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6.) Why did Cutler get benched this week?
It is such a strange move in the grand scheme of things that Cutler’s benching needs a little more analysis. For a much more informed and well written analysis, check out the take from Grantland’s Bill Barnwell. Here are the possible reasons as I see them:
a.) Trestman’s F-U to Cutler and the Bears front office– Assuming the rumors are true and Trestman knows he’s going to be fired at the end of the season, he is punishing Cutler for effectively sabotaging his first NFL head coaching stint. The benching of Cutler definitely cost the Bears some leverage in trade negotiations and lowers his trade value.
b.) Trestman is attempting to prove that his offense isn’t broken – Again going on the assumption that Trestman knows he will be fired, he is attempting to show the 31 other NFL teams that he is still an offensive genius by trying to prove that Cutler was the problem and not his offense. Remember, his offense was one of the best in the league with Josh McCown running it last year. If Clausen comes in and the Bears put up 30+ in the next two games, it would definitely shift some of the blame to Cutler and perhaps improve the perception of Trestman’s offense in the minds of other NFL front offices.
c.) There is a trade in the works – The Bears could have a hand-shake deal already in the works and benching Cutler to keep him healthy could be part of the terms. Tennessee and Washington are two teams that could be potential trading partners for the Bears.
d.) Cutler has lost the locker room – It could be as simple as his teammates no longer believing that Cutler gives them the best chance to win. I’ve already touched on Martellus Bennett’s veiled shot at Cutler, but there was also a play in Monday night’s game when LT Jermon Bushrod was visibly furious with Cutler for taking a sack and not throwing the ball away on a busted screen pass.
e.) Wake up call – This was part of Marc Trestman’s explanation for the benching. It’s hard to believe anything Trestman says these days, but there could be some truth to it. If Cutler ends up starting in week 17, then this reason has some validity. It’s the first time Cutler has ever been benched for football reasons and maybe Trestman is hoping it will change his attitude a bit. Good luck with that.
Outside of the potential trade option, the other 4 reasons boil down to the same thing. Trestman wants to prove that Cutler is replaceable.
7.) Aaron Kromer was blatantly ignored on the sidelines
I didn’t see it on the game tape, but ESPN Chicago reported that at least two players blatantly ignored offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer on the sidelines during the game. I haven’t heard any of the players named, but reportedly when Kromer went to talk to them on the sidelines the players just walked away. If that is true, Kromer should have already been fired. He has clearly lost the team and any respect from the players. Keeping Kromer with basically a slap on the wrist while benching Jay Cutler creates the perception that there are different rules and consequences for the coaches and players. It at least sends a mixed message to the players and creates confusion in a locker room environment that is already unhinged.
8.) Saints defense is stocked with undrafted players and still better than the Bears
Both the Bears and the Saints have most of their salary cap tied up on the offensive side of the football, but the Saints were able to find league average talent from rounds 5-7 in the draft, the undrafted player pool and free agency scrap heap. On Monday night the Saints defense got contributions from undrafted RE Junior Galette (2 sacks) undrafted rookie S Pierre Warren (2 INTs), undrafted rookie DE Kasim Edebali (1 TFL, 1 QB hit, 1 QB hurry), 7th round pick CB Terrance Frederick (1 TFL, 4 tackles), and undrafted LBs David Hawthorn (3 sacks) and Ramon Humber (2 QB hurries, 6 tackles).
Head coach Marc Trestman and his assistants get most of the blame for the Bears miscues, but GM Phil Emery hasn’t been able to find talent in the late rounds of the draft, on the NFL waiver wire, or with most of his undrafted free agents. If a team doesn’t draft well or it’s significant free agent acquisitions don’t pan out, then they need to be able to fill in the gaps with low cost players. The Saints defense has struggled most of the year, but they appear to have found much more talent from the fringes then Phil Emery has.
Rookie safety Pierre Warren is a perfect example. He starred at Jacksonville St which is about as far from the NFL as you can get, but has the size and physical attributes to be an NFL player. The Bears had an obvious need at safety post-draft and I targeted Warren as an ideal target for the Bears. Undrafted free agents get to choose what team to sign with and I find it hard to believe a safety would turn down an offer to sign with the Bears and have a clear shot at playing time right away. Obviously, the Bears weren’t interested and Warren signed with the Saints where he has earned a starting job and is the 35th ranked starting safety (out of 64) by Pro Football Focus. Here is my list of potential UDFAs for the Bears to target (Edebali is also on the list) and here was my pre-draft scouting report:
Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports
Pierre Warren, Jacksonville St (6’1, 202) – Small school prospect with good size and a lot of potential. Warren was very productive last season, leading his team in both tackles (76) and interceptions (5). The jump from the Ohio Valley conference to the NFL is steep, but Warren has NFL tools and should be able to contribute down the road.
I think Marc Trestman deserves to be fired, but the Bears need to take a long look at the draft and UDFA decisions made by Phil Emery and compare them to the talent other teams are finding in the same player pool before they decide to let Emery run another draft for the Bears.
9.) The Bears offense was again non-existent until the 4th quarter.
Facing the 30th ranked Saints defense figured to be a tonic for the Bears struggling offense, but even the Saints shut them down. The Bears were shut out in the first half for the 4th time this season (most in the NFL) and they didn’t score until the 4th quarter. The Bears didn’t even cross the Saints 40-yard line until the 4th quarter! Pathetic (running out of negative adjectives!)
10.) I’ve never heard Jon Gruden rip any player or team like he did Monday night.
Former Tampa Bay Bucs head coach and current ESPN personality Jon Gruden might be the most positive announcer that ESPN employs for their football broadcasts at any level. Gruden is the same guy that once said Mike Glennon might have the best arm in the NFL and that a team could win the Super Bowl with Kyle Orton at QB. To say he sees the best in players and teams is a drastic understatement. I’ve rarely ever heard Gruden be negative about anyone, which makes his anti-Bears rant Monday even more surprising.
From the beginning of the game, Gruden was teeing off on the Bears coaching staff and players. Almost as if he had watched tape of the Bears last few games and was ready to pounce if the Bears came out lackadaisical again. Sure enough the Bears did and Gruden was ready. It would take me more words than I’m willing to type to give you the context of each insult but here is a list of the adjectives Gruden used to describe the Bears: Apathetic, unprepared, listless, amateurish, intolerable, disgusting, pathetic, sad, weak, ridiculous, disturbing, unhinged, and disappointing. I made up a few of those, but only a few. Even milquetoast Mike Tirico called the Bears lethargic. The Bears are a national laughingstock.