I am coming to you here, on a Saturday, because something has been on my mind lately. I am sure it is weird to many of you to see a story from me that isn't about the Greatest Bears by numbers. That's for Mondays and Fridays, but today I am writing about the 2011 Chicago Bears, specifically looking at where we're coming from after last season. Also I will be addressing Greg Couch, who by typing his very name makes me mad. Couch has written two articles in the past month bashing Cutler and I would like to dispose of his arguments.
Now we all know how last season ended... in the NFC Championship game. In fact, that will be all the rehashing I will tell you because we all know the story by heart and could probably say the next part out loud in unison like some old Sing-a-Long video.
The resulting firestorm of criticism stretched far beyond what was necessary, for literally months. It could have been because the lockout left a void of football-related news, or it could have been because Chicago is a football town first and foremost and so that type of story doesn't die easy around here.
But then, it seems, suddenly, there has been a change in the air. The lockout ended, the offseason began and then training camp started. And what happened next?
Well, mainly, Jay Cutler was the first to show up to camp. In the best shape he's been in, and he talked to the media, without coming across like a total tool.
Suddenly, it seemed the local media wasn't on his case anymore and while that may have already been the case because, it appears to me anyway, that the "Cutler quit" circus left Chicago around March, it did and still is lingering with the national media (more on that later).
But once camp started it seemed to be a lot less about Jay and a lot more about other parts of the team, namely the offensive line and wide receivers.
Now let's get to the evidence. Since I haven't been clear, I am trying to assert the thesis that there is not as much pressure on Jay Cutler for 2011 as there has been the past two years. Here is where this is coming from:
While defending Cutler, many media members were quick to point out that he was sacked a league-high 52 times last year and missed only one full game and a quarter-and-a-half of two others. This then put the focus on the offensive line, it's up to them to play better. Check out this quote from an article by AP sports writer Andrew Seligman,
How far [Cutler] can take the Bears, though, is the main question, and the answer largely hinges not on the quarterback but on the rest of the cast.
He goes into the lingering questions on the line, on the outside with the receivers and then again with the defense. Then he offers up this:
Cutler's knee is fine. There are more pressing concerns at the moment, and at the top of the list is this: Will he stay on his feet?
The beating he took last season was well documented. Who can forget that concussion-inducing nine-sack first half against the New York Giants at the Meadowlands in early October in which he at one point started wandering toward the wrong sideline?
Seligman isn't questioning Jay, he's questioning the guys in the trenches. They will make or break our season. Let's continue with this theme, Dan Bernstein puts the pressure on Mad Mike;
Prototypes have been rounded up to once again attempt to replicate the dreamy diagrams that dance through Martz’s head. The linemen are enormous, the new wideout familiar, and the jumbo tight ends will be asked to block pass-rushers by themselves.
What the Bears appear to be thinking is this: our problems last year were only a matter of personnel, and we have better parts in better places. We can run this system the way it was meant to run, last year’s struggles be damned.
The steep risk/reward gamble is back, with Martz using the term “quantum leap” to describe his expectations for the ramped-up plan being installed at an accelerated pace.
So again, Cutler seems to be getting a bit of a pass for '11. So the team's success seems to be shifting over to the offensive line and Martz. Who else?
Well I'm not going to post more on Roy Williams because that's been almost beaten to death heading into tonight's game so I will say go look at pretty much any Bears Den from this past week, especially Thursday and Friday and pick any article with "Williams" (except the one[s] about Chris Williams) in the headline and read up on it.
It seems to me that a lot of the local media are realizing that Cutler will be fine. In his second season in the same offense, with enough familiar weapons and in the best shape of his career he seems poised for something great. The 2011 Bears will go as high as he can take them, but only if that he gets time to throw, decent play calling and decent targets who can catch to throw to. Cutler still has national haters (Dilfer, Schlereth, among others) but the local media seems poised to give him at least a couple built-in excuses for 2011. I am not saying he needs excuses or even that he will get any or use any, all I'm saying is, for a change, the pressure isn't fully on Cutler.
As for the national haters:
Now we come to the part many of you have been intrigued about, I'm sure. I'd like to offer a response to this Greg Couch article from Thursday.
I'm sure many of you are saying, "Sam, don't even bother responding to the moronic rants of this guy." Well, I'm sorry, I feel I have to!!
Couch's article is titled "Cutler must win back the locker room" which, without even reading it, leads you to the obvious that the premise of his article is that 1) Cutler has doubters on his own team and that 2) He needs to win them over and prove something to them before he can win games and be the guy "he should be."
Now that seems logical enough, right? WRONG. Couch goes on to actually disprove his own argument (making writing this pretty simple), [Bold part makes my case]
Cutler has to win the locker room back. To be honest, I talked to several Bears Wednesday, and every one of them disagreed. They all said, dutifully, that they were OK with Cutler sitting out most of the second half of the championship game with a sore knee. They said that football players are warriors who see a game to the end if they can.
But be honest. Some of the locker room doesn’t feel that way at all about Cutler. Players are expected to give life and limb for The Big Game, and Cutler couldn’t play with a minor tear in the MCL in his knee? It didn’t even require surgery.
Ummm...you sure 'bout that? Honest? You're basing an entire argument off of what people aren't saying? So by this logic when someone says one thing you can completely make up what they really mean to make your argument. I'm pretty sure I don't remember that part of my persuasive writing/speech class where you can take a counterpoint and say "That's not what they meant." I thought that was called "public relations."
Anyway, so I guess by his logic he doesn't really mean Cutler needs to win back the locker room, he means Cutler is going to lead the Bears to a Super Bowl, awesome!
To further illustrate the point that Couch has no idea what he's talking about, let's look at what the other face of franchise, Brian Urlacher has to say on the subject. Let me remind you, throughout his career Urlacher has been known for his rather blunt honesty with the media, this can be evidenced by his back-and-forth with Gale Sayers and his criticism of Cutler back in '09. So if Urlacher had a problem with Jay, he'd have no problem saying it, right?
“I don’t give a [expletive] what people think, the fans, the media, whoever,” Urlacher said, peppering his impatient rant with a string of 11 expletives in a little more than a minute. “Jay is our quarterback. He’s tough, he doesn’t shy away from hits and he plays hurt. We’ve all seen it.”
Well jeez, I'm shocked to hear this from the man who supposedly called Jay a kitty cat back in '09. But that is some staunch defense from a guy known for his honesty. I think it's fairly safe to say Jay doesn't need to win anybody in the locker room or in the fandom of Chicago over. Plus, even if he did, do we really think he'd care to try to? No, he's on record saying he pretty much doesn't give a damn what others think.
So maybe Greg Couch should meet Urlacher in a dark alley, late at night, and ask him what he [Urlacher] thinks about his [Couch's] article. Maybe he would be met with a rather large fist to the throat, just as we'd all like to give Couch at this point.