Well, another season is in the books, and for the second consecutive time, the Chicago Bears went down to the last game, only to come up just short.
This certainly was an up and down year. There were some surprises (both good and bad), and some maddening plays.
Over the next several days, I will be grading the team. I know it is early, and the pain is still fresh, but I had my Ditka Sausage and will soldier on. First up, the quarterbacks and running backs.
The offense under first-year coach Marc Trestman made great improvements. An offense that finished 29th in yards per game last year (187.4/game) and 16th in scoring (23.4 pts/game), turned it around and ranked 8th in yards (381.8) and 2nd in scoring (27.8 pts/game). It was a high-powered offense that can get better with the first year under the players’ belts. Let’s start the individual ratings.
Jay Cutler:(224-355 [63% completion], 2,621 yards, 19 TD’s, 12 INT’s). B-
Cutler was in his contract year so he was playing for a big payout just like Joe Flacco did in Baltimore and Matt Ryan did for Atlanta. Though he had a decent year, it was cut short because of injuries. He missed five games this season, which is why his number of completions were down from last year. His completion percentage was at 58% the last two seasons so this season his completion rate was higher.
The question about Cutler now is this: IS HE THE FRANCHISE QB FOR THE BEARS? My answer to that is a shaky yes. If you look at what is out there, Cutler is more talented. Yes, McCown did a great job, but there is a reason that he has been a career backup in his 11 seasons as a pro.
I do not doubt Cutler’s abilities. He has a rifle arm. He has a coach in Trestman that has worked wonders with quarterbacks over his career. What I am very concerned about is Cutler’s health.
In his first three full seasons, Cutler did not miss a game. He then had to play without a good offensive line and was sacked 113 times over the next three years. He took a beating behind that line, and as a result, he has missed 13 games over the last four seasons. There is a fear that his body may be breaking down after the beatings, even with an improved line.
I would still want the Bears to sign Cutler, but he will not get the big contract he was looking for. As a Plan B, the team should also look into drafting a quarterback who could be groomed to take over if/when Cutler gets injured. They can re-sign McCown, but that may cost more than what the Bears want to pay, and he is not the future of the Bears. With Trestman’s help, Cutler will grow.
Josh McCown (149-224 [66% completion], 1,829 yards, 13 TD’s 1 INT): A
When Cutler went down in Washington, many fans thought that was the end of the season. Thoughts of 2011 ran through most of their heads. The Bears were 7-3 when Cutler went down for the season and the team went 1-5 the rest of the way.
McCown came in, however, and made the fans forget about all that. He ran the offense very well, only threw one interception, and kept the team afloat while Cutler healed. At the same time, he knew he was just saving the spot for the starter, and had no problem when he was replaced the same week after being named NFC Offensive Player of the Week.
McCown’s play on the field highlighted the need for a team to have a dependable backup quarterback. several starting quarterbacks went down this season, and with that so did their success. The Bears did not suffer through that with McCown.
There have been people clamoring to have McCown take over as starter and draft a future quarterback. To that I say, remember that some of those same people thought Caleb Hanie would do a good job in 2011. How did that work out again?
Matt Forte (289 carries for 1,339 yards [4.6 yards/carry], 9 rushing TD’s, 74 receptions for 594 yards, 3 TD receptions, named to Pro Bowl: A
Remember when some people questioned the Bears giving Forte a big contract? The reasoning was that running backs were a dime a dozen and it would be a mistake to give him big dollars when a younger, cheaper version would be better. That argument does not stand water now, does it?
Forte had his best season, finishing second in rushing yards. Only LeSean McCoy had more. His 1,933 total yards from scrimmage ranks 3rd in the league behind Jamaal Charles (1,980 yards) and McCoy (2,146).
Before the season started, Forte expressed his happiness with how the Trestman offense would be run. He felt that he was not used enough last season either running or catching from the backfield. He has shown throughout his career that he is a dual threat. Being named to this year’s Pro Bowl is evidence of that. This season he also became the second leading rusher in Chicago Bears history, behind only the late great Sweetness, Walter Payton. With a season of this offense, I see more of the same with Forte.
Michael Bush (63 carries for 197 yards [3.1 yards/carry] 3 TD’s, 4 receptions for 48 yards 1 TD reception): C
Michael Bush’s numbers were lower across the board, but only because Forte was so good throughout the season. Bush is usually the battering rod in the backfield, getting the short yardage needed, usually in the Red Zone. He is a very dependable backup to Forte. He came to Chicago to score touchdowns and as a backup he has done just fine.
Tomorrow I will grade the wide receivers and tight ends. Tell me what you think. How do you think the quarterbacks and running backs did this season? Is Cutler this franchise’s quarterback?