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SportsMonday: Cutler In Flux

Jay Cutler has a to-do list longer than Julius Peppers' arms. He is running out of time. And real-life issues threaten to intrude.

Other than that, everything Bears is peachy keen.

Except for Brian Urlacher's knee . . . and the possibility that cornerback Charles Tillman is getting old in a hurry . . . and other stuff. But a fan focuses on the quarterback first.

One thing is certain: It would make sense for Cutler to play more than starters usually do in the Bears' exhibition finale Thursday evening against the Browns.

Not to say whatever happens in that game matters. Nothing ever does in the preseason except for injury prevention.

But there is work to be done - a ton of work - and there is only one more chance to do it in an at least quasi-competitive pressure-cooker.

The quarterback is transitioning to an entirely new offensive scheme featuring a new offensive coordinator (Mike Tice) and a new quarterbacks coach (Jeremy Bates) who have never worked together before. That scheme isn't just a work in progress; it is a work in furious flux.

There are new receivers to continue to break in, particularly rookie Alshon Jeffery. There is a running game that must be upgraded featuring a potentially exciting new option, running back Michael Bush. There are the old standby pass protection issues but strangely enough those seemed to be less urgent heading into this week.

Did we mention the regular season begins in less than two weeks? I'd say "Yikes" but that isn't strong enough.

The gosh-darned grouchy Jay was in effect in the Meadowlands in the Bears' disappointing exhibition win over the Giants last Friday.

We saw a lot more of grouchy Jay in the first halves of the last two seasons and it isn't surprising that those halves of seasons were not all we had dreamed they would be.

Cutler was better as those seasons progressed, rallying the team to a spot in the final four in 2010 and to a 7-3 record in 2011 before he was sidelined by injury. We need to keep this guy copacetic.

On Friday mostly Jay was yelling at refs after he appeared to take at least one blow to the head early on that wasn't flagged. All of the yelling didn't help by the way, as is so often the case.

If there was one prominent call further down the line that seemed to have been influenced by Cutler's griping, it was a ridiculous roughing-the-passer penalty called on the Bears in the Giants' final drive that nullified an interception.

On that play rookie defensive end Cheta Ozougwu hit back-up quarterback David Carr to draw the flag, but he did it before the ball had even left Carr's hand.

Fortunately a few plays later the Bears secured another interception and the 20-17 win was over.

But Cutler was also yelling at his receivers. And when Cutler is yelling he's frustrated, and when he's frustrated he makes more ill-advised throws, like the ones he tried to force into a tightly covered Brandon Marshall on several occasions against the Giants.

Now there is a bright side here - Marshall is ready and willing to fight for those sorts of 50-50 throws like no other Bear. Let's once again hear it for receivers with size. And even more importantly let's hear it for receivers who know how to use their size.

As for the real-world issues, well, if anyone thinks having a new baby in the house isn't a concern for Cutler they've never had a new baby in their house. It is making things tougher for the quarterback, this much we can say with confidence.

Yo Jay! Good luck navigating these churning waters over the next week-and-a-half. You will need it.


Jim "Coach" Coffman is our man on Mondays. He welcomes your comments.

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