Mullin: Great QBs make everyone on field a 'weapon'


Mullin: Great QBs make everyone on field a 'weapon'

Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2011
Posted: 3:36 p.m.

By John Mullin Bears Insider Follow @CSNMoonMullin
Continuing an investigation...

A colleaguecompetitor who will remain nameless (so our bosses dont chirp about us fraternizing with enemies (yes, people can compete flat-out and have some good chat along the way) and I shared some thoughts from time to time. Like now.

The subject was this weapons thing and how the Bears havent given Jay Cutler any. Well, we noted that that in 2008, Denver Cutler was the exalted Pro Bowl quarterback with weapons that included receivers Brandon Marshall, Eddie Royal, Brandon Stokely and Tony Scheffler, and running backs Peyton Hillis, Michael Pittman and Selvin Young, all of whom averaged more than 4 yards per carry. The Broncos scored 370 points and finished 8-8 with some input from a bad defense.

That same season, Chicago Kyle OrtonRex Grossman had Rashied Davis, new-receiver Devin Hester, unhealthy Brandon Lloyd (five starts) and old Marty Booker to throw to. The Bears were 9-7 and scored 375 with Josh Beekman starting at left guard and John St. Clair at left tackle.

Weapons are nice. Great quarterbacks make everyone a weapon.

Salty Peppers?

Probably not. But Bears defensive end Julius Peppers, generally regarded as a gentleman and class act on the field, was micd up during the Green Bay game and you can catch him on NFL Networks Sound FX at 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday. Peppers had some conversations with officials as well as players so it should be good listening.

Looking a little deeper...

A lack of investment in the offensive line is cited as the primary source of problems for Cutler, based on the assumption that the bombardment hes been too often under has made him a scared quarterback with declining skills. That doesnt work, for reasons beyond the fact that the Bears invested a first-round draft choice in a tackle, tried to re-sign an aging veteran center for one year at 4 million and then arguably overpaid for a former start as the potential answer.

The bigger reason is that Cutler is without question one of the NFLs toughest quarterbacks. But he is being given something of a pass in part because of the 52 sacks he took last season. Never a good thing, and Cutlers passer ratings in fact improved after mid-season when the offensive line stabilized and playcallinggame-planning changed for the better.

But just for sake of comparison, Aaron Rodgers was sacked 50 times in 2009 and posted a passer rating of 103.2 for the year, best for any of his three full seasons. Cutlers mark last season was 86.3, right about in line with his career level around 84.

When Cutler was sacked 35 times in 2009, he threw 26 interceptions in a forgettable year under Ron Turner, and he had the lowest passer rating (76.8) of his career.

The point is not to serve as an apologist for either the offensive line or the organization. But to simply cite protection issues and a receiver group of modest abilities is to look at a snapshot and miss the overall.

On the plus side...

Cutler is off to a start unlike just about any other in Bears quarterback franchise history, at least for yardage. Through three games Cutler is averaging 286 passing yards per game, vs. the next-highest Bears total for a season, 240 by Erik Kramer in 1995.

On the fence...

The 1-2 start has given Cutler a .500 record (34-34 regular season, 1-1 playoffs) as a starting NFL quarterback...

On the run...

The Green Bay Packers held running back Matt Forte to 82 total yards on Sunday, notable perhaps because for his career, Forte is averaging 100.7 yards through 51 games. Only Walter Payton (111.9) averaged more yards per Bears game for his career... Since coming into the league in 2008, only Chris JohnsonTennessee, Adrian PetersonMinnesota and Maurice Jones-DrewJacksonville have netted more yards, and only Baltimore running back Ray Rice (1,709) has more receiving yards than Fortes 1,727.

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.

Three quick fixes for some Bears woes while searching for a turnaround

Three quick fixes for some Bears woes while searching for a turnaround

Positives were difficult to find in last Thursday’s 26-10 loss to the Green Bay Packers. So maybe the place to look for improvement lies in just getting rid of a few negatives.

As far as positives, Leonard Floyd would be the obvious one, with two sacks, one a strip and fumble recovery for a TD. Ka’Deem Carey would be another, with 10 carries for 48 yards, his second straight game with high-impact running; Jordan Howard has been shackled for two weeks, so the Bears have needed another backfield-committee member contributing. Jeremy Langford may have trouble finding work when he comes back from his ankle injury.

But negatives have far outweighed positives, which is how you get to 1-6. Fixing three of those will go a long way toward improving their chances against a Minnesota Vikings team that appeared eminently beatable in losing at Philadelphia on Sunday:

Stop the penalty hemorrhaging

For the third straight game the Bears had 10 penalties walked off against them. This "streak" started after eight infractions in the win over Detroit. The 10 in Green Bay cost the Bears 108 yards in a game where their offense netted just 189. Seven of the penalties were charged to the defense, six of which gave the Packers first downs.

The three offensive penalties were mental. A wide receiver (Alshon Jeffery) lined up offsides. The quarterback (Matt Barkley) drew a delay flag. An offensive lineman (Ted Larsen) was illegally downfield.

All of which point to a discipline problem getting worse, not better. Whether the fault lies with players losing focus or coaches not instilling a mindset is a debate, but meaningless if the problem is not addressed. “There were a lot of penalties out there,” said cornerback De’Vante Bausby, who committed three of those penalties. “We had a good scheme and plan but we just didn’t finish in the second half as a group.”

Stop the dinking

While Brian Hoyer replacing Jay Cutler scaled back the downfield element of the offense, the loss of an emerging Kevin White should not be understated. The de facto rookie may not have gotten in the end zone but he was leading the team in receptions before he suffered a broken leg in the win over Detroit.

Since the loss of White, however, the offense has shrunk. The Bears averaged 7.5 yards per pass attempt through four games with White. Without White the average is 7.0, and that is including the blip in Indianapolis, which stands as a complete anomaly. The average was 5.9 in the Jacksonville loss and 5.0 in Green Bay.

Hoyer’s ball-security orientation has been a positive, but also a limiting factor. Cutler last year had one of the best ball-security seasons of his career, yet the offense was able to average 7.5 yards per attempt.

The Bears scored two of their three rushing touchdowns in games with White, who may not yet be the field-stretcher his 4.35 speed but the prospect of White arguably made for a more threatening offense than even with the contributions of Cam Meredith.

Stop the Vikings

The Minnesota Vikings have suffered injuries at a rate like the Bears’ but have overcome them. Until Sunday in Philadelphia, when the Eagles sacked Sam Bradford six times and hit him more than a dozen other times. The Vikings never sacked Carson Wentz, who wasn’t special but was good enough while Minnesota was self-destructing.

The Vikings have beaten the Bears the last three times they’ve met, the first time that’s happened since 1999 and 2000, which is also the last time the Bears started 1-6. And the Bears have lost three straight.

The Bears were able to end the first three-game skid by focusing on one game: the Lions. The result was shutting down a very good offense, the lowest yardage-allowed (263) of the season and the firmest commitment to the run game (29) attempts.

Morale inside the locker room can only be revived by a win. One game. This game.

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.”