), Kansas City (19), Dallas (23), Miami (26), Houston (29).

On the other side of the ball, they'd be even better off before allowing 109 points over the final three losses. Their total defense ranked better than Detroit (18), Green Bay (22), Kansas City (24), Atlanta (25), Oakland (26) and Miami (29). After being gashed for 558 rushing yards the last three games, they fell to 27th in the NFL against the run (better than only 30th-ranked Miami). But the seventh-ranked pass defense, despite collecting a measly eight interceptions (among only 11 turnovers), was better than nine playoff teams: Miami (15), Pittsburgh (16), Kansas City (18), Detroit (19), the Giants (23), Oakland (24), Dallas (26), Atlanta (28) and Green Bay (31).

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What do all the hollow numbers indicate? A lack of complementary, opportunistic football, playmakers on both sides of the ball, a minus-20 turnover ratio, and a lack of quality and continuity at the quarterback position — to name a few. All of those playoff teams have more impact players (or kept more of their impact players healthy) than the Bears in 2016.

While some of the numbers aren't that bad to look at, and some even raise an eyebrow, there's still a deep climb from the most significant numbers: 3-13.