Moon View: Absent Cutler stealing Super Bowl show

Moon View: Absent Cutler stealing Super Bowl show

Monday, Jan. 31, 2011
9:19 p.m.
By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com
Jay-Talkin

The Bears may not be at this years Super Bowl but at least one of their number is still on the minds of some questioners around the event. And that suggests something.

Speaking to The Dan Patrick Show on Comcast SportsNet on Monday, veteran interviewer Rich Eisen from the NFL Network opined that Jay Cutler was a more in-demand interview this week than either Aaron Rodgers or Ben Roethlisberger.

Not sure I agree as far as Roethlisberger is concerned, since the background issues with him should (I said should) be of greater interest than Cutlers degree of injury or whatever people are making of the NFC Championship game situation.

But theres a touch more here than just the endless fascination or whatever it is with Cutlers departure from his last game. The reality is that the Bears have quietly become a story worth talking about this season, for all of the detractors, doubters, critics and whoever that have dismissed them.

Put another way, if the Bears didnt matter, neither would Cutler.
Check it out

A lot is going to be said and written this week about the zone blitz as practiced by coordinators Dom Capers in Green Bay and Dick LeBeau in Pittsburgh. The NFLs two best scoring defenses both operate out of a 3-4 scheme and colleague Ray Didinger out East at CSNPhilly.com does a great job running thought the particulars of what could be the story of this years Super Bowl.

If youve forgotten (and the Bears would like to), it was a zone blitz variation that dropped Packers nose tackle B.J. Raji into underneath coverage, resulting in Rajis interception and TD return for what would be the winning points in Green Bays win over the Bears in the NFC Championship game.

Just thought Id mention that.

Reason to hope?

It doesnt guarantee a successful end hovering into view in the collective bargaining agreement negotiations, but anytime people are talking, its usually encouraging.

According to a joint statement from the two sides in the process, NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell met Monday in New York to discuss a range of issues related to a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

As part of a process to intensify negotiations, they agreed to hold a formal bargaining session with both negotiating teams on Saturday in the Dallas area. They also agreed to a series of meetings over the next few weeks, both formal bargaining sessions and smaller group meetings, in an effort to reach a new agreement by early March.

Its been behind the scenes but sources have told me that Goodell and Smith talk at least once a week anyway, just the two of them. If things are moving into the public venue, consider that a good sign.

In play

No surprise that Bears assistant coaches are in demand after a strong season. Special-teams assistant Chris Tabor already has moved on to head up special teams for the Cleveland Browns and now defensive line coach Eric Washington has taken a similar post on Ron Riveras staff with the Carolina Panthers.

The Philadelphia Eagles have asked the Bears for permission to interview defensive backs coach Jon Hoke for the job as defensive coordinator, which became open when the Eagles fired Sean McDermott two weeks ago.

Nice idea

Kudos to the folks at Ascension Lutheran Church in Northfield for a very nice touch on Super Sunday. The congregation is designating next Sunday, Feb. 6, as the day for its Souper Bowl and bringing cans of soup or a little cash or both to services, with the donations going to needy folks in the Chicago area.

Hopefully the forecasted snow doesnt put the plan on ice.

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.

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.