Is Bears' Super Bowl window closing?


Is Bears' Super Bowl window closing?

Thursday, Sept. 8, 2011
Posted: 3:31 p.m.

By John Mullin Bears Insider Follow @CSNMoonMullin
Brian Urlacher interrupted the first question mid-thought during training camp when he sat down for an exclusive one-on-one with Since hes been to a Super Bowl, two NFC Championship games, all kinds of Pro Bowls and such, what keeps him going?

Win the Super Bowl. Period, he declared. Its that simple.

It still is for the 33-year-old middle linebacker, who is savvy enough to read an offense and also a calendar.

We want to win now, he reiterated Thursday. Our window may be closing a bit; we are getting a little bit older. But

He indulged himself a touch of ironysarcasm, speaking with uncommon eloquence for someone with their tongue wedged so firmly in their cheek

We're still playing at a pretty high level, I think.

For as old as we are, we're still pretty decent, I guess.

But is the Bears Super Bowl window really closing?


The easy answer lies in the 30-something linchpins of the defense; six of the starters are 30 or older, although not one of the backups is.

The Bears propped their Super Bowl window open a little wider in 2009 when they invested in Jay Cutler. They were within a touchdown of the Super Bowl last season, then went out in an abbreviated offseason and uprooted more than one-third (18 players) of their entire roster.

Indeed, do you know how many members of the Chicago Bears offense, starters or backups, are 30 or older?


Pretty decent, I guess

Since 2004, Lovie Smiths first as Bears coach, no team has scored more than 15 points (Packers, at Green Bay, 2009) in an opening game against the Bears. And that Green Bay game was the one in which the Bears lost Urlacher for the season with a wrist injury in the first half.

As good as the Bears were in 2010 defensively, Urlacher believes the difference in this team vs. that one is where it really matters:

Up front, he said immediately. I think we're good up front. Not only on defense, but on offense as well. Our line has played better, and I know preseason doesn't mean much, but we've got to take something out of it. I think they did a better job up front. Our defensive line is stacked. We go two-deep at every spot, and those guys get after it.

And it wouldnt be the time leading up to a season without the Bears being disrespected by pundits and experts. This year the Bears, who have had four winning seasons in the last six, find themselves picked below the Detroit Lions, who have had none in the last 10, in the NFC North by some.

We say this every year at this time, he said. It's the same thing; we're the underdogs again, that's the way it is every year. We seem to do decent at that role.

Then he went tongue-in-cheek again.

So we'll just do our best and go out there and try and give a couple teams a game this year. We'll do the best we can.

John "Moon" Mullin is's Bears Insider and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

Report: Bears looking for Jay Cutler return against Vikings; Matt Barkley on stand-by

Report: Bears looking for Jay Cutler return against Vikings; Matt Barkley on stand-by

FOX insider Jay Glazer confirmed on Sunday that the Bears expect quarterback Jay Cutler will be back from his sprained thumb and able to start against the Minnesota Vikings next Monday night in Soldier Field.

That would put Matt Barkley back where he has been pretty much his entire three-plus-year NFL career. Waiting.

That's the Bears want what every team wants – a young quarterback in the developmental pipeline – is no secret. Ryan Pace is among the NFL executives who speak of drafting a quarterback as much as every year, even if they don’t.

Could the Bears already have that player on their roster?

If Barkley, who was pressed into service when Brian Hoyer went down with a broken arm in last Thursday’s loss to the Green Bay Packers, is in fact that player, he might not be surprised. But the rest of the NFL would be.

"I'm confident that no matter where I am or what the deal is,” Barkley said, after going 6-for-15 with no TD’s and two interceptions, “I can play in this league.”

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

He may be one of the few still holding onto that belief. The Bears picked up Barkley after the Arizona Cardinals discarded him in early September. The Cardinals didn’t see Barkley as even a practice-squad option, which the Bears did and where Barkley was working before Cutler’s thumb injury forced the Bears to sign him to the active roster.

“The [Bears] personnel people thought he was a taller [6-2] guy that stood in the pocket pretty well,” said coach John Fox. “A guy that we thought we could work with, that had some experience and, hopefully, he got a little bit more experience [at Green Bay].”

Barkley has gone from possible No. 1 pick in the 2012 draft to just another touted USC quarterback who failed or were no better than just-OK at the NFL level (Todd Marinovich, Rob Johnson, Matt Leinart, Mark Sanchez), who has thrown 65 NFL passes, none for a touchdown and six that were intercepted, including two in the Bears’ 26-10 loss last Thursday in Green Bay.

The question for Barkley at this point in his career is whether Chicago is his last stop and/or chance. Fourth-round draft picks have played their ways into prominence (Kirk Cousins in Washington, Dak Prescott in Dallas, even Sonny Jurgensen and Norm Van Brocklin if you want to find Hall of Famers), but Barkley has the added challenge of being on his third team and learning yet another offense after beginning this season running Houston and Philadelphia plays for the Bears’ defense.

Barkley offered no excuses for his poor showing (18.3 passer rating). Sort of.

“It definitely would be more beneficial [to have gotten more snaps before Green Bay],” Barkley said. “I’m not going to say what Coach should do; that’s his decision and you’ve got to deal with what you’re dealt.

“Just since I’ve been here, you know, scout-team reps and trying to put our plays into what we’re seeing on cards, you try to do every little thing you can to get better no matter what you’re doing. That’s no excuse.”

For Bears QB Jay Cutler, an unwanted second chance – audition? – presents itself

For Bears QB Jay Cutler, an unwanted second chance – audition? – presents itself

Some decisions have ways of simply making themselves. Decisions like, say, who will be the starting quarterback for the Chicago Bears.

Regrettably, one aspect of that decision was made for the Bears when Brian Hoyer went down with a broken left arm in the second quarter of Thursday’s 26-10 loss to the Green Bay Packers. At that moment the Hoyer-or-Cutler question was rendered moot. As FOX’s Jay Glazer had reported, the No. 1 job was Hoyer’s to lose, and the injury unfortunately took care of that. Coaches never had to make that decision.

This is clearly not the way Cutler would like to have been returned to his job. No player is pleased to have an opportunity made possible by a catastrophic injury to a teammate.

Bigger picture: The 2016 season was always a prove-it year for Jay Cutler, more so than even last year because of guaranteed money, which is now gone. The rest of the 2016 now becomes a condensed prove-it crucible, where Cutler is playing for his job in Chicago or his next team. His price for 2017 ($15 million) is modest by starter standards, but so is his resume.

Without a strong final nine games, assuming his injured thumb is sufficiently recovered after nearly six weeks off, Cutler may find himself as next offseason’s Ryan Fitzpatrick, sort-of wanted by a team but for money nowhere close to the value he and his agent had in mind.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

The play of rookies Dak Presott in Dallas and Carson Wentz in Philadelphia will reinforce the message that you can start and win with a rookie right away, which projects to depress any Cutler market. Why pay a marginal veteran, which Cutler has been and certainly is at this point and age (34 next April), when a rookie can be had at a fraction of the cost?

Without a massive contract renegotiation, a scenario of Cutler staying on as a bridge to a young successor is beyond a longshot. Hoyer, far more likely to fit that role, and his price will not approach Cutler’s.

Cutler now has his second chance. Whether he likes it or not, it’s an audition.