Like a poor man’s Tony Romo, Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler has seen his fair share of unfair criticism over the course of his career. Once the media has locked onto an angle about a player, that reputation can be difficult to escape without capturing a championship. Playing on Cutler’s indifferent body language at a position often dominated by manic movements, sportscasters and journalists alike have criticized him for not taking his job seriously enough or not having the heart and determination of a “winner.” But if you compare Cutler to Tom Brady and Peyton Manning —the best quarterbacks of the year — it is clear that his body language is interpreted in the most unfavorable light possible.
When Cutler does show passion, the media contradicts itself by bashing him for that too. When Manning or Brady get in the face of a lineman or receiver who needs to step it up, they are applauded as leaders, but when Cutler does it he is labeled petulant, immature and unprofessional. Whether Cutler is a good quarterback or merely an average one remains to be seen. Regardless, the blame usually falls squarely on his shoulders. The fact that the media is starting to discuss problems with the Bears that do not begin and end at quarterback is a sign that the team is having a truly awful season.
Cutler struggled against the Packers on Sunday. And yet, in spite of Cutler’s poor play, it was clear he is far down the list of problems plaguing the catastrophically bad Chicago Bears. Cutler does hold onto the ball far longer than he should — as seen during his fumble after a sack by Green Bay Packers defensive end Julius Peppers on Sunday night — but his offensive line has been poor for some time. An indicator of this appears in the box score, where running back Matt Forte is getting limited carries between the tackles and racking up more receptions in the flats than many Pro Bowl receivers. Cutler’s first interception against Green Bay on Sunday was also the result of uninspired pass protection allowing Peppers to tip the football.
The defense, which is at least trending in the right direction in terms of health, played even worse than the offensive line. The woes facing the Bears can be summed up by one play in the second quarter that turned a slow start into a blowout. Down 14-0, but having forced Green Bay into a third and 11 in its own territory, the Bears had an opportunity to regain some momentum. But the secondary completely blew the coverage, and wide receiver Jordy Nelson caught the easiest 73-yard touchdown you will ever see in football. With an offense struggling to score despite an array of Pro Bowlers and a defense that leaves primary targets wide open, the problem is clear: Despite the immense talent in Chicago, the execution is at an all-time worse.
Some of this poor execution falls on players not making easy plays, but the team dynamic is also off in the Windy City. Many would be quick to blame Cutler and his lack of leadership.
Ultimately, the responsibility falls on Head Coach Marc Trestman, who rightly bears the brunt of the blame for his team’s poor performances. As an offensive-minded coach, his team’s scoring difficulties are especially troubling. The defensive lapses, however, are even more concerning. Trestman’s responsibility as an NFL coach is to delegate the areas of the game that are not his specialty. A coach must be able to build a staff that can effectively improve the areas of the team in which he is not a specialist.
Trestman’s defense has been an unmitigated disaster, and the performances are only getting worse. Former Bears Head Coach Lovie Smith’s defense was organized and gritty, while Trestman’s squad leaves gaping holes all over the field and is routinely out-worked and out-muscled.
Randall Cobb’s blunt comments explaining the Packers belief that the Bears would simply lie down in the face of an early deficit drive home the fact that the Bears’ lack of mental resilience is an open secret. Most damning, however, are Trestman’s own words in light of the beat down in Lambeau Field.
“Our coaches did an outstanding job of preparing our guys this week. And our guys did a tremendous job of preparing. But none of it, none of it translated to the game,” Trestman said.
But there was nothing lost in translation. Simply put, the Bears were not capable of competing with the Packers. Coming off a bye week, the Bears had extra time to prepare a perfect strategy. But the Bears were blown out and lost to the Packers 55-14. Whether it comes down to purely mental awareness or the overall plan, the team was simply not ready when it should have been, and Trestman’s soft stance on the matter shows that the root of the problem is not in Cutler’s performance. A Mike Ditka-coached team would never have embarrassed themselves the way the Bears did Sunday.
Darius Majd is a senior in the College. The Sporting Life appears every Tuesday.