Cutler now the Bears’ MVP

20131211_151215Whether you want to accept it or not, the fact of the matter is that Jay Cutler is the Chicago Bears’ MVP and most important player. You may dislike him for any number of reasons, and that is fine. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. But after nine games of this Bears season, there is no denying that this team goes as Cutler goes.

Remember earlier in the year when Cutler went down with an injury and missed a game and a half? Remember how miserable the team looked while he watched from the sideline? The offense could hardly pick up a first down.

Coming off of two consecutive victories in games that the Bears were supposed to lose, both of which Cutler played very well, it is clear just how important his presence behind center is.

I don’t think there is any question that Cutler’s stretch of quality play is a direct result of the new coaching staff in place. John Fox and Adam Gase have figured out a way to get through to Cutler and get him on their same page. They have developed not only a football relationship, but seemingly a friendly relationship, which was quite noticeable on the Bears’ sideline during Sunday’s win over St. Louis. For once, Cutler seems to have confidence in his coach and coordinator. That goes a long way in football; longer than many people think.

It has led to Cutler playing with more confidence and more leadership than we’ve seen in his years as a Bear. That in itself has transformed the entire attitude of this Bears team; a team that was supposed to compete for the top draft pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. The Bears are 4-5 on the season and are in the middle of their best stretch of play in quite some time. Players on this year’s team are on a mission to prove the world wrong by winning as many games as possible. The word “playoffs” has even been mentioned a number of times by Bears players in recent weeks.

None of that would be happening if it wasn’t for Jay Cutler. He has transformed into an actual leader over the course of this season thanks to some good coaching for a change, which has led to Jay playing much better football.

The quarterback on any NFL team can often be considered the team’s MVP simply because they touch the ball every offensive play. In the case of this year’s Bears, however, Jay Cutler is the team’s MVP not only because he is involved in every play on offense, but because of how he is now carrying himself and his teammates. There was a time when Bears players wouldn’t stick up for Cutler, but that time is gone now.

Like him, love him, or hate him, there is no denying the importance of Jay Cutler to this Bears team. He has managed to get the team and the city talking about a possible successful season in a year when the Bears were supposed to be one of the league’s worst. If this upward trend continues, Cutler’s $15 million salary next year won’t look so bad. I have always said he is better than most alternatives, and now there is no way to argue it.

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Bears Fire Smith

11860458Yesterday morning as we all know by now, the Bears fired their head coach, Lovie Smith. Smith had been the head coach of the Bears for the last 9 seasons (one of the longest tenured coaches in the NFL before his firing). In his 9 seasons with the Bears, he led them to 3 division titles, 3 playoff victories, and 1 Super Bowl appearance. His overall record as the Bears head coach was 81-63.

Smith’s firing did not come as much of a surprise to most Bears fans, some of which who had been growing increasingly upset with Smith as the head coach. While there is no question that Lovie is one of the best defensive coaches in the league, it was his teams’ lack of offense that essentially got him fired. Only once in his 9 years with the Bears did their offense finish the season ranked in the teens or better, and that was ’06 when they ranked 16th in the league. This year, the year that they were supposed to have a deadly offense with the additions of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, the Bears finished the season ranked 28th in total offense. That is simply unacceptable. Instead of scoring touchdowns on drives in which the Bears  started inside the opposing team’s 40 yard line, they regularly settled for field goals or were forced to punt.

I heard a statistic on the radio the other day that I found really interesting. Since Lovie took over as head coach of the Bears, he has hired and fired more assistant coaches/coordinators than any other coach in NFL history over a 9-year span. What this tells me is that Smith is obviously bad when it comes to picking out effective assistant coaches and coordinators. Not once in his tenure with the Bears did Smith hire a decent offensive coordinator. Ron Turner was awful, Mike Martz was better (but still bad), and Mike Tice was no better than Martz this year. When you are competing against teams in your division like the Packers and Lions who have good offenses, you cannot afford to continuously end up near the bottom of the league in total offense. That will get you nowhere.

A lot of fans who liked Lovie are saying that a 10-6 season should not have gotten him fired. While a 10-6 record is not a bad record by any means, you have to look at how the Bears started this season, as well as Smith’s history as the Bears head coach.

The Bears started this year 7-1. They were on their way to a top 2 seed in the NFC. Then, they lost 5 of their last 8 games and missed the playoffs. During their 7-1 start to the season, the Bears gained a ton of national attention for their defense and the amount of touchdowns that the defense was scoring. While this was all great for the Bears, it was also covering up their offensive struggles. The defense was putting up points almost every game, and the offense (and fans) became too relied upon that trend. When the defense finally came back down to earth and stopped scoring touchdowns every week, that is exactly when the Bears began losing games with regularity. The offense had zero consistency and had a tough time putting enough points to win games, even though the defense was still keeping them in the games by not allowing many points.

Denver's Mike McCoy.

Denver’s Mike McCoy.

So here we are today waiting to see who will take over as the next head coach of the Bears. Most analysts are saying that the Bears’ GM, Phil Emery, will be looking for an offensive head coach. A few names have been mentioned already as possible candidates. One name that sticks out to me is Mike McCoy, the current offensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos. The Broncos ranked 2nd in points-scored this year, and 4th in total yards. I personally think he could be the best option when it comes to guys who have never been head coaches. Some other names being tossed around are Bill Cowher, Jon Gruden, Andy Reid, and Brian Billick. Of those 4, Bill Cowher would be my choice, however I think it is very unlikely that this will happen. Jon Gruden is a good coach, but I don’t see him and Cutler getting along too well. Andy Reid may be the best offensive-minded coach on the market, but it sounds like he is headed to Arizona. Brian Billick coached some teams in Baltimore that were very similar to the Bears that we have seen over the last 9 years, however, Billick took one of his teams to the Super Bowl and won it. I think he could work well with the Bears’ defense, but I don’t think he is the right choice.

It is going to be very interesting to see what the Bears do over the next couple weeks. I am hoping that they sign a more offensive head coach this time around and that they hang on to Rod Marinelli as their D-coordinator. Unfortunately for me, I have no say in what they do.

Bears head into bye-week at 4-1

Coming off of two straight dominating performances against the Cowboys and Jaguars, the Bears head into their bye-week this weekend with a record of 4-1 on the year. It took a few games, but the Bears have begun playing like legitimate contenders.

Coming into this season, all the hype surrounding the Bears involved their new “explosive” offense with the additions of Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, and Michael Bush. While the offense has show some explosiveness through the first 5 games, I believe the real story for the Bears has been the play of their defense.

They were being called “old,” “broken,” “slow,” and so on. If you look at the Bears defensive roster, they are old. Their top four players, Urlacher (34), Peppers (32), Briggs (31), and Tillman (31), are all over the age of 30. Having your top defensive players all that old is not exactly the recipe four success. However, the Bears defense is off to one of its best starts in recent memory. Through the first 5 games, their DEFENSE has scored 5 touchdowns (4 from Tillman and Briggs combined), which is first in the whole league. They also lead the NFL in interceptions, with 13, and takeaways, with 17. Right now, they are playing and executing Lovie Smith’s style of defense perfectly. Odds are that they won’t continue to play at this same pace as the year progresses, but getting off to such a hot start is never a bad thing.

Offensively, the Bears have been pretty streaky. They were miserable against the Packers in Week 2, they somewhat struggled to get going against the Rams Week 3, and they only put up 3 points in the first half this past week against the lowly Jaguars. However, they looked great Week 1 against the Colts, Week 4 against the Cowboys, and during the second half against the Jaguars. Brandon Marshall is playing out of his mind right now, as he is on pace to set the franchise record for most receiving yards in a single season. The rookie, Alshon Jeffery, is showing signs of becoming a promising receiver as he ranks third among all rookies in receiving yards, and is tied for the rookie lead in TD receptions with 2. (Unfortunately, he injured his hand in the game against the Jaguars and could miss a game.) Jay Cutler has had an up and down season, much like the offense as a whole. Matt Forte has looked decent while healthy, and Michael Bush is proving to be the perfect backup to Forte.

The bottom line here is that this may be the best all-around team that the Bears have put together in quite some time. With the Packers and Lions severely struggling right now, the Bears seem to have all the stars aligning. Odds are that Minnesota won’t keep playing the way they have, and if you look at the remainder of the Bears schedule, they really only have 2 tough match-ups remaining; Week 10 at home against the Texans, and Week 11 at the 49ers. Until the Lions and Packers start to look legitimate again, I am not going to count those 3 games as “tough” ones.

Maybe I am just another optimistic Bears fan, but I don’t see the Bears losing more than maybe 2-3 more games the rest of the way. The path to the NFC North Division Championship seems to be as good as it is going to get for the Bears, but the season is still a long way from being over.

Bears Cruise to Victory; Packers Next

Sorry for the delayed article on last Sunday’s Bears victory, but better late than never!

The expectations heading into this season for the Bears have been higher than ever since the mid 1980’s. I wasn’t around back then, but I would be willing to bet on that last statement. With the additions of Brandon Marshall, Michael Bush, and Alshon Jeffery to their offense, many people have been predicting the Bears to have one of the most potent offenses in the league. Defensively, they are getting older, and Brian Urlacher’s lingering knee problems have had the Bears faithful, myself included, very worried.

It was pretty much a forgone conclusion that the Bears would walk away with a victory against the Colts this past Sunday, and they did by a final score of 41-21. Although the first 2 offensive series’ were dreadful for the Bears, they ended up turning things around and put on a great offensive performance. The reunited tandem of Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall put on a show and lived up to the hype as Cutler finished with 333 yards and two touchdowns, one of which was to Marshall. Marshall ended the game with 9 receptions for 119 yards and one TD.  Another pleasant sight for us Bears fans was Matt Forte looking 100%, and Alshon Jeffery coming up with 80 receiving yards and a touchdown.

On defense, the Bears didn’t look like anything “special,” but they were good. Tim Jennings had his best game as a Bear as he made two interceptions and finished with 4 tackles. Brian Urlacher didn’t look bad, but he definitely wasn’t his normal self. He sat most of the second half once the Bears took a commanding lead. Major Wright and Kelvin Hayden tied for the team lead in total tackles with 7 apiece. The defensive line looked decent, but the coverage down-field seemed a little shaky. There were too many times when Colts receivers were being left wide open for big gains. Hopefully that was just a case of some off-season rust that needed to be shaken off.

Looking ahead now, the Bears next game is Thursday night in Green Bay for what should be an epic showdown. The Packers are coming off of a heartbreaking loss at home to the 49ers, while the Bears will be riding high after their win over the Colts. It’s not too often that you can say a Bears-Packers game could be a shootout, but that could very well be the case on Thursday night. Both offenses are loaded with deadly weapons, and the two defenses are going to have a tough time trying to limit the scoring. A couple of things to keep an eye on heading into this game will be the health of Greg Jennings and Charles Tillman. When healthy, these are two of the league’s top players at their respective positions.

My prediction for Thursday night’s game is that the Bears will come away with a victory, and I’ll set my own over/under at 59 points scored. Any other predictions?