Now that's offensive: Bears playing their usual game
BY MIKE MULLIGAN firstname.lastname@example.org
It started with a faulty premise, the idea that the quarterback makes a team and not the other way around. Now, with the Bears approaching the midway point of Year 2 of the Jay Cutler era, comes growing realization that whatever experiment we're seeing here has gone horribly wrong.
You'd like to say the Bears' offense is an abject failure of unprecedented level, but truth is bad offense and Chicago football go together like politics and corruption.
Where did it all go wrong- How do you trade for a Pro Bowl quarterback running the second-ranked offense in the NFL and put him in a system that ranks No. 29 only because it jumped up a spot during the bye week- The Bears might be able to break the top 15 if they don't play again. Sadly, they're off to Toronto this week for an international showdown with a bad Buffalo Bills team.
There is plenty of blame to go around. Cutler has thrown too many picks and taken too many sacks in his short tenure with the Bears. Mike Martz is a scheme-driven coordinator who far too often puts players in a situation where they can't succeed. He might be a genius, but he hasn't been relevant in the NFL in 10 years. Lovie Smith hired Martz and oversees the operation. Jerry Angelo never has been able to put a great offense together.
Ranking 15th is the magical threshold in the Angelo era, the apex of offensive play since the general manager joined the team before the 2001 season. The Bears ranked 15th on offense in 2006, the year they went to a Super Bowl, which marks the only season they've been higher than 23rd under Angelo. They traded away running back Thomas Jones after that season, a guy then-quarterback Rex Grossman called ''the heart and soul'' of the offense.
Those were the days when the Bears got off the bus running, at least until the second half of the Super Bowl. They treated the forward pass like a gateway drug that only could lead to disaster.
Enter the opportunity of a lifetime, the chance to add a so-called franchise quarterback to the mix. The Bears jumped and have been falling ever since. They ranked 23rd on offense last season, only the second time they have been above No. 26 in the 32-team league during the Angelo era. Offensive coordinator Ron Turner was fired for his trouble.Many share blame
What's obvious now is that more is wrong with the Bears' offense than any quarterback can fix. There is an institutional problem that really can't be blamed on just one person. Cutler, Martz, Smith, Angelo -- all of them have played a role.
But there is no escaping some pretty damning facts, like the painful truth that things never have been very good on that side of the ball since Angelo arrived in 2001. Bad as they may have been, the Bears finished 21st or better on offense in five of the six seasons before Angelo arrived, including top-10 finishes on offense under personnel boss Mark Hatley in 1999 (No. 8 overall) and his predecessor Rod Graves in 1995 (No. 9). Angelo was in Tampa at that time, and the offenses there were never better than 21st.
Starting in 2001, the team has wallowed in misery, humiliation and failure under John Shoop, Terry Shea, Turner and now Martz. In consecutive seasons, they have ranked 26th, 29th, 28th, 32nd, 29th, 15th, 27th, 26th and 23rd before falling back to 29th this season. They currently rank in the bottom five in just about every significant offensive category.
Cutler hasn't come near sky-high expectations. His resum1/8© before coming to Chicago suggested a player on the upswing. He entered the league in 2006 playing for an offense that finished 21st, then 11th in 2007 and finally second. The offenses he directed didn't start falling off the ledge until he came to the Bears, which begs the question of whether he'd be better off somewhere else. The Bears, of course, seem to be pretty static regardless of who is under center or who is calling the plays.
The trade deadline is long gone and the team has no plans to move Cutler, but the disturbing thing talking to people around the NFL is that his value has fallen along with his statistics. The man acquired for two first-round picks, Kyle Orton and a swap of a third-rounder for a fifth-rounder wouldn't be worth more than one first-round and one third-round selection these days, one AFC general manager said.Cutler a coach-killer-
You never get the same value on a re-trade. While it might not be Cutler's fault, odds are he'd be seen as a coach-killer because Mike Shanahan and presumably Smith would be out of the picture during his short career. He never has had a winning season, and that would be held against him regardless of the talent around him.
Another source said the Washington Redskins with Shanahan would be an obvious destination, especially now that the coach benched Donovan McNabb for Grossman at the end of a bad loss to the Detroit Lions. Flimsy excuses don't tell the real story that Shanahan and the Redskins are disappointed with McNabb and that he's unlikely to be in their long-term plans. Would the Bears be better off dealing the only guy this side of Julius Peppers and maybe Devin Hester with legitimate trade value and signing McNabb as a free agent next year-
Could things get any worse-