While it’s easy to play the “I told you so” game after the season is over, it’s a little more difficult to pin-point prior to the season.
I’ll be the first to admit, I was pretty excited about Jay Cutler coming to Chicago. For years, all we had been hearing (I’m taking a shot at the media) was how the team was “lacking just one thing: a QB.” And now we had one…
I was able to easily gloss over all the safety issues we had with one quick comment: “With Jay Cutler running the offense, we will not lead the league in 3 and outs, thereby making our defense better…”
How completely wrong I was. I think it’s important to note that in 3 of the 4 blow-outs last year, (Vikings G1, Bengals, and Cardinals) Jay Cutler had about as much to do with losing as my 84 year old neighbor who for some reason likes to walk around outside in his boxers, black socks and sandals.
With that, I want to lay out my top 3 “No Brainers” to winning in 2010 (Part 1), and my 3 “Not so Obvious Keys to winning.” (Part 2)
Top 3 “No Brainers”
#1) Brian Urlacher must play at pro-bowl caliber.
So, yea, this seems like a no brainer. But, the truth is I have seen a ton of people on these boards saying that Lance Briggs is the Bears best defensive player. And, while I would maybe agree that he has been “playing the best statistically at his position” for the last few seasons, there is no way in the world he is the team’s best defensive player. And he’s certainly not the most important player on D.
The Middle Line Backer position is far and away the most important player on the defense in the Cover 2. Other than calling out offensive sets and positioning the D to handle, Urlacher must be able to shed the lead block and stop the rush between the tackles, and also fill a gap when the ball is run outside the Tackles. But more importantly, he needs to be fast enough and smart enough to know when it’s play action, and get back into coverage and plug the Middle deep hole. Urlacher does this better than ANY MLB I have ever seen.
However, he was hurt in 2007, and recovering from neck surgery in 2008. We all know what happened in 2009. The last time you can say he played great was 2006. We need a healthy and charged Urlacher. We need him at 2006 levels.
#2) Tommie Harris must be a force.
What I would love is by game 3 or 4 in 2010, we have not heard one comment like these (actual):
“This guy gets a fat contract and ever since then has just acted like a big baby !! what a punk!! Just shut up and play ball!! Gees..”
“Tommie Harris is a joke and a waste of space. ANYBODY we put in there instead of him is an upgrade. My mother could play better.”
“Harris is the biggest disapointement ever.”
“I’d trade Tommie for a 7th rounder and a box of doughnuts right now”
I chose the word “force” specifically because I honestly don’t think he HAS to play at 2006 pre-leg-ripped-in-half levels. But he does need to be at least as good as he looked in the win over the Vikings. In that game he had a measly 3 tackles and 0 sacks. But, what is not being told in the stats is the pressure he was getting up the middle and how the Vikings had to double team him most of the second half. With wild cards at the other DT position and RDE, Harris needs to be the other guy people worry about besides Julius Peppers. If both of these guys can pull constant double teams, create havoc, and disrupt the QB, we should see our secondary play much better and be able to take advantage of a lot of bad passes.
#3 Mike Martz and Cutler MUST meld.
It has been taken now as “fact” that Mike Martz teams throw a lot of interceptions. It is also taken as fact that Cutler throws more INT’s than TD’s. Well, I want to dispel both of these” facts”. They are exaggerations started by fans of teams who lost both guys. AKA Jilted Lovers.
For starters: in 1999, Kurt Warner threw 41 TD’s to 13 INTs under Martz. In 2000, Warner and Trent Green combined for 5500 yards (5500 yards!!!), and a 36 to 22 TD to INT ratio. In 2001, Warner threw for 4800 yards and a 36 to 22 TD to INT ratio. My point: That’s 113 TD’s to 57 INTS over 3 years with Martz. A smart QB in Martz’ system can have a 2 to 1 TD to INT Ratio. Even Marc Bulger posted a 95 to 59 TD to INT ratio under Martz’ system.
Cutler has throw 81 TD’s versus 63 INT’s over his career. That’s a plus 19. Not great, but considering 26 of those INT’s came last year, I think we can surely look through the B.S. and see potential.
Martz QB’s over the last 10 years have averaged almost 4500 yards per year and about 280 per game. Cutler has average 3900 per year (excluding his 1st year when he only played in 5 games) and 245 yards per game.
I could honestly deal with a 4500 36/18 year from Cutler, I'd kill for a 5500 41/13 year…
(Little known fact about Mike Martz: In 1998 he was the QB coach for the Redskins and helped a little known QB who was selected 222 overall in the 8th round, named Trent Green to a 3500 yard 23 TD, 11 INT season in 14 Games.)