Bears have nothing behind (or beyond) Cutler
No Bears position arguably received a greater upgrade than quarterback this offseason with the hiring of Marc Trestman as head coach and Matt Cavanaugh as position coach. A stated goal is to make Jay Cutler better, and that ultimately only plays out when the regular season starts.
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But the organization took apparent steps to put more around Cutler in the form of coaching and in this case, it is the entire offense that is expected to benefit.
Jay Cutler – Jason Campbell – Josh McCown
The play of Cutler in the 7-1 start was the stuff of “franchise.” His play in the 2-4 finish was the stuff of doubt and little was indisputably clear with Cutler at the end of a second straight year of collective disappointment.
Cutler was sacked a total of 28 times over those first eight games (3.5 per game). Over the final six (leaving out the Houston and San Francisco games because of his concussion), he was sacked at less than half that rate, 1.7 per game, 10 total. Pro Football Focus placed Cutler fourth in the NFL (behind Michael Vick, Russell Wilson and Matthew Stafford) in time holding the ball from snap to sack.
Possibly concerning, Cutler’s completion percentage was below 59 percent for the second straight year, something which never happened in his first five years, and his passer rating (81.3) was the second-lowest of his career, behind only his first Chicago season.
The reasons lay in the completion percentage and also interception rate. No team reached the playoffs behind a quarterback with an interception percentage above 3.0 (Andy Dalton, Cincinnati). Cutler’s was 3.2.
Cutler rated a positive overall grade from Pro Football Focus, 14th in PFF’s combined quarterback rating which factors in drops, throwaways and other elements.
This despite the addition of passing soulmate Brandon Marshall and handpicked position coach Jeremy Bates.
The depth chart was filled out with veterans in Campbell and McCown. Campbell was the victim of a complete protection collapse at San Francisco and McCown was added after Cutler suffered a concussion vs. Houston. Neither vet moved toward a 2013 starting job and are likely options for the Bears moving forward, as is Matt Blanchard, who spent most of the season on the practice squad.
Needs assessment: 5 (1-10 scale)
The Bears have a 30-year-old (in April) quarterback and nothing else after that beyond Blanchard, who is signed but a project. Action is clearly required.
Cutler’s future under Trestman and Cavanaugh is the franchise question for 2013. All parties have said that the need is for Cutler to improve.
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But even if he does, the position is still thin looking beyond 2013. Campbell, in particular, has had experience in the West Coast offense, which Trestman will implement.
Jerry Angelo took a quarterback in the 2011 fifth round (Nathan Enderle) and 2010 sixth round (Dan LeFevour). Neither ever saw the field and left the Bears with no young talent in development other than Blanchard, which neither the Bears nor any other team thought enough of to place on a 53-man roster.
Winning franchises typically have a quality young quarterback in the developmental pipeline regardless of how set they are with a No. 1. Using a fourth-round pick in 2005 for Kyle Orton helped the Bears reach the playoffs that season.
“In this business, you better be looking for young quarterbacks you think have a chance to be a 10-, 12-year guy,” said Houston Texans coach Gary Kubiak, whose depth chart already includes Matt Schaub and T.J. Yates. “This year will be no different.''
Picking up a Campbell, McCown or other veteran is one solution but has rarely been a sound plan for the future. The Bears used $3.5 million to sign Campbell last offseason, a pricier ticket than the Bears are projected to have allocated for that role player.
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Veterans will be available every offseason but the 2013 draft with its numerous quarterbacks expected to last into the middle rounds offers potential fits for a Bears plan designed by Trestman, Cavanaugh and GM Phil Emery.
Best free agent options (based on value, fit)
Matt Moore, Miami -- Was on Jerry Angelo’s radar before signing with Miami after 2010; has 25 career starts and showed flashes in Carolina.
Chase Daniel, New Orleans -- Drew Brees’ understudy with the Saints; familiar with Bears OC Aaron Kromer and West Coast system.
Derek Anderson, Carolina -- Opportunities with Baltimore (practice squad), Cleveland, Arizona and Carolina; some injury history but has had occasional flashes in 43 career starts.
Jason Campbell/Josh McCown -- Established relationships with teammates and Cutler, particularly McCown.