15 on 6: Bears need quick trigger with Cutler

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15 on 6: Bears need quick trigger with Cutler

Friday, Nov. 5, 2010
5:49 PM

By Jim Miller
CSNChicago.com

At some point, the Bears can no longer blame the system and the play calling of Mike Martz when it comes to the lack of productivity of the offense. You can either execute a timing offense, or you cannot!

It was absolutely by design that Caleb Hanie logged extra repetitions with the starting offense during the bye week. Sure, it sounds innocent enough by the Bears to say "we are just resting Jay," but there is a lot more to it than that. If Jay struggles early versus the Bills in the great white north, Hanie will see the field!

It really would be the right time to make such a bold move. Hanie played enough meaningful snaps against Carolina on the road for Lovie to think it's possible, and basically secured a victory showing he can manage the game with a lead. He displayed more poise than teammate Todd Collins, a 16-year NFL veteran, who got the nod before him and the offensive line may be in the best shape it has been in all year with the return of Roberto Garza.

Caleb would also force Martz to focus on the run game more, as even he may not trust Caleb's reactions when exposed to certain defensive alignments and coverages. Plus, Lovie has the ultimate veto power if Caleb is in the game. If it's a crucial situation, Lovie will just say "run the ball" into Martz's headset.

When I have been on the sideline with the headset on, many defensive-minded head coaches have made that call with a young QB or even with veterans, on the field.

All we have heard since Martz arrived at Halas Hall is how imperative it is that QB and receiver need to be in sync with the timing of QB drops and coinciding routes. Many I have interviewed on Sirius NFL radio, but the Chicago media has also dived into the subject. Included in this massive list are former QB's who played in a Martz system: Trent Green, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Marc Bulger, J.T. O'Sullivan, Jon Kitna - and the most telling statements - from Superbowl MVP in a Martz system, Kurt Warner.

Kurt's comment was "Jay is not comfortable in the system yet."

In my analysis, Kurt was just being kind. Losses to Seattle and Washington right before the bye can be directly related to the QB. Furthermore, if timing of the passing game is an issue, then why does your franchise QB get two days off during a bye week?

It's ok to give your starter a breather during the bye, but no starting QB in the league is shut down altogether. Normally, coaches just reduce reps or take a starter out of an inside run drill. The whole purpose of the bye week is to self scout and correct any the issues with the team.

If Jay struggles on Sunday, the Bears will have to make a decision on whether to pull him, and if Caleb showed growth and command in the system enough during the bye week to instill confidence in Lovie, then Lovie will not hesitate to make a change.

No player is above being yanked for lack of performance. Coaches may try to cover for a player like Mike Shannahan explaining why Donovan Mcnabb was pulled in Detroit for...wait.... Rex Grossman, but at the end of the day, Donovan was not pulled for his poor play in that game, it was a result of Donovan's poor performances the three weeks prior as well.

Same goes for Brett Favre in Minnesota. Brad Childress even called out the legendary QB in the post game presser. He stated "Brett should not try to play outside the offense and throw costly interceptions." Childress was very close to starting Tavaris Jackson versus the Patriots last week. Wisely, knowing how Brett responds, Childress let Brett get the start, but if he did not respond, Brad would have quickly turned to Jackson.

Arizona, Carolina, Washington, Minnesota, San Francisco, and now I would throw the Bears into this group who may have to make a change if their starting QB does not respond this weekend.

Game Plan

Run the Ball! Yes!

The Bills have allowed 200 yards or more rushing four times in the last five games and Martz is on a short leash to ensure this happens.

Greg Olsen, Where have you been? Seems all the offseason fodder about tight ends being underutilized in a Martz system has come true. Running the ball sets up play action and Bills Safety Donte Whitner has been roasted this year by opposing TE's to the tune of 37 receptions and seven touchdowns.

It's called matchups. Jay has to work these matchups. Let's keep it simple with just these two things. After all, the Bears defense only allows 17 points a game, meaning you only need 18.

No need to get too elaborate. It may throw off the timing.

Jim Miller, an 11-year former NFL quarterback, is a Comcast SportsNet Bears analyst who can be seen each week on U.S. Cellular Bears Postgame Live. Miller, who spent five seasons with the Bears, analyzes current Chicago QB Jay Cutler in his "15 on 6" blog on CSNChicago.com and can be followed on Twitter @15miller.

Good or better? Why offseason moves are making 2017 Bears better

Good or better? Why offseason moves are making 2017 Bears better

Improvement typically comes in incremental steps, not leaps. And the Bears of 2017, based on what they have done at a handful of positions, the latest being Thursday’s signing of wide receiver Victor Cruz, fit that template.

The clear organizational commitment is to build through the draft, even if injuries have undermined some otherwise apparent upgrades to starting lineups on both sides of the football. But if there is a “theme” to what GM Ryan Pace is doing to muscle up a sluggish roster, it is that the Bears are willing to take flyers on veteran players – with additions like four veteran wide receivers with injury and issue histories – that arguably point to a win-now mindset while draft picks develop and contribute.

Jaye Howard and John Jenkins. Make the defensive line “better?” Than Jonathan Bullard and Will Sutton, probably. But “good?” Mmmmm…..

The game-one tight ends last year were Zach Miller-Logan Paulsen-Gregg Scruggs. Now they’re Miller-Dion Sims-Adam Shaheen (based on a second-round draft choice). “Good?” Maybe, maybe not. “Better?” Obviously, based on Sims alone.

Mike Glennon-Mark Sanchez-Mitch Trubisky. Bears “better” at quarterback? Than Jay Cutler-Brian Hoyer-Matt Barkley, probably. “Good?” Mmmmmm…..

The decisions to sign Glennon and Sanchez to the quarterback depth chart have sparked their shares of understandable cynical skepticism. But Kirk Cousins and Jimmy Garoppolo were not available in trade, so the Pace decision was to gamble on upside with Glennon over the known quantity of Brian Hoyer (the preference of some coaches) and certainly Jay Cutler, for whom “potential” and “upside” no longer applied.

Add in the aggressive draft of Trubisky and the result was three possibilities of hits on a quarterback (Sanchez and Connor Shaw being combined here as a pair entry in the hit-possibility scenarios). All three were deemed an improvement over Cutler and/or Barkley.

The results may not vault the Bears all the way up to “good” at the pivotal position for any franchise. But “better” is sometimes all you can realistically manage.

Taking a wider-screen look at wide receiver in this context… .

Coach John Fox has cited the need for the Bears to establish the ability to get yardage in bigger chunks. Accordingly, all four of the veteran wideout signings this offseason – Cruz, Rueben Randle, Markus Wheaton, Kendall Wright –  have posted yards-per-catch seasons of 14 or longer.

All four won’t be on the opening-day roster, but all four offer the promise of major impact. Cruz, Randle and Wright have had seasons of 70 or more receptions, and Wheaton topped out at 53 in 2015 with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Randy Moss, Terrell Owens and Jerry Rice weren’t available, so “good” was hard to achieve in an offseason in which Alshon Jeffery and Eddie Royal were expected departures long before their exits. But are Cruz, Randle, Wheaton and Wright, with Kevin White and Cameron Meredith, a “better” starting point than Jeffery, Royal, White, Bellamy, etc. of a year ago?

Obviously. But players with even moderately established NFL “names” (like Cruz, Randle, etal.) are typically available for a reason; teams do not routinely give up on talent. And none of the four come without significant shadows on their NFL resumes, whether for injury or other questions.

Cruz missed most of 2014 and all of the 2015 season, and hasn’t played a full season since his Pro Bowl year of 2012.

Randle was described as a head case by scouts and was so bad that he was let go in the Eagles’ cutdown to 75 last year, followed by disparaging comments from those in and around the organization.

Wheaton flashed promise in his 2014-15 opportunities as a part-time starter but played just three games before a shoulder injury landed him on IR last season.

The Tennessee Titans thought enough of Wright, their 2012 first-round draft choice, to pick up his fifth-year option going into las season. But by week 14 he was benched for tardiness and was a healthy DNP in game 16, announcing after the game that he already knew he was not in the Titans’ plans for 2017.

The prospect of the Bears going from 3-13 to “good” borders on fantasy. But if being among the NFL’s busiest this offseason hasn’t propelled the Bears to that level, the results point to “better.” At this point, that’s something,.

How big of an impact will Victor Cruz have on the Bears?

How big of an impact will Victor Cruz have on the Bears?

The Bears inked Victor Cruz to a one-year deal on Thursday, adding another receiver to an already crowded corps.

But it never hurts to add a veteran one to a young group, especially with a new starting quarterback.

Cruz is 30 years old and isn't the same Pro Bowl-caliber player he was before missing the entire 2015 season with a calf injury, but he surely has a lot left in the tank and can serve as a great mentor for the Bears receivers.

Just how big of an impact will he have on his new team? See what the SportsTalk Live panel had to say in the video above.