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Bears Tue Oct 27 2009
This past April, the Bears and the Denver Broncos consummated the biggest trade of the off-season by shipping the talented and discontented Jay Cutler east to Chicago for Bears qb/neck beard sporting/whiskey drankin', Kyle Orton, and a first round pick in the 2009 and 2010 drafts. At the time Footballic Ramblings wholly endorsed the move, six months later and halfway thru the 2009 NFL season? We still stand by that notion, oh, but there are caveats. Lord, are there caveats! Onward!
When the trade went down most of Chicago's pundits, journos, bloggers (and yes, we're lumping ourselves in this pile of Cutler-love), tweeters, men on the street, were sporting orange and blue-shaded glasses, lauding the trade and stamping the Bears ticket for, at the very least, the playoffs, blissfully ignoring the fact that Chicago's NFL team still had major issues. Issues such as: a very old defense, a piecemeal-ed offensive line, no clear-cut "star" receiver and, oh yes, an enfeebled defensive secondary. Conversely, the Broncos were a team that for the first 3/4 of the 2008 NFL season had looked like a potential darkhorse Super Bowl contender out of the wooly and wild AFC West.
Were it not for an epic late-season collapse last year, this conversation (Cutler v Orton) would probably not even be happening. Mike Shannahan would still be stalking the Denver sidelines, Josh McDaniels would never have been picked as the new Denver head coach and he wouldn't have foolishly flirted with Matt Cassel in the off-season, Cutler still in Denver, etc. Yet that collapse did occur in the Mile-High City last year and events did unfold. Cutler is a Bear and Orton is now a Bronco. So, how are they doing?
Fun With Numbers
Here are the clubhouse leaders at the approximate halfway point of the 2009 NFL season:
As you can see Peyton Manning is having another "Peyton-esque" season, honestly, at this point, he's only competing with himself for statistical domination throughout the whole history of the National Football League. Throw in the fact that Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger all are having amazingly proficient, numerically prolific and mistake free seasons and it's the salad days for passing offenses. But where art our comparison-based competitors, Jay-Bot and Kyle "Don't Call Me Rex" Orton? Both our statistical gladiators are lurking just beneath the uppermost-echelon of QBs in the 10-15 range. Which, as I'll get to in a moment, suggests a steep numerical drop-off for Jay Cutler from his first two full seasons in the league and a big step-up for Orton from his first few seasons.
Josh McDaniels seemingly is to quarterbacks what Robert Redford was to horses in the "The Horse Whisperer." Prior to being named the Broncos head coach this past off-season, the "QB Whisperer" nurtured the malnourished and neglected foal, Matt Cassel, into a galaxy-destroyer of the Brady-mold within New England's incredibly good offense. As an encore McDaniels is single-handedly resurrecting the career of the thoroughly abused and left-for-dead Kyle Orton. How? By surrounding him with a nurturing stable of awesome wideouts, a "good-ish" offensive line and a steady dose of warm oats and horse steroids. This season Orton has already thrown 9 TDs to a gallingly low 1 interception and is on pace for career-lows in sacks and fumbles, while also on a trajectory for career-highs in TDs, yards, completion percentage, and so on. If his success continues along with the Broncos', Orton should find himself sending the Bears organization a whole case of Jack Daniels for Christmas as a fond "thank-you" for releasing me from the purgatory of being a game manager" in your lacking offense.
Culter's numbers suggest the slightly above-average passing numbers of a "game manager" which is an utter departure from Cutler's numbers in his tenure with the Broncos. Admittedly, Footballic Ramblings, is something of a Cutler apologist, that caveat outta the way, his numbers this season are waaaay more attributable to a porous offensive line, a running game lacking any punch and still unqualified receivers. Cutler, a right hander, has faced unhealthy amounts of pressure coming off the left side of the offensive line, aka: "the blind side" thanks to off-season acquisition/over-the-hill manmountain, Orlando Pace's lackluster performance. Through a mere six games this season, Culter has already been sacked as many times as he was all of last season and a disproportionate amount of those sacks have come from, you guessed, Pace's side.
Another "perk" of Pace, et al's poor play? Cutler, when he's not on his back from another sack, is constantly being rushed to release the ball. This completely throws the timing of Cutler and the receivers off. Without the 3 seconds or so it takes for wideouts to break from the defenders afforded by a good o-line, Cutler is being forced into throwing quick passes and taking way more risks, leading to more interceptions. Of course, if Greg Olsen was being allowed to patrol the flats more often rather than hang back to provide extra line protection, a quick, on-target pass would be there. Sigh.
Cutler in his first few seasons with Denver was working alongside a very capable offensive line in an incredibly productive, pass-first offense that was loaded with oversized, gazelle-paced wideouts (Eddie Royal and Brandon Marshall). Seriously, look at Kyle Orton's numbers and tell me you thought he'd be alongside Cutler's Denver numbers. In Chicago, thus far, the offensive line and receivers have been terrible and less than adequate, respectively and Cutler's lacking numbers are a resulting (if not painful) consequence. If the Bears can begin to stock the receiving pantry and o-line cupboard with rations of talent and youth, this season could be laughed about down the road after Cutler, perchance, leads the Bears to a Super Bowl in the not-too-distant future...