Friday, April 3, 2009

Bears got a long-term solution, not a quick fix

I want the Bears to play better. I want them to score more points. But simply adding Quarterback Jay Cutler will not achieve those goals. He needs help. He needs better wide receivers. He needs better offensive linemen. He may even need an offensive system that suits him.

All things being equal, Cutler will not make the Bears significantly better than they were with Kyle Orton. Last season, running back Matt Forte led the Bears in catches with 63. Behind him was Tight End Greg Olsen with 54. The Broncos' leading pass catchers were wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal with 104 and 91, respectively.

The stat indicates a difference in philosophy. The Bears are willing to grind a team down with a strong running game and controlled passing and depend on their defense to win games. The Broncos played to outscore an opponent, which requires throwing the ball a lot and down field.

The Bears are not going to line Forte up as a wide receiver all that often. And Olsen isn't fast enough to beat a corner down field. Both indicate an expectation for short passes and long drives. That's not playing to Cutler's strength, his talent or his strong arm.

I think Orton understood his role and how to flourish in it. He knew he couldn't throw the ball 70 yards to hit Devin Hester on a fly pattern. But he was smart enough to know he could make the 15- and 20-yard over the middle. We don't know if Cutler will succeed in that role.

The Bears don't have the personnel to change their offense to suit Cutler's strengths. Now maybe in the future (but not until at least 2011) the Bears will have a high draft pick to get a receiver that allows for a vertical passing game.

The Cutler trade has made rebuilding a long-term project, not a quick fix. The problem is so many Bears fans are expecting results next season. I don't think they're coming this fall.

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.