Boy, what I wouldn’t give to once more hear Lovie Smith proclaim in his thick, Texas accent: “We get off the bus running the football.”
What once was considered a joke among media and fans alike has now become an object of desire, and very well could be the solution to the Bears’ problems. The foremost issue is that the Bears are a passing team that cannot pass the football. The most logical remedy for a team with two good running backs is to run the football more.
When the Bears first acquired Jay Cutler in an April 2009 trade with the Denver Broncos, comparisons were made linking Cutler to a new Ferrari that the Bears wanted to use as much as possible like a kid playing with a new toy. What the Bears now ought to compare Cutler to is a toilet plunger: something that they don’t need to use all the time, but a useful utensil to have when they need it.
(Also, a good tool to use to clean up messes, as the case may be with the Bears’ offense on most Sundays).
Cutler is not a perfect quarterback. As a gunslinger, he takes unnecessary risks, he holds on to the ball too often when he should get rid of it, and his leadership has been called into question. But his arm strength, ability to make all the throws, toughness, and capability to make plays with his legs put him at the top of the league in quarterback talent.
Cutler made the Pro Bowl in Denver with a great head coach, a solid offensive line, and one of the best wide receivers in the league. Which of those three tools does he have here in Chicago?
I’m not going to absolve him of blame; but I am going to put him at the bottom of the blame list. Until the Bears upgrade their league-worst offensive line and acquire a No. 1 — or even a No. 2 — wide receiver, they would be wise to stop relying on the pass to win games.
Of course, Mike Martz has never been one to run the football so I’d never expect him to tip the scale and begin calling more run plays on Sundays. But he’d certainly be wise to do so.
Remember the days when Rex Grossman and Kyle Orton were basically caretakers of the offense? Both had the ability to make plays — and in the case of Grossman in 2006, he made plenty of them — but the Bears had a run-first mentality and elected to win games by running the football and allowing their defense and special teams to close them out.
There’s no reason the Bears can’t adopt the same philosophy now. They have the No. 3 scoring defense, allowing just 16.3 points per game — although that total is slightly higher than it should be due to the pick-six the offense allowed against Washington. The special teams are playing at a high level and the “Devin Hester effect” — in which teams must sacrifice field position or risk allowing Hester a big return, possibly a touchdown — is back in full effect.
The only difference between then and now, should the Bears elect to go back to getting off the bus running, is that Cutler is more talented than quarterbacks of the past. Often in prior years when the Bears needed their quarterback to make a play in a tight game, the quarterback failed. Cutler is more than capable of making those plays.
I’m a firm believer that the NFL has morphed into a passing league. And if the Bears had better talent on offense surrounding Cutler, I’d say to go ahead and continue calling lopsided game plans in favor of passing. But they don’t have that.
With a Top 10 defense that’s playing really well right now and special teams that are loaded with great kick returners and specialists, it makes perfect sense to scale back the offense from one that tries to attack and score quickly to one that runs the ball and wears down the defense, takes time off the clock, and — most importantly — protects the football and doesn’t lose the game.