Ron Jaworski sees strides. He sees quarterback Jay Cutler and the Bears ‘‘ascending’’ from earlier in the season.
But the ESPN “Monday Night Football” analyst isn’t sure there’s enough time left for Cutler and the team to make a championship run.
‘‘It’s a good football team that’s evolving offensively,’’ Jaworski said. ‘‘But all the components are not in place. At times, it looks very good. But that offensive line isn’t where it needs to be.
‘‘I see progress with Jay in this system; it looks like he’s bought into Mike Martz’s system. But as the season wore on, I thought there would be more continuity with where to go with the football. It’s gotten a little better, but not the quantum jump I’d expected.’’
Barring an utter collapse, even after their 36-7 loss to the New England Patriots last Sunday, the Bears should win the NFC North and end a three-year postseason drought. And whether they are one-and-done in the playoffs or they win the big one, Cutler has shown enough promise in Martz’s offense that the organization needs to keep them together. Cutler developed nicely in Denver, playing under Mike Shanahan and Jeremy Bates, but he struggled in his one Bears season with Ron Turner. Personnel and scheme may have had something to do with Cutler’s poor performance in 2009.
Cutler, whom the Bears have invested a lot in, needs continuity.
‘‘I think it’s critical for the development of Cutler that Mike Martz returns,’’ Jaworski said. ‘‘That second year, [quarterbacks] have that quantum leap. I think that will happen with Martz and Cutler.’’
Martz has improved every offense he has taken over previously, but this season it isn’t likely. In 2009, the Bears’ offense ranked 23rd. In 2010, with three games left, the offense is ranked 30th. Consequently, Martz’s stock doesn’t look too hot.
But Jaworski said the 27-year-old Cutler needs more time to develop and grow in Martz’s system.
‘‘He’s nowhere near where he needs to be,’’ Jaworski said. ‘‘It takes time to master.
‘‘Occasionally, I see a lot of special attributes. I don’t see it consistent enough. Sometimes, the undisciplined Jay Cutler comes in that huddle. That [consistency] comes with time, in the same scheme.’’
Jaworski doesn’t read too much from Cutler’s play against the Patriots.
‘‘The conditions were ridiculous,’’ Jaworski said. ‘‘I watched the whole game on coach’s tape. It was a horrible day to play quarterback in, and it’s difficult to get a barometer on a quarterback in conditions like that.”
While Patriots quarterback Tom Brady had a great statistical day, completing 27 of 40 passes for 369 yards with two touchdowns and no turnovers, Jaworski said the Brady caught a few breaks — three, to be exact.
‘‘Tom should have had three picks in the game,’’ Jaworski said. ‘‘The statistics are great, but they can be misleading, as well.’’
Cutler, meanwhile, was 12-for-26 for 152 yards with two interceptions and one lost fumble. He also was sacked twice.
As he studies film of the Bears, Jaworski said there’s something very obvious about the offense.
‘‘I believe they have to run the ball to be effective offensively,’’ he said. ‘‘I’m not saying 150 [rushing] yards. But the offensive line isn’t good enough for a quarterback to drop back 40 times and expect them to protect. They can’t put all the pressure on Cutler.’’
During their five-game win streak, the Bears averaged 33 runs. In four losses this season, they have averaged 15 runs. Against the Patriots, the Bears ran the ball 14 times for just 47 yards.
Jaworski didn’t want to completely rule out the possibility of a Bears playoff run, but he isn’t optimistic.
‘‘You can get hot,’’ he said. ‘‘They do have some players that can take a game over. Once you get to the playoffs, anything could happen; I wouldn’t discount that.
‘‘But I’m not seeing a team that you say, ‘You have to worry about this team in the playoffs.’ ’’