Mullin: Is Cutler making Martz look bad?


Mullin: Is Cutler making Martz look bad?

Monday, Sept. 26, 2011
Posted: 11:19 a.m.

By John Mullin Bears Insider Follow @CSNMoonMullin
It has been a convenient theme that the problems with the Bears offense, besides Mike Martzs game-planning, has been that the organization has not put sufficient talent around Jay Cutler for him to be successful.

That is also a convenient lie.

First, it is a poor craftsman who blames his tools, so anything along those lines from either Cutler or Martz is poor buck-passing.

Second, part of what great quarterbacks (or players in any sport, for that matter see: Johnson, Magic; or Bird, Larry) make the players around them better. Cutler is not doing that, unless it is somehow the case that Earl Bennett, Johnny Knox, Dane Sanzenbacher, etc. are really, really garbage and are being saved by Cutler. Dont think so.

At some point, the spotlight comes to rest squarely on Cutler. That as much as anything was the case Sunday. At this point, Cutler can only be viewed as a middle-of-the-pack quarterback, which in fact is about where hes generally rated. Nothing special.

This is more than just opinion. Taking a quick look at the tape from Sundays first half alone:

Behind overall good pass protection, Cutler threw 7 incompletions and an interception among his 17 pass attempts.

His first completion in fact was on a fine catch of a low, underthrown pass to Sanzenbacher. His first incompletion was a short-route, dismally high throw that a leaping Devin Hester barely got a hand on.

The interception throw toward Roy Williams was not only thrown closer to safety Morgan Burnett than to Williams, but Cutler also pump-faked to Williams and drew Burnett toward that side of the field. The execution was criticized by analyst Troy Aikman at the time. Cutlers next pass also went toward a wide-open Williams but was so high it was beyond any reach.

Thats three of the seven not-caughts.

Williams gets full credit for the fourth not-caught by dropping a TD pass at the goal-line, a throw that is a must-catch for a No. 1 receiver, which Williams is proving he is not.

Four not-caughts.

The next two also cost the Bears a touchdown and rest with Cutler.

From first-and-goal at the Green Bay 7, Cutler threw behind Sanzenbacher who was breaking open, giving the Green Bay defender an easy pass-breakup. That was followed by another throw-behind to Sanzenbacher coming free in the middle of the end zone. The final miss was a correct throwaway, leaving the Bears with a field goal.

That was just the first half. The numbers for Cutler were respectable, 10 completions in 17 attempts for 180 yards and a passer rating of 90.3.

The specifics place the blame on Cutler, whom some have come increasingly to believe is getting a pass for the myriad problems besetting the offense. In some respects, it may have been Cutler who made Martz look bad, rather than vice versa.


Defensive linemen Anthony Adams, Israel Idonije, Julius Peppers and Matt Toeaina had a long, long private meeting in the back corner of the locker room Sunday before breaking up to get dressed and talk with the media. One observer wondered if it was a case of simply not wanting to spend media time, but all four are very standup guys, win or lose, so it had to be something else.

It was.

The point was very simple: It was really about self-evaluation, looking at ourselves, Toeaina told We feel like it all comes back to the D-line. We knew they were going to run. There were holes and we just didnt get there.

The self-examination was in order because the Bears believe they have a very, very good team and are not playing like one.

When you have a good team and dont play up to your standards, youve got to look at whats going on, Idonije said. It starts with every individual and we didnt do a very good job.

Is this a surprise?

Beyond the problems previously ascribed to Cutler, is there really any reason to be surprised by what has unfolded with Martz as offensive coordinator?

First, with the backfield...

Matt Forte put up big numbers in the first two weeks of this season and had his breakout year in 2010. But with Martz running the preferred version of his scheme, Forte through the first seven games had five with per-carry averages below 3 yards in five of them. After the offense was forcibly moved toward a more physical approach after the off-week, Forte had just one game below 3.3 per carry and that was against the New England Patriots.

This year, with the offense veering back to runaway passing, Fortes average before Sunday was respectable but he has rushed now for 68, 49 and 2 yards in his three games.

With Martz as coordinator with the San Francisco 49ers, Pro Bowl running backFrank Gore had the lowest rushing total of his four seasons as a full-time starter and second-lowest rushing average in his first five NFL seasons.

As far as passing...

Revisiting some checking I did when Martz was being considered for the O.C. job: With Martz as Detroit Lions coordinator in 2006-07, Jon Kitna passed topped 4,000 passing yards for the first two times in his career. Lions passing yardage indeed shot up sharply.

But more revealing perhaps, Detroits combined offensive yardage ranking improved much more modestly, from 27th before Martz to 22nd and 19th with him. And scoring increased from 15.9 points per game before Martz to 19.1 and 18.9 with him. Thats an improvement, but far from division-altering and it was not all in the scheme, either.

Martzs Detroit receivers in 2006 included Roy Williams (he was good then) and Williams and Calvin Johnson in 2007. Johnson has proved to be one of the top receivers in the entire NFL. In St. Louis, his top pass catchers were Isaac Bruce, Marshall Faulk and Torry Holt. Of the five players here, only Bruce was taken as late as the second round; the other four were top-six No. 1s.

Martz does not have that talent level now but the scheme is still operating as if it does.

The surprise, again, is that Martz is operating in large measure in the pattern that was discarded last season and Lovie Smith has allowed it to get even this far.

Duly noted

The 13 rushing yards Sunday are officially the third-lowest rushing total in franchise history.

Change coming, but when?

The surprise of this season will be if Mike Martz is back after it. There was a reason he was offered a contract extension without a raise, and there was a reason he turned it down.

Forces at Halas Hall wanted Mike Tice as the offensive coordinator, and Tice was hired two weeks before Martz last year. Lovie Smith wanted Martz, his former boss in St. Louis but Martz has all but played his way out of a job. It happened in Detroit and San Francisco when he and defensive-based head coaches had irreconcilable differences.

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.

Bears Talk Podcast: What's next for Bears at QB after Brian Hoyer suffers broken arm?


Bears Talk Podcast: What's next for Bears at QB after Brian Hoyer suffers broken arm?

Lance Briggs, Alex Brown and Jim Miller break down where the Bears go at QB following Brian Hoyer’s injury and evaluate the defense’s gutsy performance on Thursday night against the Packers despite numerous injuries. Plus, a look at the big picture and who can help the Bears down the road.

Check out the latest edition of the Bears Talk Podcast here:

Bears Grades: Quarterback woes take offense to new low in loss to Packers

Bears Grades: Quarterback woes take offense to new low in loss to Packers

GREEN BAY, Wisc. – The Bears could scarcely have started off any worse Thursday night against the Green Bay Packers, with exactly one positive play in the entire first quarter.

And then things got bad.

Quarterback Brian Hoyer, having his worst outing since succeeding Jay Cutler, sustained a broken left forearm when he was hit by Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers after releasing a second-quarter pass. Matt Barkley replaced Hoyer, but the focus now centers on Jay Cutler returning from a thumb injury suffered in game two vs. Philadelphia, and Cutler starting a week from Monday in Soldier Field against the currently undefeated Minnesota Vikings.

“When [Cutler’s return] is going to be,” said coach John Fox, “I can’t say.”

Regardless of the quarterback, the offense showed none of the efficiency exhibited in the last four games under Hoyer. The Packers were good enough to encroach before the first snap; after the gratis five yards, the Bears netted exactly zero on three snaps before punting. The Bears failed to gain a yard on eight of their first nine plays

By the end of the first half the Bears were without both starting guards and their starting quarterback, with left guard Josh Sitton inactive due to an ankle injury and Kyle Long sidelined in the second quarter.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

The offensive finished with 189 total yards, the lowest Bears total since game three of the 2015 season, in Seattle against the Seahawks (146).

“It was just a weird night,” said tight end Zach Miller.

Quarterback: F-    

Brian Hoyer was uncharacteristically inaccurate in the first half, missing on five of his first six passes and finished with 4-for-11 passing for 49 yards and a 50.9 rating. Worst of all, he overthrew a wide open Josh Bellamy on a seam route in the second quarter with Bellamy well behind the defense.

Matt Barkley, who last threw passes (three, all incomplete) for the Philadelphia Eagles in November 2014, fared poorly, not unexpectedly. Barkley completed six of 15 throws, was sacked once and threw two interceptions.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen the next couple weeks,” said Barkley, alluding to the uncertain status of Cutler. “I know I can do the job. ... I know I’m better than that.”

Running back: D+

With Hoyer gone, the Packers clamped down on the Bears’ rushing plans. But Ka’Deem Carey did an excellent job of gaining yards after contact, both on rushes and pass receptions. Carey finished with 48 rushing yards on 10 carries and caught his only pass target for nine.

Jordan Howard was completely shut down in the first quarter but recovered somewhat with an 11-yard carry and another for nine.

Receivers: B-

Quarterback issues and glaring inaccuracies rendered receivers as largely non-factors. Josh Bellamy gave the Bears their only positive play in the first quarter, with a 25-yard catch for a third-down conversion.

But while Alshon Jeffery was targeted 11 times, he finished with only three receptions. Zach Miller caught two of five. “You have to dial it back a little bit,” Miller said, “but we tried to stick to the game plan.”

Offensive line: D

The line was without Josh Sitton (inactive because of an ankle injury). Eric Kush started at left guard, his second NFL start since coming into the league in 2013.

Protection was about as good as could be expected overall, with Barkley taking one sack and Hoyer taking the huge hit on which he suffered his broken arm. But the Packers managed just five total hits on Bears quarterbacks and the run game averaged 3.8 yards per carry.

Coaching: C

What coaches could have done differently with the personnel available is difficult to analyze. Eventually the defense caved in because of the offense being unable to generate any continuity.