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).

Jordan Howard wants to lead Bears... and lead the league

Jordan Howard wants to lead Bears... and lead the league

So Jordan Howard finished second in the NFL in rushing in his rookie season, despite just a dozen carries in the first three games. The fifth-round pick joined the man who beat him out for the rushing title, Ezekiel Elliott, as one of just five rookies in history to average five or more yards per carry on over 250 carries. And he set the Bears' rookie rushing record with his 1,313 yards while becoming just the fourth in franchise history to rush for that many yards in a season.

Sounds pretty hard to top, like we might be set up for the dreaded sophomore slump.

But...

"Things are a lot different this year because I know what to expect," Howard said during the team's minicamp two weeks ago. "I know all the plays and things like that. I’m not out there thinking, so I can just play free and fast.

"I definitely feel like a veteran 'cause I know what to expect and can help the young guys on the plays that they're not understanding. I’m just more comfortable and want to be a leader."

One of the other things we learned about Howard last year is he's low-key, a man of few words. So the Indiana product by way of UAB will make his points verbally when needed, but his actions will speak louder.

"He was a rookie a year ago and didn't even go in trying to be a leader, telling a five-year guy what was up," said head coach John Fox. "I think with time, and obviously with production like he had, I think it's a role he can fall in to. We're in a performance-based business and even in that locker room, what they do on Sundays gives them some credibility."

One of the concerns about Howard coming out of college was durability, but he answered the bell once he became the starter in week four against Detroit. And he probably wasn't used nearly as much as he should have. The good news about that is he was subject to less wear and tear, averaging just 18 carries per game from that Lions game on.

But besides taking more of a leadership role, Howard wanted to work on his speed without sacrificing the strong base that, paired with keen vision and work by the offensive line, allowed him to hit holes quickly and charge toward the second level of opposing defenses.

"Just improving on the little things – my conditioning, my weight, catching passes. And looking for ways to finish runs better," says Howard. "I feel like I’m in much better shape than I was at this time last year, a little more toned-up."

"It's just training," said Fox. "When you get to that it's more like track speed than football speed and I think he proved pretty worthy of that a year ago as a rookie. Y'know we all can improve on things, and that's the expectation. He's trained hard.

"This time of year last year he wasn’t even practicing," Fox remembered. "I like where we are, we’ve brought in more competition, and he’s better for it. He’s kind of gotten used to an NFL season, he’s come back ready to roll, but he still has work to do before we get to training camp."  

Oh, and the 22-year-old has a couple of other goals he didn't mind sharing, besides being a leader and getting a little faster.

"First off, make the playoffs. Be the leading rusher, and just help the team in any way I can and stay consistent."

Did Brandon Marshall disrespect Jay Cutler with Hall of Fame shade?

Did Brandon Marshall disrespect Jay Cutler with Hall of Fame shade?

Brandon Marshall is no stranger to keeping it real.

The outspoken All-Pro receiver never minces his words and that continued over the weekend when he showed off his signed jersey collection.

Marshall took to Instagram and showed off "Santa" hanging all of the jerseys he's swapped with other NFL players:

Santa doing work.. . #jerseychallenge

A post shared by Brandon Marshall (@bmarshall) on

The list includes a host of current and future Hall of Fame players: Champ Bailey, Cris Carter, John Lynch, Darrelle Revis, Lance Briggs, Adam Vinatieri, Adrian Peterson, Larry Fitzgerald, Joe Thomas.

When almost all the framed jerseys were hung, Marshall took his followers through:

@nfl #jerseychallenge

A post shared by Brandon Marshall (@bmarshall) on

Marshall compliments each player before, calling them "Hall of Famers" before getting to Jay Cutler at the end and going "Hall of..." multiple times.

Was that Marshall throwing shade at his former quarterback in both Denver and Chicago? If it was an innocent mistake or whatever, there's no way Marshall would've posted the Instagram video, right?

Marshall and Cutler were good friends from the beginning of their careers with the Broncos. So much so that the Bears traded a pair of third round draft picks in March 2012 to allow the two to continue their bromance by the lake:

But Marshall and Cutler have had a contentious relationship since.

Last summer, Marshall responded to a Tweet saying "of course" he misses Cutler. Last August, Marshall hopped on ESPN's First Take and said he thought Cutler could win the MVP Award in the 2016 NFL season.

At the same time, Marshall talked about his relationship with Cutler and said he was the only person on the Bears with the "huevos" to hold the enigmatic quarterback accountable. Marshall also said he was "sad" he didn't talk to Cutler much in the year leading up to August 2016.