Thursday, April 2, 2009

Cutler to Bears not the answer

Bears fans are jumping for joy across the world. Next year, quarterback Jay Cutler will be running the offense. Clearly the Bears are expecting him to be the answer to an offense that has been downright awful at times over the past few years.

Unfortunately, my enthusiasm is tempered. I don't like that the Bears gave away two No. 1 picks (this year's and 2010), as well as this year's third round pick. Oh, and they also gave the Denver Broncos Kyle Orton.

The Bears may have a good quarterback, but they have few people for him to catch passes. Devin Hester was their leading receiver with 51 catches and three touchdowns. Is that an indictment of Orton? Maybe. But it also shows the Bears philosophy for its quarterback. It is to manage the game, not win it. Cutler played in an offense where the quarterback must win the game.

I think Cutler is going to be surprised at how many upgrades the Bears offense needs. Most important is offensive line. The Bears gave up 29 sacks last year, the Broncos 12. Hopefully Orlando Pace will help, if he is healthy.

The NFC North is not a free-wheeling pass-happy division like the AFC West. In November and December in the Midwest, a team has to run the ball when the snow is falling and wind is blowing.

Cutler had big stats, but it was because the Broncos didn't run the ball. He threw for 1,600 more yards than Orton last year, but he also had 150 more pass attempts. The Bears ran the ball about 50 more times than the Broncos last season.

The two players' passer ratings were not that different. Cutler threw for six more interceptions than Orton, including more picks than TDs in his last four games, when the Broncos were in the playoff hunt. Orton won three of his last four games, when the Bears were chasing a playoff spot.

My problem isn't Cutler, it's that the Bears will not have much a draft to build the rest of the team. This year's first round pick could have been used for an offensive lineman, a wide receiver or defensive back. And next year's first round pick could have been used to draft Tim Tebow, Colt McCoy, or Sam Bradford, the likely three best QBs coming out of college next year.

This was a good trade for the Bears. I just don't think it's immediately going to turn the Bears into a playoff contender. There are just too many other problems I would have liked to see the team address. Orton was not the answer either, but he also was not the only question.

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