John Fox’s Dilemma Best Solved By Looking At Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys
The 2014 NFL season witnessed one of the most disheartening displays, courtesy of the Chicago Bears offense led by quarterback Jay Cutler.
In the preseason, wide receiver Brandon Marshall boldly predicted that Cutler would secure the Most Valuable Player award.
This assertion found traction, as Cutler’s ability to execute a diverse range of throws was widely acknowledged.
Coupled with Cutler’s preseason year in the same system, directed by the acclaimed quarterback mentor Marc Trestman, and an array of formidable weapons at his disposal, the outlook appeared exceptionally promising.
Like Bill Parcells once stated, “finding a good starting quarterback isn’t as easy as calling 1-800 quarterback.
As we’re aware, the story took an unexpected turn. Regrettably, Marshall’s prediction didn’t occur, and by season’s end, Cutler found himself sidelined.
Following a disappointing 5-11 season, the Bears’ management and coaching staff faced significant changes.
As the NFL offseason commences, Cutler’s future hangs in the balance.
John Fox steps in as the new head coach in Chicago, while Adam Gase assumes the offensive coordinator role, both transitioning from Denver.
They’re confronted with numerous pivotal decisions to elevate the Bears’ performance, with one issue taking center stage.
What is to be done with Cutler?
Is trading him a viable option? It appears improbable, given that he’s guaranteed $15.5 million.
Moreover, if he remains on the Bears’ roster past the third day of the 2015 league year, starting in March, an additional $10 million will be added to his compensation.
The potential risks outweigh the benefits at this juncture, making a trade seem imprudent.
Most front offices would likely reason that if Jay couldn’t excel with a supporting cast featuring Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, and Matt Forte, it’s doubtful he’d be worth the contractual commitment without comparable personnel.
Finding another team with a supporting cast of that caliber seems highly unlikely.
Ultimately, trades hinge on the likelihood of a player’s success within a specific system.
Given the substantial financial considerations, assuming it would significantly vary from one team to another might verge on imprudent management.
Therefore, a trade appears to be an unlikely scenario.
The next question arises: Is it okay to bear the financial loss and move on?
This would entail embarking on a new chapter at the quarterback position. However, the challenge lies in identifying a suitable replacement.
In a league where finding competent quarterbacks is as elusive as winning the lottery, a team must have a specific candidate in mind.
Simply opting for “someone else” sets the stage for a compounded dilemma.
For such a move to be justified, an organization would require an NFL-caliber quarterback with a track record of recent success as a starter.
These players are seldom available. As Bill Parcells aptly said, “Finding a good starting quarterback isn’t as easy as calling 1-800 quarterback.”
Moreover, you’d be footing the bill for another team’s quarterback – likely commanding a salary in line with top-tier quarterbacks. That could be a tough pill to swallow.
While I initially favored the Bears letting Cutler go and starting anew a few weeks ago, my perspective has shifted after discussions with influential front-office personnel.
They argue that Cutler should be afforded another opportunity, considering the substantial investment the Bears have already made in him.
Additionally, they believe that structuring the offense around a robust rushing attack can significantly benefit Cutler.
We’ve witnessed the positive impact of such a philosophical shift on a talented quarterback, as exemplified by Tony Romo in Dallas.
The optimal strategy for the Bears and Cutler would involve a substantial shift in offensive approach.
Instead of placing Cutler in the role of an elite quarterback expected to carry the team, they should view him as a QB capable of making solid throws when necessary.
This necessitates building the offense around the running game, drawing inspiration from the 2014 Dallas Cowboys.
Becoming a run-first offense, with 25-30 carries per game, should be the focus.
Chicago already boasts a workhorse runner in Forte, who not only ranks among the top-tier backs but also poses a significant threat in the passing game.
While Forte averaged just 16 carries per game, he caught an impressive 102 passes last season.
Therefore, the Bears should aim to increase Forte’s carries by around five more per game.
This subtle adjustment translates to five additional plays where the ball is in the hands of your dependable RB rather than Cutler’s.
Pair this with an offensive scheme that doesn’t rely solely on Jay’s arm strength.
Often, his over-reliance on it becomes his downfall. The target for the football must be more precisely designated.
Shifting Cutler’s mindset towards an approach akin to Tony Romo’s in 2014 is essential.
We witnessed the transformation of Romo into a complementary piece of the offense rather than its linchpin last season.
This adjustment allowed Romo to play with greater freedom, unburdened by the sole responsibility of carrying the team.
It resulted in the most outstanding season of his career, leading the NFL in passing efficiency.
Given the offensive arsenal and the knowledge that he doesn’t need to shoulder the entire game, Cutler could potentially replicate a Romo-esque season with the proper guidance and constraints.
Affording Cutler another season under a run-oriented philosophy appears to be the solution, a sentiment echoed by the new coach, John Fox.
When Fox contended for Super Bowls without an elite quarterback, his teams excelled in the running game.
In 2003, during the Carolina Panthers’ Super Bowl run, they ranked seventh in rushing offense, averaging over 140 yards per game.
Should Cutler continue to struggle, the Bears may have to contemplate a new direction after the upcoming season, possibly with the quarterback hotline on speed dial.