Friday, January 4, 2013

THE BARE OFFENSE: What happened in Chicago?

Felipe M

We have discussed Lovie Smith being fired from his position as Chicago Bears' head coach focusing that the move was made because GM Phil Emery wanted to start fresh with a new head coach and because, unlike the defense that played under Smith through much of his tenure, the offense wound up being mediocre at best under his watch. The perceived notion is that in 2012, the new GM brought in Brandon Marshall via trade, drafted Alshon Jeffery as the 2nd receiver, re-signed Matt Forte to a long-term contract, signed  Michael Bush as a legit backup to Forte, signed Jason Campbell to backup Jay Cutler to improve the offense this year.  

Unfortunately for Smith, instead of improvement, he oversaw the same unorganized trash that has plagued the team since he took over as head coach. The team finished 28th in total offense. While all the roster improvements on the skill positions were made, Emery did very little to improve a position that has been killing this team for the past 'x' amount of years: the offensive line.  

Its fairly obvious what Emery must do this offseason if he wishes to see a better offense in 2013. He can bring in whatever coach he likes, whether it's Mike McCoy from Denver, Mike Sullivan from Tampa, Tom Clements from Green Bay, or Bruce Arians from Indianapolis--all of them offensive coordinators (so much for GRUDEN! COWHER! and REID!)--none of them will be any more successful than Smith if the offensive line isn't addressed this upcoming offseason. 

Besides the o-line, however, 2012 also exposed this offense under a different light. Even though many fans and media members alike believe that a new head coach will whip this offense into shape, there were enough discrepancies in 2012 that showed that perhaps this team's offense needs more than just a new a coaching staff:

  • Jay Cutler was quoted in saying, before Smith was fired, that he would like to have some consistency in terms of offensive coordinator. Cutler has had to work under a lot of offensive coordinators in his NFL career and the same theme is prevalent: Cutler is a stubborn, arrogant person who was drafted in the 1st round because of his cannon-like arm, but has shown poor decision-making skills and fundamentals. 
  • The closest coordinator that was able to utilize Cutler's abilities and show glimpses of his full potential was Mike Martz. Though, Martz's downfall, ironically enough, was his stubbornness and arrogance in his play-calling when backup Caleb Hanie became the starter because of a season-ending thumb injury to Cutler in 2011, he did wonders with Cutler's ability and forced him to step out of his comfort zone to let the system complement his arm strength.  
  • On top of that, he forced Cutler to do away with some fundamental flaws in his game and help to slightly improve his technique, footwork, and mechanics as a quarterback.
  • After Martz was fired, the Bears promoted Mike Tice as offensive coordinator and promised a more conservative approach and an emphasis to move Cutler out of the pocket to take advantage of his mobility and ability to throw the ball as he scrambles. On top of that, unlike Martz's offense that emphasizes timed, passing routes, Tice succumbed to Cutler's request to throw the ball to open receivers.  
  • Unfortunately, Cutler reverted back to all those flaws that Martz had tediously help break as the team's offensive coordinator.
  • Cutler, visibly, showed very little respect for Tice as a play-caller (especially during nationally televised games) and reports leaked that Cutler, along with Brandon Marshall, would go out of their way to dismiss Tice and would revert back to the plays that made the duo a "success" in Denver. 
  • Despite Marshall having a great year, Cutler threw 14 interceptions and only averaged 200.2 yards per game--his lowest output since 2006 when he was a rookie for the Denver Broncos. 
  • Instead of Marshall helping Cutler become a better QB, Marshall, unintentionally, enabled Cutler to pick up the bad habits he has shed throughout his NFL career and continued to target the big WR numerous times while virtually avoiding the team's other receivers.

  • Despite the team's defense and special teams providing great field positioning for Cutler and his offense, more often than not, in 2012 they failed to capitalize on those advantages.
  • Coming into the 2012 season, it could be argued that Cutler was ranked as the 11th best QB in the NFL, looking to move up the ladder and cement his place among the game's elite passers.  Instead, the Bears ended up getting a player who posted stats that closely resembles a "game-manager"-style QB (think Kyle Orton) and continued to make ill-advised throws because he continues to rely heavily on his talents, abilities, and physical traits.
  • Mike Tice will more than likely not return to the Bears next season, giving Cutler yet another offensive coordinator to work with.  What can a new coordinator do for an NFL quarterback who has a history of dismissing authority, comes with a pompous, apathetic attitude, and refuses to improve his game?  According to many Bears' fans, Cutler will somehow, miraculously, convert into the elite QB his untapped potential projects him to be. 
  • In reality, while Bears' fans and local media alike dream on, Cutler will undoubtedly continue to drop in the QB rankings as the rookie QB class of 2012 will make a run to leap-frog Cutler in the individual rankings and help their individual teams move up in terms of the standings. 
  • The offensive line was a big problem this year giving up 38 sacks when Cutler was the QB. But when he did have protection, Cutler still made terrible throws that were intercepted.  The game against the Minnesota Vikings is a perfect example of Cutler not facing much pressure, but still making dumb mistakes that cost the team a chance to win games.

So after dissecting the Bears' offense in 2012, it's safe to say that if the team is expecting to see improvements in 2013 it's going to need more than a new coaching staff, more talent, or even more help on the offensive line. Lovie Smith was fired because Emery believes that the next coach he hires will finally set up an offense that will bring this team back into Super Bowl contention. However, any Super Bowl aspirations begin with Jay Cutler. 

In Denver, Jay Cutler was drafted to be the next John Elway. The Bears traded for Cutler as the missing piece to bring this team back into the Super Bowl. Instead, Cutler has been playing and acting like a former 1st round bust who also played quarterback in the NFL: his name was Jeff George. If Cutler stops progressing and continues to regress as an NFL quarterback, he will be nothing more than a Jeff George clone--a player with all the physical traits to be a successful QB in the NFL, but can never lead his team to the ultimate goal: a bust.

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