There's a widely accepted axiom in the NFL that you are what your record says you are. The Chicago Bears hit November with a 4-3 mark, same as last year's after seven games. If they're running in place, it's viewed as regression because of the wild-eyed expectations generated by
Finally, perhaps, an end to coach
It was advisable, if not necessary, to run it right at people in the still celebrated Age of
And in fairness, the Bears' legacy at the running back position -- Payton,
But offensive diversity is a requirement for success in 21st Century NFL. Were it not, the Bears would have more to show for the 11 1,000-yard seasons they've had from the undistinguished likes of
So let's bring in Cutler and throw it around a little as we get off the bus.
The cost was considerable: Incumbent starter
The upside: Cutler arrived as a three-year starter with miles of passing yards and a Pro Bowl appearance on his résumé at 26. He has the arm, the pocket savvy and the unwavering confidence to transform a clunky Bears offense into a Super Bowl contender. He's the real deal, a rung below the
The reality: Cutler needs help, across the board, or a 4-3 start morphs into a 9-7, out-of-the-money finish, just like last year.
Forte's production has dipped alarmingly in his second year; he's averaging a pedestrian 3.5 yards per carry behind a revamped offensive line that has had trouble clearing the way for him. A bigger concern is the line's inability to protect Cutler -- lowly Cleveland sacked him four times and belted him around like a slow-pitch softball in Sunday's game. One particularly vicious helmet-to-the-chin hit from
The Bears' pass rushers, meanwhile, collected their first sack in three weeks, dropping embattled Browns QB
The Bears are 4-3 because of an uplifting victory over Pittsburgh in Week 2, and because a favorable early schedule brought them Cleveland, Detroit and Seattle when it was missing
There's no buyer's remorse over Cutler, not much grumbling even as he throws an interception for every TD pass (11-11), and as Orton has Denver in first place in the AFC West with a significantly higher passer rating.
Instead, there's a grudging, growing realization that not even a franchise quarterback can do it alone.
"We've got to get better in every respect possible offensively," Jay Cutler said.