Kurt Warner: Mike Martz, Jay Cutler got it right in Bears’ season gone wrong
By Sean Jensen firstname.lastname@example.org January 20, 2012 10:32PM
Mike Martz and Jay Cutler made lemonade despite a lack of weapons, Kurt Warner says. | Scott Stewart~Sun-Times
Updated: February 23, 2012 8:15AM
In Kurt Warner’s mind, former Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz worked his magic during the 2011 season.
Other than quarterback Jay Cutler and running back Matt Forte, Warner, the two-time NFL MVP who played under Martz in St. Louis, wasn’t impressed with the talent on the Bears’ offensive line or in the receiving corps.
‘‘It looked go od, and I think the most impressive part was the combination of Mike adjusting what they were doing because of all the struggles early in the year,” Warner said, referring to a run when the Bears won five games in a row and the offense scored 32 points per game. ‘‘In my opinion, outside of Jay and Matt Forte, they don’t have any superstars on offense. They don’t have any go-to receivers. That guy who can separate themselves or gives you a match-up problem. They just don’t have that guy. So Mike had to adjust to the limitations.’’
Warner said he was very impressed with Forte and Cutler.
‘‘That combination of those guys working together, I enjoyed watching it,’’ Warner said. ‘‘I could really tell what they were trying to do. They were playing really, really good football, before the injury.’’
Cutler fractured the thumb on his throwing hand against the San Diego Chargers and didn’t return for the rest of the season. The Bears then lost five games in a row.
Warner said few NFL quarterbacks could have accomplished as much as Cutler.
‘‘He exceeded what anyone else in that situation could have done,’’ Warner said. ‘‘If you don’t have game-changers on the outside, it just makes it harder. To not have a go-to guy for a quarterback like Jay is a struggle. I watched film. There’s no space. There’s nowhere to throw the football.
‘‘Even when they were going good, other guys wouldn’t have been able to do that. He’s just so talented.’’
Regardless of the general manager or offensive coordinator, the Bears’ top priority should be a playmaker at receiver. This is the offseason to land one, with free agents available such as Marques Colston, Dwayne Bowe, Wes Welker, Reggie Wayne, Vincent Jackson, Steve Johnson, Robert Meachem and Mario Manningham.
‘‘That’s the frustrating part — you have to have those guys, especially in this day and age,’’ Warner said. ‘‘It’s a passing league, and you have to have weapons that can win for you.
‘‘When you get one-on-one, this is a plus for us. They don’t have those guys,’’ Warner said of the Bears. ‘‘Guys were 50-50 on if they could make the play. It’s crazy. I think it’s vital for them, moving forward, to get one or two guys who can give you another dimension.’’
Warner said while he’s been very impressed with Cutler, he’s still not convinced he can make the anticipation throws that were a staple in Martz’s ‘‘Greatest Show on Turf’’ offense in St. Louis.
‘‘He can’t let it go and trust his guys,’’ Warner said. ‘‘Maybe it’s the guys he’s playing with. But as far as talent and being able to create plays, and as far as seeing something and throwing it, there’s no question he can be one of the best in the league.’’
During the Bears’ five-game winning streak, Cutler made the offensive line and receivers look much better than they were, Warner said.
‘‘He was creating things and making plays that not many guys can make,’’ Warner said. ‘‘He was what was most impressive about that run.’’
Hester health a key
Devin Hester didn’t miss any games. But he wasn’t nearly as effective in the latter portion of the season as he dealt with injuries.
Bears special teams coordinator Dave Toub said Hester will be back to his explosive self as soon he’s back to normal.
‘‘He needs to be healthy,” Toub said. ‘‘That’s the No. 1 thing. If you can’t practice during the week, you can’t just expect to go in games and perform. I don’t care who you are.
‘‘We got to a point where we were just trying to make it to the game, and that’s not the way you want it to be.”
Hester initially injured his ankle Nov. 7 in Philadelphia, limiting him in many practices before the next three games.
‘‘I’m just trying to recover from the injuries and fight through it,” Hester said late in the season. “It’s tough. I don’t feel like myself. But in the NFL, you’ve got to fight through things.”