Can Cutler fully recover from 'quitting' perception?

353516.jpg

Can Cutler fully recover from 'quitting' perception?

Monday, Jan. 24, 2011
10:11 a.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Monday morning notebook dump...

Nice to visit with Dan on The Dan Patrick Show on Comcast SportsNet this morning and noodle over some of the aftermath.

Dan raised a telling thought on whether Jay Cutler can ever fully recover from the perception of quitting. Scottie Pippen never was able to wash away the stigma of his mystery migraine in playoff situations, even after the Bulls won with him.

But Pippen had Jordan as the lead dog and ultimately there were NBA championships piled up, so at least some of the rawness is exorcised for fans.

READ: Cutler reportedly suffered MCL tear

Until Cutler hoists a championship trophy, whether the Halas one for winning the NFC or the Lombardi one for a Super Bowl, or until he plays while wiping blood out of his eyes late in a fourth quarter, the haters will probably still hate him or at least question him. Winning cures a whole lot of problems and while Cutler was part of a far better season than most expected the Bears to have, he didnt win.

And for the real haters, he lost to the Packers in two of his last three games.

Dan was puzzled by the whole Todd Collins-Caleb Hanie depth chart thing. Hes not alone. More on that a little later.

But what would have happened had the Bears pulled out a win Sunday? Good question but difficult to answer without knowing the extent of Cutlers injury. Maybe Cutler is a closet Philip Rivers, has knee surgery and doesnt miss a game (by the way, Rivers was pulled and didnt return in the game where he sustained the knee injury). Maybe its a torn ACL and he isnt fully ready even by training camp.

Hanie wouldnt have started over a Cutler even with restricted mobility. Lets dismiss that thought right now.

Does anyone really think that Cutler, who didnt want out of the New York Giants game when he was in the process of being annihilated in a nine-sack first half, really wussed out of an NFC Championship game? I guess anything is possible, but come on.

Good buddy Jim Trotter writing for Sports Illustrated was up close to Cutler in the locker room after the incident and thought he saw tears or at least a little dampness in Cutlers eyes when the whole business of other non-Bears players questioning his toughness, and by extension his character.

I didnt see Cutlers eyes that close but I somehow find it easier to believe what J.T. was seeing than to believe that the guy quit on his team 30 minutes from the Super Bowl.

The Bears have done Cutler few favors for image. Forget the whole podium scenes and the perceived petulance. Recall how the whole Martz-hiring process went. Wanting to be sure that your franchise quarterback and potential O.C. get along is certainly reasonable.

But Martz was placed in the role of supplicant, being flown to Nashville to meet with Cutler rather than the player getting on a plane and getting his a (thats arm hes a quarterback whatd you think I meant?) up to Chicago to meet his boss.

Contrast that with Jim McMahon arriving for his first contract negotiation, getting out of the limo wearing shorts, sunglasses and hanging onto a beer on his way to meet George Halas (not the other way around).

That sort of thing plays in Chicago. You would be hard pressed to find a surlier public figure than McMahon, nor one who was so frequently injured. No questions from the public about his toughness, although there were more than a few from his defensive teammates at times, unlike a Brian Urlacher angrily having Cutlers back (or knee, whatever).

Huh?

Questioning the coaches decision to defer after the coin flip and opt to receive the second-half kickoff seriously moves the Stupid Meter. The criticism has been based in the Bears allowing Aaron Rodgers to have the ball first and seize momentum and points instead of giving the Chicago offense that first-strike capability.

Uh, no.

First, this is Chicago. If you want to get the lakefront rocking, cry havoc and let slip the dogs of Bears defense. A three-and-out by the defense charges up Soldier Field and the Bears in toto

More to the point, somebody up at Halas Hall was doing a decent scouting job on Green Bay in this area. In 18 opening possessions for the 2010 regular and post-seasons, Rodgers and that offense scored exactly two touchdowns, none since the fourth week of the season and that against the Detroit Lions. The Packers scored three field goals on first possessions, only one since Game 6.

One of the NFLs more explosive offenses scored 23 points on opening drives of first halves. Seven times, including the Atlanta game, the Packers did not manage a first down on an opening drive.

On the other side, Rodgers got points on five of their last nine opening drives in the second half of games, including a touchdown at Atlanta. Total points in the last nine opening second-half drives: 42.

Indeed, the defense was reeling for the first 19 minutes with 2 touchdown drives allowed. The unit then shut out Rodgers for the final 41 minutes. No, deferring was the right call.

Huh? Part 2

Every so often the prospect of the Bears losing Mike Martz to a head-coaching job gets tossed out. Stop that. Now.

Martzs call of the end-around with Earl Bennett on a third-and-3 at the Green Bay 27 was the capstone of a season fraught with mis-calls by a coordinator who had to be called to task for game-planning based on what he had in St. Louis and not what he has in Chicago.

Matt Forte had 160 combined yards at that point and yet did not see the ball on the Bears final four plays. The Bears still had a timeout but instead of two plays for Forte to pick up 3 yards, the call was a gimmick for someone with exactly two carries all season, none over the past seven games and who was inactive with a lower-body injury in Game 16.

Line coach Mike Tice was given added say in game-planning back during the off week. The offense improved at that point. The Bears are unlikely to dispatch Martz but the impact of Tice on the 2011 offense will increase.

Huh?

Mike Martz was given the money for the wide-body tight end he wanted in Brandon Manumaleuna. That produced next to nothing in the run game and absolutely nothing in the passing offense.

Martz was given the money for the veteran quarterback he wanted in Todd Collins. Martz was given the depth-chart say-so to elevate Collins to No. 2 over Caleb Hanie, even after Collins posted passer ratings of 8.1 in relief against the New York Giants and 6.2 as the starter in Carolina when Cutler was recovering from his concussion.

Collins improved to a rating of 39.6 Sunday without completing any of his four passes for the simple reason that while he did not throw any completions, he also didnt throw any interceptions, the rating killer.

Hanie put up a 102.1 against New York and 84.0 at Carolina. Even with the two INTs Sunday, his 65.2 mark after running exactly zero plays of his own offense since mid-October is an indictment of Martz.

The two Collins series were ones the Bears could not afford to give away in what became a one-score game ultimately.

Looking ahead

The Bears did not lose the NFC Championship game because of their wide receivers but they also did not win it because of them, which is what you do expect from players you consider playmakers.

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com'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.

Want to be in on Bears QB deliberations? 'Look at the film'

Want to be in on Bears QB deliberations? 'Look at the film'

Back in 1992 the Dallas Cowboys were in draft deliberations around the No. 17 spot of the first round, looking for upgrades on defense. A scout made a suggestion that they target Ohio State defensive end Alonzo Spellman, one of the most physically imposing (6-4, 280 pounds) players and best athletes in that draft.
 
Coach Jimmy Johnson responded, "Tell me about the production."
 
Came back the answer: Three years at OSU, nine total sacks.
 
"Oh, please!" Johnson scoffed, calling in cornerback Kevin Smith and leaving Spellman to the Bears at No. 22. Spellman had several respectable seasons but never more than 8.5 sacks in nine NFL seasons.
 
As investment advisers counsel, past performance is not necessarily a predictor of future results. But past performance can be, and an axiom in NFL personnel rooms is, look at the film.
 
CSNChicago.com is doing that as the NFL Scouting Combine approaches (Feb. 29) along with free agency and the start of the league year and its trading window. It becomes an increasingly relevant exercise to look at the intricacies behind some of the key players and positions the Bears will be addressing through the upcoming weeks. CSNChicago.com previously looked at the need to evaluate quarterbacks from the intangible standpoints first, then the measurables.
 
Using Jay Cutler as an object lesson for how immense physical skills have questionable correlations to immense NFL performance, a look at one aspect of quarterback "film" warrants more attention than the measurables that command a disproportionate share of attention and scrutiny.
 
Ball security.
 
It has been Cutler's single biggest issue through his eight Bears seasons, was a reason why coaches once wanted to stay with Josh McCown instead of returning to Cutler following a Cutler injury absence, and why Brian Hoyer played his way into prominence in the discussion of 2017 Bears plans. Adam Gase went from offensive coordinator to hottest head-coach prospect in no small measure because he managed Cutler into better ball security.

[SHOP: Get your Bears gear right here]
 
But the point here is less Cutler – expected to be traded or released within the near future – than the level of ball security in the available options beyond Hoyer.
 
So, look at the film:
 
The widespread drooling over a possible trade with New England for Jimmy Garoppolo. The best thing in Garoppolo's favor is that he has been a Patriots backup to Tom Brady. Garoppolo, drawing distant comparisons to a Matt Flynn, Matt Cassel and other past experience-lite quarterback options, has thrown 94 NFL passes without an interception, which is impressive until matched against Hoyer's 200 last season without an interception, for comparison purposes.
 
But evaluating Garoppolo against the coming chief draft competition – DeShone Kizer, Mitch Trubisky, Deshaun Watson – suggests comparing apples to apples, meaning college ball security, since that's all the kids have to this point.
 
Garoppolo vaulted up draft boards (to New England's second round) on the strength of an Eastern Illinois senior season with 53 touchdown passes vs. nine interceptions, against chiefly FCS opposition. But in his first three seasons Garoppolo threw for 65 touchdowns and was intercepted 42 times.
 
Kizer? In his two Notre Dame seasons, 47 touchdowns, 19 interceptions.
 
Trubisky? 30 touchdowns last season, six interceptions. Including his two years as a North Carolina backup, 41 touchdowns, 10 interceptions.
 
Watson? 90 touchdowns, 32 interceptions in three Clemson seasons, the last two as Tigers starter.
 
Observations:
 
Garoppolo put in four college seasons, but has a little of the Trubisky/Flynn/Cassel, one-year-wonder feel. 
 
Kizer and Watson have more starting seasons, but the Watson intangible of getting his team to two national-championship games speaks to another level of "intangible."
 
GM Ryan Pace will incorporate heavy input from coach John Fox and coordinator Dowell Loggains. Coaches love ball security. Garoppolo? Watson? Trubisky? Kizer?
 
Look at the film.

BearsTalk Podcast: The risk and reward for Bears in trading for Jimmy Garoppolo

jimmy-g-216.jpg
USA TODAY

BearsTalk Podcast: The risk and reward for Bears in trading for Jimmy Garoppolo

In this edition of the BearsTalk podcast, CSN's Chris Boden, Sun-Times Bears beat writer Patrick Finley, and CSNChicago.com's Scott Krinch discuss the Bears' approach to the two-week window opening to franchise-tag Alshon Jeffery again, the risk/reward in trading for Jimmy Garoppolo or drafting a QB (and how high to draft one), Scott's 2.0 mock draft, plus the workers' compensation controversy the team found itself in last week and the club's decision to raise ticket prices.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: