New coach's credentials less important than fit with Cutler

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New coach's credentials less important than fit with Cutler

The search for a new head coach to replace Lovie Smith will involve a variety of names and backgrounds. But one name hangs like a thunderhead over the entire process, and ultimately over the foreseeable future of the franchise:

Jay Cutler.

Cutler has gained the dubious identifier of coach killer after having been the final starting quarterback coached by Mike Shanahan in Denver and Lovie Smith in Chicago, and coordinators Ron Turner and Mike Tice in Chicago. Jeremy Bates stints as quarterback coach in Denver and Chicago ended with mentoring Cutler (Bates presumably will not be retained in the re-formed Bears staff).

Mike Martz was hired only after he was sent to Nashville to be interviewed by Cutler, not the other way around.

Why this looms as the cloud over the Bears process is that the single biggest specific reason for (most recently) Smiths and Tices exits was a non-functioning offense, which obviously starts with Cutler. Given the precedent of the Martz hiring, one wonders if the new coach will be put on a plane to be cleared by Cutler, with Brandon Marshall sitting in. Martz was in the role of supplicant from the beginning and he only worked as long as Cutler liked what he was hearing.

More important, in terms of small-group dynamics, will Cutler take coaching at this point of his career? The push-back under Turner, Martz and his position coaches was friction that did no one or the offense any good.

RELATED: After Lovie Smith? Bears have issues to consider

Cutler turns 30 just after the 2013 draft. He just finished his seventh NFL season. He is what he is. Formed.

The top early candidates, because the unstated mission statement is to bring in a coach with credentials on offense, are Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy and Tampa Bay offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan. Keith Armstrong is on the list, from the Atlanta Falcons and a former Bears assistant.

Does anyone really envision Cutler (and Marshall) going along with ideas they dont agree with from assistants who have less time running NFL offenses than they have?

The bigger problem

And if Cutler is part of another destructive taffy pull, what do the Bears do?

Cutler has one year left on his contract. If GM Phil Emery and the new coach are satisfied that Cutler is the future, great. Extend him.

But if it doesnt work between Cutler and the new head coachoffense, where does that leave the Bears? They are expected to select a quarterback in this years draft. But finding Kirk Cousins, Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, Andy Dalton or another starter-grade quarterback is problematic to say the least.

But a failed Cutlernew guy situation would mean going into 2014 starting over at quarterback, with the defense already ticketed for needing massive restocking.

Cutler may indeed be the future of the Chicago Bears offense under another coach and coordinator. It could happen. But if the coach-quarterback fit is not absolutely perfect, missing the playoffs may be the least of the franchise worries.

Bears announce training camp schedule

Bears announce training camp schedule

The Bears released their official training camp schedule Thursday morning. After reporting to Olivet Nazarene on Wednesday, July 26, the first of ten practices open to the public will take place the following day. The Bears will be based out of Bourbonnais for the 16th straight season. Training camp will go through Sunday, Aug. 13 before the Bears break camp and finish the preseason in Lake Forest. 

All practices are tentatively scheduled to start at various times during the 11 a.m. hour with the exception of Saturday, Aug. 13, which starts at 12:05 p.m. Those times are subject to change based on weather, and a varying set of schedules that John Fox and his coaching staff have set up, as they adjust to player and training staff preferences in hopes of reducing injuries. 

Also, new this season, fans wanting to attend practices must order free tickets in advance through the Bears website. Fans will not be allowed in without a ticket, and the first 1,000 fans each day will be given various souvenirs. The practice campus will be open to the public with tickets from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.

Here is the full training camp schedule:

After historically low turnover total in 2016, what can Bears do to get more takeaways?

After historically low turnover total in 2016, what can Bears do to get more takeaways?

Quintin Demps set a career high in interceptions last year by not doing anything different. And that’s the message he’s sending a defense that generated only 11 takeaways in 2016, tied for the lowest single-season total in NFL history. 

Demps went from picking off four passes in both 2013 with the Kansas City Chiefs and 2014 with the New York Giants to notching just one interception with the Houston Texans in 2015. In 2016, though, Demps intercepted six passes, broke up nine more and totaled 38 tackles. 

“Turnovers are like, it’s not something that you go get, it’s something you let come to you by doing your job first and then helping out,” Demps said. “And then you’d be surprised how they come to you by doing your job and being aware of when you can help somebody out. A lot of times when you get help is when you get picks and turnovers.”

The danger for a defense coming off a historically bad takeaway is sort of a whiplash effect, where there’s an over-emphasis on creating turnovers and not enough attention paid to, as Demps said, “doing your job.” There’s a fine line between being opportunistic and undisciplined.

“I tell my safeties all the time, we gotta tackle first,” Demps said. “Tackle first, don’t miss any tackles and then the picks are going to come. I promise you that.”

The Bears felt positively after signs of being more opportunistic as a defense during shorts-and-helmets practices in May and June, though if that was because of any real improvements or because the defense is usually ahead of the offense is hard to tell at this stage of the year. 

The offseason program was valuable for the Bears’ secondary in growing trust within a group that had — no pun intended — plenty of turnover after the 2016 season. The hope is that the offseason additions of Demps, Prince Amukamara, Marcus Cooper and Eddie Jackson will solidify the secondary and lead to something better than last year’s historically-low turnover total. 

“We’re still trying to build something, but the actual, real building happens in training camp because I think then you start to see the group start to get formed and yo know who’s going to go with the one’s, who’s going to go with the two’s, stuff like that,” Amukamara said. “So I think that starts to get formed. But I think with a lot of guys now, I think what that creates is competition and guys trying their hardest to make the team.”