Moon: Is Newton's character leadership material?

430740.jpg

Moon: Is Newton's character leadership material?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Posted: 1:40 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

And furthermore, on this Cam Newton thing

The backlash in some quarters against Nolan Nawrockis scathing appraisal of the Auburn quarterback is interesting, on a number of levels. By way of quick background, the Pro Football Weekly draft analyst bluntly questioned the quality of Newtons character as a leader as much as any football issue.

Attacking Nolan, as some Newton supporters have, misses the point.

To steal from Michael Douglas soliloquy in The American President (one of the great romantic comedies ever, period View from the Moon provides this brief movie review free of charge), being President is entirely about character.

So to a large extent is being quarterback. So whether Nolans take was spot-on or not, and hes not the only one whos voice these concerns, Newtons character is critical, all the more so because of the investment his prospective team is making in him.

Accuracy and all the rest are essential, but character is everything. Consider the different courses followed by the teams selecting quarterbacks in the 1999 draft, which saw five quarterbacks selected in the first 12 picks, the last being Cade McNown by the Bears at No. 12.

Im going to throw out McNown, Tim Couch (No. 1 overall) and Akili Smith (No.3). None of them possessed the minimum skill package to even belong, and McNown added to the problems by not offsetting those shortcomings with leadership.

The two that bear most interestingly on the Newton appraisal are Donovan McNabb (No. 2) and Daunte Culpepper (No. 11). Similar in so many ways: Culpepper has a career passer rating of 87.8 to McNabbs 85.7; Culpepper was accurate, with a career completion percentage of 63.0 to McNabbs 59.

But McNabb was a consummate leader and reached a Super Bowl and five NFC Championship games with far, far less talent than Culpepper had when he was throwing to Cris Carter and Randy Moss and handing off to Robert Smith. McNabb navigated difficult waters in Philadelphia; Culpepper couldnt navigate clear of the Love Boat incident.

A team can be a perennial championship challenger with a quarterback possessing leadership character. A team without that never will. And thats why the Newton character questions matter, particularly for a potential top-10 quarterback selection.By the way, Mike Florio at ProFootballTalk.com gives an intriguing preview of an HBO look tonight at Auburns issues with paying players. It doesnt sound like it will do Newton character-backers any favors.

Tackling a problem

Long-time buddy Tom Kowalski covering the Detroit Lions over at mlive.com lays out the case for the Lions taking a tackle at No. 13 in the draft, and Tom also looks at why the bundle of solid tackle prospects may work against a team like Detroit that might want to trade down.

The question here is whether that situation helps or hurts the Bears, back at No. 29 and looking hard at offensive linemen. But in the Bears favor arguably is that they are as interested in adding a starter at guard or possibly even center. So while you can never be too rich, too thin or have too many tackles, the draft once it hits No. 13 and Detroit, where the run on offensive linemen may be expected to begin will get very interesting in a hurry.

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.

Bears' first round pick Leonard Floyd leaves practice with illness

Bears' first round pick Leonard Floyd leaves practice with illness

Leonard Floyd provided a scare on the first day of practice at Bears training camp, but the first round pick appears fine.

Head coach John Fox said Floyd, who left Thursday's practice on a cart, is simply battling an illness and was not injured.

The Bears moved up in April's NFL Draft to select Floyd with the ninth overall pick. The outside linebacker tallied 17 sacks at Georgia and was projected to be in the mix as an outside rusher in the Bears' 3-4 defense.

Jay Cutler has answered doubters in Bears locker room, coaching staff

Jay Cutler has answered doubters in Bears locker room, coaching staff

When Jay Cutler came to the Bears in that 2009 trade with the Denver Broncos, he was “the new guy.” The locker room belonged to Olin Kreutz and Brian Urlacher on their respective sides of the football, and while the quarterback position by definition places its occupant in a necessarily leadership position, that wasn’t the Bears. They weren’t going to be “Cutler’s team,” not for a while.

But Matt Forte exited this past offseason and with him went the last position player – on either side of the ball – who had been here longer than Cutler now has. The reality wasn’t lost on Cutler.

“I was looking at the roster a couple of weeks ago and I feel like there’s been a major shift in experience — especially on the offensive side,” he said. “I’m at 11 [years] and then you look down, there’s a couple of nines, a couple of eights and mostly five and under, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I think a new talent and new guys in the building, there’s new energy and new attitude. I’ve embraced it. I’ve enjoyed it. I think the coaching staff’s done a great job of getting all these young guys up to speed. It’s a good group right now.”

It is also a group that looks to Cutler perhaps in ways teammates haven’t. Where Forte was at least the template for an NFL professional for his position group, Cutler now becomes the go-to veteran for everything ranging from details on a play-call to how to behave as a rookie.

It is a role that at times Cutler did not always appear to fit into comfortably, particularly with established veterans and personas that were the Bears’ identity for, in cases like Kreutz and Urlacher, a decade or more. Now, a player once sometimes perceived by outsiders as poutish or petulant has become something of a standard-setter for teammates.

“Obviously Jay does a great job with the younger guys,” said guard Kyle Long. “He brought me along, and continues to bring me along. He can be a little honest and blunt with me from time to time, but beyond a shadow of a doubt it’s the right thing to do in his position, as the leader and vested player.

“The quarterback is the leader of our team. I think he’s done a great job. I see him with the defense a lot, which is something I didn’t see a lot the first few years. I don’t necessarily know if that’s on Jay, or if it’s a perception-of-Jay basis. He’s a great guy. People in that locker room love him. He’s tough as hell. He’s got a cannon. He can run. And he’s a competitor. We love him. He’s been great this offseason and we’re looking forward to seeing how he’ll be this season with this new O-line and with the defense getting us the ball back a lot.”

Tough love approach

Cutler has earned the respect of his teammates. But gaining the confidence of his head coach and general manager through last year were possibly career turning points.

Cutler had been given a contract extension six games into his first (2009) year with the Bears. He responded by leading the NFL in interceptions.

When Phil Emery arrived as general manager, he spoke from the outset of Cutler as a “franchise quarterback” and “elite.” Emery gave Cutler a seven-year contract after the 2013 season, whereupon Cutler again led the league in interceptions in a 5-11 season marked by friction with coordinator Aaron Kromer and coach Marc Trestman, whose staff was fired after that year.

Instead of fawning treatment, Fox, coordinator Adam Gase and GM Ryan Pace were decidedly noncommittal on Cutler through last offseason and into the year. Cutler produced the best statistical year of his career, still not as good as Aaron Rodgers’ poorest single season, but with an overall performance that settled the Bears’ quarterback situation for the foreseeable future.

"I had questions on everybody," Fox said. "You come in, you take a job, you evaluate and you have to make decisions oftentimes before you even meet somebody in Year 1 as a head coach or general manager. They could be robots for all you know. But the game is still about people and relationships.

“I will say this: At the conclusion of the whole season working with Jay, I was very impressed. So I feel way more confident about him."

Bears make front office changes

Bears make front office changes

The Bears announced in a press release on Wednesday that the team has made numerous changes in their front office this offseason.

One such move included the hiring of Brandon Faber as the VP of Communications. Faber was with the Blackhawks communications department since 2008, where his most recent position was Senior Director of Communications and Community relations. 

"The club created a new executive layer of SVP’s to better lead and develop various areas of business with a focus on innovation & strategy," the release detailed. "The club promoted Scott Hagel, Karen Murphy, Cliff Stein and Lee Twarling to the newly created SVP level. The Bears have also added three new members to the VP level, promoting Doug Carnahan to VP of Corporate Partnerships and Jake Jones to VP of Finance and hiring Brandon Faber as the VP of Communications."

Hagel has been promoted to SVP, Marketing and Communications after 20 years with the Bears. Murphy has been promoted to SVP, Business Strategy and CFO. She has been with the Bears for 17 years.

Stein has been with the Bears for 14 years and has been promoted to SVP and General Counsel. He is the legal advisor for all of the club.

Twarling, who has been with the club for 12 years, has been promoted to SVP, Sales and Customer Relations.