Plenty of implications for Bears after signing of Mike Glennon

Plenty of implications for Bears after signing of Mike Glennon

Without realistic chances of getting Kirk Cousins away from the Washington Redskins or Jimmy Garoppolo out of the New England Patriots, the Bears and GM Pace opted for the upside of former Tampa Bay Buccaneer No. 2 quarterback Mike Glennon, 27, over the known quantity of Brian Hoyer, 31, heading into a pivotal third year for GM Ryan Pace and coach John Fox running Bears football operations.
 
The move is the first major step taken by Pace to address the starting-quarterback situation by other than staying with Jay Cutler in 2015, a decision strongly pushed by then-offensive coordinator Adam Gase and carried on by successor Dowell Loggains. The organization stayed the Cutler course last year but it was a final prove-it season with the last of the guaranteed money owed under the contract Cutler signed under former GM Phil Emery going into 2014.
 
For now, the Bears have two quarterbacks under contract: Glennon and Connor Shaw.
 
Previous quarterback moves by Pace and the Fox coaching staff involved backups. Those included re-signing Jimmy Clausen in 2015 and upgrading to Hoyer last offseason to back up Cutler, waiver-claiming Shaw as a developmental project last July and signing Matt Barkley to the practice squad last September. Pace did not draft a quarterback in either of his first two Bears drafts; he is expected to this year irrespective of the Glennon signing.

[MORE: End of an era: Bears set to release Jay Cutler]
 
Glennon in 21 games, 18 starts, has compiled a career passer rating of 84.6, a tick below that of Cutler (85.7) and Hoyer (84.8).  He has completed 59 percent of his 630 passes for 4,100 yards with 30 touchdowns and 15 interceptions during his 21 games with the Buccaneers.
 
Glennon also has some history of ball security, with a respectable interception rate of 2.4 percent, in line with Hoyer's 2.2 percent and NFC North now-rivals Teddy Bridgewater in Minnesota (2.5 percent) and Detroit's Matthew Stafford (2.5). Cutler, by comparison, was interception-prone at 3.3 percent, and no team reached the NFL postseason in 2016 with a quarterback interception rate higher than 3.1 percent (Houston/Brock Osweiler, Miami/Ryan Tannehill).

Glennon tipping points
 
Lavishing money on a quarterback with just 18 career starts comes with considerable risk, and more than a few questions. The Houston Texans took a similar flier on an inexperienced Osweiler last offseason and now face major challenges recovering from what appears to have been misplaced hope.
 
Glennon is not without high points in his NFL background, however, clearly what the Bears are banking on, literally and figuratively.
 
In what was likely a tipping point in the Bears' evaluation and conclusions about him, Glennon, who hadn't seen the field since 2014, replaced the injured Jameis Winston late in a blowout loss against the Super Bowl-bound Atlanta Falcons on Nov. 3. Playing just 12 snaps in the fourth quarter, Glennon completed 10 of 11 passes for 75 yards and a touchdown, plus one more throw for a two-point conversion, against a very good Atlanta defense, albeit in garbage time with the Falcons up 43-20. Glennon played three snaps the following week in Tampa Bay's win over the Bears in Tampa.
 
Glennon had a respectable rookie season (2013) with an 83.9 passer rating, 59.4-percent completion percentage, 19 TD's vs. 9 INT's. He went to the bench behind Josh McCown in 2014 but in his first start when McCown was injured, Glennon directed the Buccaneers to a road win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, who eventually would win the AFC Central and reach the AFC Championship game that season.
 
Sources familiar with Glennon said he was comfortable taking charge of his huddle in spite of his relatively short resume, and he was not intimidated by big moments, or opponents.

Bumpy ride in Tampa
 
Tampa Bay selected Glennon, a two-year starter at North Carolina State, with the 11th pick (73rd overall) of the third round in 2013, one of the poorest quarterback classes in years. E.J. Manuel (Buffalo, No. 16) was the only quarterback taken in round one, Geno Smith (N.Y. Jets, No. 39) alone in the second, and Glennon in the third. None has developed into a sustainable starting quarterback, and both the Bills and Jets were among the teams looking hardest at Glennon in recent weeks. Four quarterbacks were selected in the 2013 fourth round, beginning with Matt Barkley; same lack of results.
 
Glennon came into a potentially good situation (for him), with the Bucs near the end of their hope for former No. 1 pick (2009) Josh Freeman. When the season started 0-3 under Freeman, the switch was made to Glennon, who went 4-9 as Tampa Bay's starter with a passer rating of 83.9.
 
But coach Greg Schiano was fired and Lovie Smith hired in 2014. When the Bears did not make a strong move to keep Josh McCown, Smith and the Bucs signed McCown to a two-year deal and installed him as the starter instead of Glennon, although Smith regarded Glennon as potentially Tampa Bay's quarterback of the future.
 
Glennon had chances in 2014 when McCown missed time with injuries, but the Bucs finished 2-14 and used the No. 1-overall pick on Jameis Winston, who became the day-one starter and Glennon never started again. He did not see the field at all in 2015 and filled in for Winston twice last season with a total of 15 snaps taken.
 
The Buccaneers had trade offers for Glennon in the 2015 and 2016 offseasons but opted to hold onto him as a backup to Winston. And they did make an offer, but one based on his remaining a backup.
 
"We'd love to have Mike back in a perfect scenario," Bucs general manager Jason Licht had said last week at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, adding prophetically, “It's going to depend on him. He's going to have some other opportunities. Where it is, what's the landscape there, how good of a chance he has to start there? I don't know but we'd love to have him back."

End of an era: Bears release Jay Cutler

End of an era: Bears release Jay Cutler

The long-anticipated departure of Jay Cutler from Chicago came to pass on Thursday as the Bears released Cutler, and sources tell CSNChicago.com that the New York Jets could be in the mix to sign Cutler. The action ended an eight-year Cutler run with the Bears that saw one playoff trip and victory, and a near-constant argument over what the Bears had done when they traded draft picks and Kyle Orton to the Denver Broncos in 2009 for what they hoped would continue to be a Pro Bowl quarterback.
 
Cutler exits as one of the most polarizing figures in Chicago sports history, certainly among Bears fans but also among teammates, with whom he had various dustups over his eight Bears seasons.

"I appreciate Jay's professionalism throughout this process and throughout my two years with him here in Chicago," Bears general manager Ryan Pace said in a press release. "I will always appreciate his toughness and respect his accomplishments on the field with the Bears. He leaves here holding every passing record with this storied franchise and I wish him nothing but the best."

Bears chairman George McCaskey added: "We are grateful to Jay for all he did as a Bear. His ability, toughness, and intelligence were on daily display at Halas Hall and Soldier Field. He had an extraordinary impact off the field, doing things for people — especially kids — without expecting or wanting any recognition. I was and am a big fan of his. We wish Jay, Kristin and their three kids all the best."
 
The 2016 season, even more than 2015, had been a prove-it year for Cutler in large measure because it was the final season that contained any guaranteed money. And as coaches consistently state, players generally make their decisions for them. With his health and performance, Cutler ultimately made this decision a fait accompli.
 
Besides two different injuries happening, Cutler regressed in ball security, with his interception percentage spiking back up to 3.6 from 2.3, his completion percentage falling below 60 and only one of five starts with a passer rating above 82.
 
And as it had with Alshon Jeffery, durability and injury history became factors. Since coming to the Bears, Cutler played all 16 games just once (2009) at age 34, Cutler's physical vulnerabilities were only going increase, not decrease. From 2009-16 Cutler missed as many games (26) as Tony Romo, one of the unfortunate benchmarks for injury issues at quarterback. Cutler underwent shoulder surgery for a torn labrum suffered last season, raising more recent and significant red flags about both his present and future.
 
Mismanagement styles
 
The 2009 trade to acquire Cutler could be and was heavily debated. In hindsight the Bears did not two No. 1's worth of on-field value for Cutler but the organization went aggressively after what it viewed as a huge upgrade at the the single most important position in team sports.
 
But once Cutler hit town, how the management handled him both on and off the field was mystifying and misguided, nowhere more glaringly obvious than committing a seven-year contract to a proven mid-level quarterback. 
 
GM Phil Emery subsequently floated the bizarre narrative that, coming off a so-called breakout offensive year under Marc Trestman, particularly with much of the success coming when Josh McCown ran the offense, the Bears needed to show evidence of a commitment to Cutler; hence the massive contract rather than a one-year franchise tag. But the season was hardly "breakout," and the offense averaged nearly 50 more passing yards per game in starts by McCown (308.6) than with Cutler (259.3).
 
Cutler's history instead suggested that prove-it tough love was a better management approach. Cutler had responded to his surprise extension after five Bears games in 2009 with the highest interception total and lowest passer rating of his career. When Emery lavished the term "franchise quarterback" on him in 2012, Cutler's production was among the lowest of his Chicago seasons.
 
And 2014, after the contract move, was an unmitigated disaster for the team and organization, despite Cutler proclaiming at the time of his contract-signing in January, "The mindset is right and the talent in the locker room is right."
 
However, compared to the approaches of Emery and Jerry Angelo before them, neither John Fox nor Pace offered endorsements of Cutler as their quarterback immediately after their hirings. More pointedly, Gase prefaced his decision on Cutler with contacting various Cutler coaches, seeking to discern what had and hadn't worked with the enigmatic quarterback over the Chicago years. The result was Adam Gase lobbying hard to stay with Cutler and going to a simplified decision-making scheme for Cutler, who then produced the best passing season of his career.

That season included the Bears re-committing to balanced offense, 47 percent run in 2014 from 37 percent under Trestman. But under Dowell Loggains the offense ran on just 39.5 percent of the plays, not a formula proven to work for Cutler, or Brian Hoyer, either, for that matter.
 
Recurring O.C. issues – cause or effect of Cutler?
 
Whether that was a cause or an effect of Cutler's oft-disappointing and middling level of play, Cutler's career has been marked by a veritable turnstile of offensive coordinators. For various different reasons, Cutler unquestionably clashed and clashed hard with his early Bears bosses.
 
Ron Turner was coordinator under Lovie Smith when Cutler was acquired. Turner and Cutler had bad history dating back to when Turner was coach at Illinois and Cutler believed Turner rescinded a scholarship offer. Turner denied that the scholarship had been offered but subsequently admitted errors in handling of Cutler with the Bears, assuming more of the quarterback than was really there after three NFL seasons in Denver.
 
"With Jay's talent, probably the mistake I made early with him is that I probably did try to do too much, and then cut back on it as we went, and I think he got better," Turner told ESPN last year. "But, yeah, probably a little too much, too early."

[STATS: Jay Cutler left his mark in the Bears record books]
 
Turner was gone after 2009, replaced by Mike Martz. The former Rams head coach simplified the game, taking audibles away from Cutler, who produced the best year-and-a-half stretch of his career.
 
But Cutler was constantly battered under Martz's pass-heavy schemes. His irritation boiled over and was ultimately captured on film during an Oct. 16, 2011 game vs. Minnesota yelling, "Tell him to [expletive] himself!" toward the sideline, referring to Martz. Cutler's season ended a month later with a thumb injury and Martz was fired at the end of that season.
 
Smith then promoted offensive line coach Mike Tice to coordinator and the Bears streaked to a 7-1 start. But Cutler suffered a concussion in a loss to Houston, missed the next game, and his relationship with Tice deteriorated after Cutler berated his offensive line and bumped tackle J'Marcus Webb leaving the field after one of seven sacks suffered in a loss at Green Bay.
 
By the end of the season backup quarterback McCown was acting as an occasional messenger between Tice and Cutler, whose lack of respect for Tice had become palpable through a 10-6 season that ultimately got Smith and most of his staff fired.
 
Cutler's relationship with Trestman and coordinator Aaron Kromer started well through 2013. But the coaching staff became increasingly inclined to stay with McCown, who ran the offense interception-free and more to their liking during fill-in work while Cutler was out twice with injuries.
 
But sources said that Emery was insistent upon returning to and staying with Cutler over McCown, underscored by Cutler after the 2013 season being signed to a seven-year contract topping out at $126.7 million, with $54 million ultimately guaranteed over the first three years, subject to the Bears decisions in early 2015 and 2016 to commit to those guarantees.
 
As the 2014 season collapsed, Kromer anonymously voiced frustrations of the coaching staff to a national reporter, who reported supposed "buyer's remorse" with the Cutler contract. Kromer subsequently admitted to the breach and apologized to Cutler and the offense in mid-December. Kromer was fired immediately after the season, as were Emery and most of the Trestman staff.
 
Cutler developed a connection with Gase and Loggains, both hired in 2015 under Fox. Gase left to take the Miami Dolphins head coach job in 2016 and Cutler, dealing with thumb and shoulder issues, regressed in his five starts last season, finishing with 4 TD passes vs. 5 INT's and a rating of 78.1, second-lowest in his career behind only the 76.8 of 2009, his interception-filled first season with the Bears.

The "weapons" myth
 
Cutler defenders consistently cited the Bears' failure to surround him with supporting playmakers and protectors as a primary reason why Cutler never reached the heights promised by his physical talents. It is a story line that does not stand up to even cursory analysis.
 
Cutler and the Bears reached 11-5 and the NFC Championship game in 2010 with a wideout corps featuring Devin Hester and Johnny Knox, in addition to Matt Forte at running back and Greg Olsen at tight end, behind Frank Omiyale and Webb at the tackles.
 
Cutler posted a passer rating of 86.3 and was intercepted on 3.7 percent of his passes, neither number the stuff of elite.
 
By 2013, Emery had supplemented Forte with Martellus Bennett at tight end via free agency, and with Brandon Marshall via trade, to go with Jeffery. Cutler posted a rating of 89.2 and interception percentage of 3.4 – scant improvements over his play in 2010 with Hester, Knox, etc.
 
With the same weapons, McCown significantly out-performed Cutler in 2013, as did Hoyer in 2016.

Prickly teammates
 
Cutler was elected routinely as one of the co-captains on offense, a situation that would have been more notable had he not been, given the position played. But while Cutler consistently had the public backing of the locker room, conditions around the central figure of the offense were too often less than sanguine.
 
Leaving the field after one 2009 change of possession, Cutler got harsh with one of his offensive linemen. Pro Bowl center Olin Kreutz told Cutler not to go there, to which Cutler told Kreutz, "you play your position, I'll play mine," according to sources.
 
Cutler physically bumped and berated Webb while leaving the field during the 2012 game at Green Bay, yelling at Webb, "Get your [expletive] head in the game."
 
Linebacker Pernell McPhee, at the time inactive on the PUP list, said something loosely to that effect this season after Cutler had turned the football over a second time in the third quarter of the week-two loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
 
Cutler was not a favorite of one-time defensive fixtures Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher. And relationships with Bennett, Marshall and others were inconsistent, with the former teammates taking shots at Cutler from safe distances after they'd left the Bears via trades.

Bears signing of Rueben Randle has some curious elements

Bears signing of Rueben Randle has some curious elements

The Bears' signing of former New York Giant and No. 2 draft pick Rueben Randle to a reserve/futures contract on Tuesday was a small tell that the Bears indeed will pull just about any lever to effect a roster upgrade. But Randle is a curious case — they had a chance to sign him anytime last season and didn't — and there's a teeny shred of "this sounds kinda familiar" to it.
 
Roy Williams. Brandon Marshall. Now Randle? All part of a group that looks every bit the part — and then teams find out why they were available in the first place.
 
Randle was the 63rd player taken in the 2012 draft, 18 picks after the Bears under GM Phil Emery traded up in in the second round to grab Alshon Jeffery and already had dealt away two No. 3's to acquire Marshall. "Enigmatic" would be a fair descriptor for all three receivers.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]
 
Randle piled up 188 receptions, 2,644 yards and 20 touchdowns in his four seasons with the Giants, and started 33 of 64 games. But two NFL personnel men described Randle as a head case who runs lousy routes and was never where he was supposed to be, which did not sit well with quarterback Eli Manning. Consensus was that the Giants would've dumped Randle if he hadn't been someone's No. 2 draft pick.
 
Signing Randle at this point, after he was out of football all year following his failure to stick with Philadelphia past the 75 round of cuts, is intriguing. The Bears brought him to Halas Hall for a workout in late November but chose not to sign him despite a wideout-lite lineup that was without Jeffery (suspended) and Kevin White (injured), had Deonte Thompson starting, and proceeded to drop 10 passes the following game vs. Tennessee.
 
A reserve/futures contract assures the Bears a longer look at Randle this offseason, at a time when their receivers depth chart is in flux, with Jeffery coming out of his franchise tag, Eddie Royal unlikely to return after two injury-riddled seasons and Marquess Wilson a free agent but coming off a fractured foot.