View from the Moon: Why so personal with Jay?

371802.jpg

View from the Moon: Why so personal with Jay?

Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2011
6:14 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

You want to be done with the Jay Cutler nonsense but it just keeps a-comin.

Of all the aspects of the Jay Cutler Affair, the most difficult to understand was the trashing he received at the hands of his NFL colleagues. It was seriously obvious that so much of the venom was oozing from dislike for Cutler; it was personal, not professional.

But even that doesnt explain the level of the antipathy. Why so personal?

Detroit Lions linebacker Zack Follett may have the answer. Now, bear in mind that in the same radio interview, chronicled in the Detroit Free Press, Follett dubs his own franchise quarterback, Matthew Stafford, a china doll because of Staffords injure-ability.

Follett, who finished the year on IR with a neck injury, did his best Maurice Jones-Drew backdown imitation, going on his Twitter account to clarify, Thats my bad on the China Doll comment.

But before that he gave a look at even though football may in the end be a business, it is still eminently personal.

I think the way he carries himself. We played him the first game of the season. He kind of has a swagger about him that. a little cockiness that it kind of makes defensive players kind of chomp at the mouth. Were ready to get at him. Our defensive coordinator, Gunther Cunningham, he wasnt a big fan of Cutler.

Throw that in with a segment of opinion viewing Cutler as a spoiled punk for the way he engineered his exit from Denver (which just about any working stiff would do from their job if they didnt like where they worked and had some juice to force a change), and you have the nub of it:

You dont like somebody? Then theyre guilty until proven innocent.

Logical thinking

The Cutler fallout has obscured the naming of the 2010 All-Pro team, which included Julius Peppers as one defensive end and Devin Hester as the returner. Chris Harris and Brian Urlacher were named to the second team.

Colleague Tom Curran out east at CSNNE.com, our Comcast New England operation, takes you on an insightful tour of his thinking behind each ballot he cast. Tom also tells you which way he voted and why when it was a different direction than the eventual winner.

Good stuff. And heres a hint: Urlacher didnt miss First Team by much.

A new low every hour

Just when you think youve heard just about every slime-ball comment and insult of Jay Cutler, now you have former Packer Greg Koch weighing in (pun intended).

Koch tells a Houston radio show that he saw Cutler as the X-factor (now there is some pithy insight) but I just never thought that his tampon would fall out on national TV.

Cutler was riding the stationary bike on the sideline like a little girl, Koch observed from his position as a savvy exercise therapist. Then putting his plastic stethoscope around his neck and chrome reflector head-band on, Dr. Koch prescribed treatment for Cutlers torn knee ligament, You can brace that thing.

The former tackle blocked for quarterbacks so he knows all of them well enough to contradict the notion that trainers (or perhaps, oh, I dont know, maybe a head coach) could shut one down. Oh, bull Nobody wouldve kept Tom Brady off the field if he wanted to play. Nobody wouldve kept Peyton Manning off the field.

Never mind that Cutler did come back in. I told you its a no-strings-attached league.

(Oh, and as far as putting the URL here for linking to the broadcast, Ill pass. This guy doesnt need any more attention that he just got here.)

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.

Are Bears better than Texans, Broncos, Dolphins and others? Pro Football Focus says yes

Are Bears better than Texans, Broncos, Dolphins and others? Pro Football Focus says yes

Pro Football Focus has more than its share of both supporters and detractors of how it goes about grading NFL players. They break down every snap for every player, and while there are general agreements on what's seen by naked, untrained eyes who don't put the time and investment into its system that PFF does, there are other evaluations that seem to come out of the blue. While there's occasional guesswork on a player's particular assignment on a given play within its scheme, those of us who've watched and studied nuances of the game, or those who've played it, can usually identify how many jobs were done correctly.

Tuesday, PFF released its rankings of all 32 NFL rosters but in essence focused on the quality of each team's starting lineup, listing the Bears — are you sitting down? — 18th in the league. That's ahead of the likes of the Ravens, Saints, Texans, Dolphins, a Jaguars franchise that's had tons of high draft picks in recent years, as well as the Broncos and Lions (whom they rank 28th). The top five are the Falcons, Patriots, Titans, Packers and Steelers (the Bears play three of those teams in September alone). Among other Bears opponents, they rank the Panthers 10th, Vikings 12th, Buccaneers 13th and Eagles 15th.

[BEARS TICKETS: Get your seats right here]

Their evaluation is based on each player's final score from last season, "elite" and "good" being the top two levels, followed by "average" and "below average" to "poor." The only Bear earning elite status was inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman. Another nine Bears finished with good grades: Jordan Howard, Zach Miller, Josh Sitton, Cody Whitehair, Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman, Danny Trevathan, Adrian Amos and Quintin Demps (who earned his grade in Houston).

Those earning average grades were Cam Meredith, Kendall Wright, Kyle Long, Charles Leno, Jr., Pernell McPhee and Prince Amukamara. Below average: Mike Glennon (in mop-up duty in Tampa Bay), Kevin White, Bobby Massie, Leonard Floyd and Jaye Howard. The only Bear earning a poor grade among projected starters was tight end Dion Sims (with Miami). The other potential flaw is that PFF lists Kyle Fuller (no grade) and Bryce Callahan (average) as starters when Marcus Cooper and Cre'Von LeBlanc likely have the inside track to start at cornerback and nickel back, respectively.

How did the Bears get to 18th, above three playoff teams and another that won the Super Bowl two years ago? Well, all of those other teams have more elite players at certain positions, but it's offset by a number of spots occupied by more players with poor or below average grades. The Broncos (25th) for instance, had four elite players, just another four falling under the good grade, but five players listed as poor.

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."