We’re about to enter the third month of the season and the antiquated notion of “Bear weather” is beginning to settle in. It’s getting colder on the lakefront and soon the brisk wind chill will make it more difficult to pass the ball.
This brings up the question: Can Kyle Orton and the Bears’ passing attack sustain its level of production? Common sense says no, but maybe Orton and the Bears will surprise us. They have up to this point in the season.
By comparison, Orton was 9-of-15 for 104 yards and a touchdown against Green Bay in the second-to-last game last year. He was a little better against a bad Saints pass defense the next week with 190 yards, two touchdowns and an interception on 12-of-27 (44%) passing. Take away the 55-yard Devin Hester touchdown reception, and Orton’s 11 completions and 135 yards don’t look so impressive.
How did the Bears win those two games? By playing stout defense and rushing for almost 200 yards. But if the current Bears — a team that seems to be a pass-first, run-second offense because of the way defenses have stacked the box to take Matt Forte out of the game — can’t start to run the ball more effectively, can this offense continue moving the ball through the air?
What happens when Mother Nature naturally limits what an offense can do in the passing game? This team will either have to step up its run game or Orton will have to prove he’s the real deal. In either situation, the Bears will be able to find out something about their team.
In a post earlier this week, I said how it’d be a mistake to pay Orton before he finishes the season in a similar manner in the way he started it. I think the upcoming weather will provide a perfect litmus test for Orton to prove he’s not a first-half wonder.
Some members of the Chicago media — such as the Chicago Tribune’s David Haugh — insist now is the time to pay Orton. Haugh has offered examples of Carolina’s Jake Delhomme (22 games) and St. Louis’ Marc Bulger (23 games) as players who were offered contracts by starting less games than Orton has (25 games).
But what Haugh doesn’t mention is that Delhomme’s extension came just 4 months after taking the Panthers to the Super Bowl. And Bulger was given a six-year extension after the 2006 season, when he was selected to his second Pro Bowl.
Notice how neither one of these players was extended in the middle of the season, and both players actually accomplished something more than what Orton has up to this point in his career.
Furthermore, in Haugh’s article of “10 things I know”, No. 3 on that list is the idea of already extending Orton’s contract, and just three spots later at No. 6, Haugh contradicts himself when he says:
Seven games in, the Bears don’t look like a team that wants to slug it out in the trenches against the likes of Tennessee, Jacksonville or Green Bay. They’re a passing team with a defense whose scheme makes it susceptible against running teams—not ideal for “Bear weather.”
(On a side note, the Bears’ “scheme” might make it susceptible against the run, but the defense itself is currently 6th in the league at stopping the run).
In that paragraph alone, Haugh’s already suggesting Orton will fail when “Bear weather” rolls around, so why would we want to pay a guy who looks like a Pro Bowler in warm weather but can’t succeed in cold weather?
It all solidifies my theory — and Jerry Angelo’s, for that matter — that you don’t begin contract negotiations in the middle of a season. You leave the business aspect of football for the off-season. If Orton is as good as we all hope he is — and believe me, I would cherish and revel in the conclusion of the decades-long QB search — then let him prove it on the field when the conditions become adverse and he’s started a full season.
Not to mention, let him earn a Pro Bowl spot, take his team to the Super Bowl, or simply win a playoff game — as are common prerequisites for most other quarterbacks who are given contract extensions.