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By Jim Coffman
Hey, would everyone shut up about having Jay Cutler roll out more?
Having Cutler roll out more next season is absolutely not the answer.
Of Cutler's four touchdown passes against the Lions on Sunday, how many of those happened after rollouts?
None, nada, zip and zilch (okay, he took maybe two steps toward the sideline on the last score - not a real rollout).
And that's just one of the many meaningful tidbits gleaned from Sunday's mostly meaningless game against the hands-down second-worst team in the league.
Another was that I really enjoyed play-by-play man Chris Myers yapping about how Lions fans shouldn't be too upset, that the team that was winless in 2008 made real progress this time around.
Chris, by winning two games this season, the Lions moved up one stinking, meaningless spot (from 32nd in the league to 31st). Lions fans still can't be upset enough.
Oh, and on several occasions Sunday, Myers and analyst Trent Green added their voices to the chorus calling for rollouts - not a point in that argument's favor.
Do people who get paid to write about football and talk about football in this town actually study the game at all?
Because if they did, they would be forced to acknowledge that every step a quarterback takes toward the sideline on a rollout limits his options that much more.
And after moving just five or six yards away from the middle of the field, a signal caller is down to half as many receivers and half as many routes as he had when he was in the middle.
That's because turning and trying to throw back against his body and against the momentum of the play to what is now the back side of the field creates an unacceptable risk of interception. And the one thing Cutler absolutely must do in the coming off-season is figure out how to cut his interception total, at the very least, by half.
Another of my favorite tidbits of football wisdom according to the numbskulls advocating more rollouts is that it is an effective weapon against strong pass rushes. And that would be because pass rushers take such perfectly plotted paths to the quarterback?
The best pass rushers have free reign to go wherever they need to go to get to the quarterback every time he goes back to pass. They are just as likely to find their way into his personal space if he moves out to the side or if he stands in the pocket.
This is not to say that I am not against the occasional rollout or, even better, a bootleg or three. It just irritates me to hear simpletons saying that all Ron Turner and the Bears needed to do this year was have Cutler roll out more.
The best case scenario for the Bears quarterback is actually a good swift drop back into a solid, deep pocket. If the interior of the line can hold its ground, Cutler then has the option of stepping up and, if necessary, taking off out the side of the pocket to buy extra time. That is when Cutler can best use his mobility - with a controlled lateral scramble that give his receivers critical extra seconds to get open.
Oh by the way, firing Ron Turner would be about as stupid as implementing the rollout offense. Jerry Angelo needs to man up and either change everything, bringing in a new head coach and helping him hire a new staff (and then maybe even acknowledge that he hadn't done a good enough job bringing in talent the past several years and step down himself . . . okay, that's not going to happen), or change virtually nothing. It will be terribly weak to scapegoat the offensive coordinator and it will be brutal for the Bears to force Cutler to learn his second offensive system with the Bears and his third in three years.
And I'm certainly not saying that because the Bears played a little bit of decent offensive football the last few desolate (post-playoff elimination) weeks. The ultimate problem, of course, is that when Lovie and Co. fail again next year and are all fired, the Bears would put the finishing touches on the nightmare scenario of Cutler playing in four different systems in four years. If they absolutely want to make sure their franchise quarterback has no chance to fulfill his potential, that's a great way to do it.
Wasn't it special that Frank Omiyale said goodbye to the 2009 season with a pair of false-start penalties in the first half Sunday? The Bears had a decent day running the football and protecting the passer, but the caliber of the competition doesn't allow for any real conclusions about the capability of the new-look offensive line, i.e., the one that has Chris Williams at left tackle, Omiyale at left guard and Frank Shaffer at right tackle.
The Bears were fortunate some brutal first-half drops didn't come back to haunt later on. Devin Aromashodu came through in the second half but he dropped what should have been an easy touchdown reception in the second quarter. Matt Forte choked on a simple slant, dropping a ball that hit him right in both hands (and would have been an easy third-down conversion) as Cutler was getting killed by a blitzing defensive back. And Devin Hester, as has been his wont all career long, mixed in a big drop (of a pass that would have put the Bears at least inside the Lion 10-yard-line) among an otherwise promising day of deep (or at least significant) catches and deep returns.
And finally by my count, in addition to throwing no interceptions, Cutler threw only one near-interception. Now that's progress!
The Hawk and Bull
By the way, Chicago's winter teams are kicking ass.
Sure, it isn't really fair to group the Bulls in with the Blackhawks, what with the latter only being the hottest team in the NHL yet again at the end of the most recent week of the sched. But those who wrote off the Bulls too early this season should already be busting out the eraser.
First, it must be noted that the Blackhawks showed again on Sunday that they are absolutely unwilling to sit on leads, piling it on the Ducks (to the tune of five more goals) to such a degree that two late Anaheim goals did not cause one nervous moment for any of the 21,000-plus fans that again jammed the UC. People, I don't care if you've never been a hockey fan. I don't care if you don't know a puck from a, well, from a truck. When the Hawks are playing, find the time to watch.
As for the Bulls, Gar Forman's dim-witted early-week news conference notwithstanding (the Bulls' utterly inexperienced general manager apparently called it to tell reporters he had nothing to say about our coach Vinnie's job status or anything else - here's a tip Gar - if you don't have anything to say, don't say anything), the Bulls have hit their stride.
They recorded their most impressive victory of the season Saturday against Orlando at home. A rapidly maturing center-forward duo of Joakim Noah and Tyrus Thomas give the Bulls an energetic and outrageously athletic (and not to mention rebounding and shot-blocking) inside presence that hasn't been seen in these parts since . . . since . . . ever?
Thomas' so high-flying he almost went into orbit block of a Rodney Stuckey shot against the Pistons on New Year's Eve was the highlight of the week. It absolutely is not a coincidence the Bulls have won four in a row since Thomas returned from the injured list.
Jim "Coach" Coffman rounds up the sports weekend in this space every Monday. He welcomes your comments.
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