We’re now in our third week of off-season Reader Q&A, and I’m starting to have to limit my responses based on the number of question we receive—which is a good thing. In this week’s inbox: more Forte fodder, Hester happenings and my favorite ever Chicago Bears game. Enjoy!
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With all that the Bears have done to improve their offense this off-season, can we expect Jay Cutler to set the Bears’ franchise record for most touchdowns and passing yards in a single season? – “Chicago Bulls Fan,” via Google+
Technically, the Bears now have Jay Cutler ranked their No. 1 franchise QB in terms of “career passing.” While Eric Kramer still has roughly 1,300 total yards on Cutler, Jay’s yards per attempt and completion percentage are better. As for the single season records you referenced, Jay did come close to Kramer’s record of 3,838 yards (1995) in 2009 with 3,666. The TD record—again Kramer circa 1995—of 29 was also nearly broken by Jay in 2009 when he threw for 27. So, yes, I think that given the upgraded firepower, it’s realistic to think Cutler can reach or surpass those marks in this season. Remember, too, that this offense will be tailored very similarly to the 2008 Denver Broncos’ offense in which Cutler threw for 4,526 yards and 25 TDs.
With the recent news about Forte's knee concerns, do you think that the guaranteed money players seek is an unfair burden on teams? Should there be a move to mainly performance-based salaries or is that too open to abuse? – Glynn Owen, via Google+
Many player salaries are already laden with performance-based incentives. Take the Bears’ own Devin Hester for example. His escalators are based on his stats being congruent with those of a No. 1 wide receiver. So, while his contract appears hefty, he won’t see most of that money. But, no, I don’t think guaranteed dollars are an unfair burden. Because NFL contracts are not fully guaranteed, players can be cut at any time and for any reason. The guaranteed money is, many times, the only money that matters to these guys because it’s the only security they have. I will often find that my allegiances side with ownership, but on this issue, the players have every reason and right to ask for what the market will bear.
Will Matt Forte and the Bears come to terms before training camp? – Arthur Stamps, via Facebook
Here’s the way this works: Matt Forte has until July 15th to sign the franchise tender applied by the Bears of $7.742 million or he will be in violation of League rule and will officially be “holding out.” If he does this, he will be fined up to $30K per day of missed work by the NFL. Likewise, if he and the Bears do not work out some other agreement by then, they will not be able to enter into such until 2013, and Forte will only be allowed to play under the tag designation. So the idea of a holdout into the season benefits nobody in this situation. According to multiple reports, the Bears offer is on the table for Forte to sign whenever he sees fit, which means—to me anyway—that they’re not interested in budging. Folks have said that the closer we get to the deadline, the closer we are to Forte not getting a long-term deal (I may have even said it a time or two). But that is inherently untrue. Forte has no reason to sign the tender until his hand is forced, and he could very well decide on the last day that the Bears’ offer is better than the tag. If he does (assuming it’s still on the table), he’ll sign it. If not, he’ll play under the tag. The only thing a hold-out could possibly do is force the Bears hand to offer an “extension” beyond 2012. But, either way, he’d still play under the tag this season. Long story, short: I don’t know.
Can this "miracle" offense really make Devin Hester as good as the Bears are saying? – Pat Kizziah, via Facebook.
The offense isn’t going to make him a better player. At least I don’t think so. What it can do is use his speed and athleticism effectively as a situational weapon and not a go-to starter. I’m still all-in for using Hester offensively, but once (if) Alshon Jeffery is ready to take the field as the team’s No. 2 (Z) receiver, Hester should take a backseat. I’m holding out hope that we’ll see good things in 2012, but we’ve heard all of this before.
With the inclusion of Shea McClellin, what are the chances we see the Bears run some 3-4 defensive schemes this season? – Blair Henry, via Twitter
All indications are that McClellin’s hand will be down in the dirt. He’s being expected to contribute as a pure pass-rushing defensive end. That’s what you should expect to see. If he does what they need him to do, the defense will thrive.
Why didn’t Kelvin Hayden practice Wednesday? – Frank Daczewitz, via Twitter
It’s important to remember that these Organized Team Activities (OTAs) are voluntary, and Hayden has participated since last week. The mandatory portions of the off-season program are mini-camps and training camp. Veteran mini-camp begins June 12 and runs through June 14. So, while I understand fans concern, and especially with Hayden since he is new to the system, don’t worry about a day here or there at this point in the off-season calendar. Officially, Hayden’s absence was undisclosed and I did not ask.
How has Chris Williams been fitting in at LT? – Brett Slama, via Twitter
It’s really difficult to tell at this point. Until the players put on the pads in camp, the LT position will still be up in the air. Williams is more gifted than Webb and more suited to play the position in my opinion. Webb needs to improve his footwork this off-season, and I think the Bears will want Williams to earn back the job. Heading into the final year of his deal, they need to know if the first-round left tackle Angelo drafted can actually play the position now that he’s had a few years—and improved—in the League.
What is your favorite Chicago Bears game? Excluding the 1985 season . . . – Keith Haughian, via Twitter
I’m so very glad you asked me this, Keith. I’ll try to paint the picture for you as best as I can. My Dad’s side of the family is from Colorado, and I spent a lot of time there as a kid. Because of that, I have always been a Denver Broncos fan. Having been born a few years prior to the Bears’ 1986 Super Bowl victory, however, I experienced the full force of that aftermath and “Da Bears” won my allegiance. Yes, I owned a Refrigerator Perry G.I. Joe, so what? But even still, Broncos’ football held its place.
So when Denver drafted Jay Cutler in 2006, I was elated—an instant Cutler super fan was born. In 2007, my wife secretly bought us tickets to see the Bears play the Broncos at Soldier Field, giving me a chance to not only see my beloved Bears, but also my second team and favorite QB. While I wanted the Bears to win, I was at least guaranteed to not be fully disappointed one way or the other.
What I was treated to was 302 passing yards and two TDs from Cutler, two—count ‘em two—returns for touchdowns (one punt, one kickoff) via Devin Hester and a 37-34 Bears’ victory in overtime. I’m not sure how it gets any better than that.
A close second might be the Bears’ 39-14 victory over the Saints in 2006 to send them to Super Bowl XLI. I watched that beat-down about four or five times afterward, convinced the Colts were mincemeat.
Filed under: QandA