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No offensive line excuses for the Bears this year

Quarterback Jay Cutler is undoubtedly talented but his numbers with Bears — 50 TD passes 42 interceptions — are disappointing.

Quarterback Jay Cutler is undoubtedly talented, but his numbers with the Bears — 50 TD passes, 42 interceptions — are disappointing. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: November 5, 2011 5:19PM



BOURBONNAIS, Ill. — It’s time, Jay Cutler.

Same for you, Mike Martz.

Training camp blessedly opened Saturday, and after all the labor strife, ugliness and doubt of the last 41/2 months, seeing the big boys of summer in their helmets was probably enough to make grown fans teary-eyed.

But for those good feelings to have staying power, the Bears’ offense has to cooperate. Cutler said it the other day: The team’s defense was Super Bowl-worthy in 2010. The offense wasn’t.

For all the knowing looks from Bears people last year that suggested the Cutler-Martz pairing would produce the kind of creativity last seen on the Left Bank in the 1920s, it never happened. The offense finished 30th out of 32 teams in total offense, 28th in passing, 27th in third-down percentage and, not coincidentally, first in sacks allowed.

When coach Lovie Smith recently corrected a reporter who had asked about the Martz offense, saying it was “a Chicago Bears offense,’’ he robbed himself of a chance to get as far away from the carnage as he could.

Considering the offense’s struggles last season, it was a miracle the Bears made it to the NFC Championship Game. Years from now, people will still be scratching their heads over it, the way people do about crop circles: How did that happen?

If you’re an optimist, you’re thinking that with a few upgrades here and there, perhaps the Bears will become the team they think they are.

But the same problems are still loitering. Even if center Olin Kreutz re-signs with the team, the offensive line is a question mark. If he doesn’t, it’s officially a disaster. The wide receiver corps still lacks star power, unless the newly signed Roy Williams morphs back into the Pro Bowl selection he was in 2006 under Martz in Detroit. If he’s the receiver he was in Dallas the last three seasons, you pretty much have Earl Bennett II.

But all that aside, this season still comes down to the quarterback and the offensive coordinator, as it should. It’s time for both of them to step up their games. There’s no excuse for someone of Cutler’s abilities to have the numbers he has had the last two seasons, no matter how often he has gotten hit. Idiots questioned his toughness last year after a knee injury in the NFC title game. They should’ve questioned how he played when he was healthy.

When Cutler arrived for camp here two years ago, Bears personnel immediately began referring to him as “No. 6,’’ as if he already were so iconic that his uniform number sufficed for identification purposes. His numbers since — 50 touchdown passes and 42 interceptions — have leaned more toward Jon Kitna than John Elway.

Nobody disputes his talent. The TV analysts say he has poor mechanics, but let’s be honest with ourselves: aside from the times he throws off his back foot, does anybody really know what he’s doing wrong? The fact is that, even with bad form, he’s still more talented than 90 percent of the quarterbacks in the NFL.

“I know he’s a great quarterback and has a ton of talent,’’ Bears tight end Matt Spaeth said.

Spaeth is a newcomer, so let’s educate him: No to his first point, yes to the second.

This is where Martz and his genius were supposed to come in. He was supposed to be the guru who would lead Cutler to eternal consciousness. But that hasn’t happened. So let’s see Martz live up to his reputation as a mastermind who can outsmart the other team.

A little less self-assuredness, please, and a lot more in the way of results.

General manager Jerry Angelo has to do his part. It wasn’t hyperbole when offensive lineman Chris Williams called Kreutz “irreplaceable’’ Saturday.

“It starts with the offensive line,’’ guard Roberto Garza said. “We have to get better.’’

It does, and they do. But the Bears brought Cutler here for a reason, and it wasn’t to talk about why success has eluded him or why his engagement to a reality-show star fell apart. They brought him here to lead a high-powered offense to the Super Bowl. He was going to raise everybody’s game. So was Martz.

That hasn’t happened. No, the offense is not blessed with talent. We’ve been talking about that for two years, five years, 100 years. But great quarterbacks lift their teams. What is it that people have called Cutler since he arrived? A “franchise quarterback.’’ Where has that guy been?

And where is the offensive coordinator who could X and O his way out of a locked bank vault? What happened to that guy?

This is the season for both men to stand up and be counted, preferably not in sacks. No excuses, fellas. It’s time.



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