Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

13 Oct 2011

Time to Fix the Bears Before Cutler Gets Killed

For the record, I do not really know if Lance Louis is better than Frank Omiyale at this point. I have lots of scouting, going back to last year and the preseason, that tells me Louis is awful. I have lots of scouting that says Omiyale was just kind-of bad until two weeks ago. Either one has to be better than a rotation of both of them.

Posted by: Mike Tanier on 13 Oct 2011

45 comments, Last at 18 Oct 2011, 5:02pm by BaronFoobarstein


by Jimmy :: Thu, 10/13/2011 - 11:04am

And there was me thinking that Louis had played well for the most part this year. I still do, the problem is Omiyale and the only fix the Bears have for that is Carimi.

I would imagine the reason that Garza is playing center is that it helps to have a player there who knows the system and with the shortened offseason it would be difficult for Spencer to pick up the playbook. Garza has played pretty well so far.

Anyhoo I am pretty sure I am way more optimistic about the Bears line than most. I can see it really falling apart but I can also see what Tice is trying to build and why he wants some of the players he has despite the rather glaring lack of production so far.

by Charles Jake (not verified) :: Thu, 10/13/2011 - 12:51pm

Yes, Garza is playing center because the center calls out the protections and he knows the offense better than Spencer, who was signed at the last minute.

One thing I haven't heard anyone mention is moving Chris Williams outside to RT and playing any two of Baldwin, Louis, and Spencer at G. I don't get to watch my Bears much, but is Williams a completely lost cause on the outside? And by "completely lost cause" I mean "worse than Omiyale."

by tuluse :: Thu, 10/13/2011 - 1:26pm

I always thought Williams looked serviceable at left tackle, but it seems the coaches thought otherwise and have made it very clear he will be a guard.

by Jimmy :: Thu, 10/13/2011 - 2:17pm

The main reason why Williams is a guard and Omiyale is a tackle is that (if we remember back to 2009) Omiyale looks like a competent tackle compared to how he played guard. The problem with chipping DEs to help him is that I have never seen a lineman worse at working with teammates. It never works, it just ends up with both players blocking each other and the defender acting out various body slams on Cutler.

I wouldn't want to see the Bears move Williams again as he is actually playing fairly well (two egregious missed blocks on Clay Matthews aside) and we have all seen enough of young Bears draft picks not being able to develop at one position because they get moved between three or four.

They also don't expect Carimi to be out much longer (I would say after the bye if not sooner), no point destroying the miniscule amount of cotinuity you have.

by Marko :: Thu, 10/13/2011 - 2:53pm

"Yes, Garza is playing center because the center calls out the protections and he knows the offense better than Spencer, who was signed at the last minute."

Exactly. This article is surprisingly poor (I usually think Tanier does excellent analysis) because it is full of half-truths and misleading observations.

I doubt that Tanier has watched every Bears game in the past few years, so here are some other observations from someone who never misses a snap:

1. The comment "No complaining about the run-pass ratio" is a non-starter. Yes, the past few games there was no issue regarding this ratio. But as Tanier says, it was horrible in the Packers game. And it was even worse in the Saints game, which he doesn't even mention (11 called runs, 52 called passes in a game that the Bears trailed only 16-13 with 10 minutes to go in the third quarter and became a blowout largely because the Bears went pass wacky and the Saints' blitzes overwhelmed the Bears). Last year, there were similar issues in games against the Giants, Redskins and Seahawks.

Martz continually has to be reined in. Otherwise, he will revert to his pass wacky self. And it's not just the number of passes he calls; it's when he calls them and the number of 5 and 7 step drop passes he calls. By the time Cutler hits his fifth or seveenth step, he is usually either hit and on his way down or running for his life. Why not call more plays out of the shotgun or more rollouts?

2. "I do not really know if Lance Louis is better than Frank Omiyale at this point. . . . Either one has to be better than a rotation of both of them." First, Louis is definitely better than Omiyale. A blocking sled would be better than Omiyale. It would not have any false starts and it would be harder to go around.

Louis and Omiyale are not in a rotation. The line changes that have seen them go in and out of the lineup are based primarily on injuries. Louis was banged up, and then Carimi and Spencer got hurt, too. If all of those players were healthy, Omiyale would not be getting any snaps in the base offense. If last week's game wasn't against Detroit and on the road to boot, Louis rather than Omiyale would have played RT from the start. But Tice didn't want Chris Spencer (who has a broken hand) to play RG against Suh. He wanted someone who had full use of both of his hands to go up against that beast. He also didn't want Louis' first start at RT to be at Ford Field, on Monday night with an incredibly loud crowd. He thought that the veteran Omiyale would fare better in that environment. Oops. But I don't think Omiyale will start another game for the Bears at T or, barring more injuries, take another snap there. I think it's far more likely that Omiyale is cut before the end of the season.

3. As for Hester, the Bears have tried misdirection plays, reverses, wildcat plays, etc. with him over the years. They never work, largely because the threat of Hester means that the defense is always aware of where he is. They simply cannot "hide" Hester. They do need to make better use of him. More crossing patterns would be a start.

by Will Allen :: Thu, 10/13/2011 - 3:13pm

I'll say again that the Lions made a much better hire with Scott Linehan than the Bears did with Mike Martz. Linehan will squeeze everything that can be had out of an offense with a so-so, at best, line, a so-so qb, a monster wr, and an above average rb, while Martz can only shine when he gets a very narrowly defined skilled set to work with.

by Charles Jake (not verified) :: Thu, 10/13/2011 - 4:30pm

Nobody would take the Bears job because they thought Lovie was a lame duck. I know Jeremy Bates passed on the Cutler reunion, and I think some college coaches declined to interview as well. They tried hard not to hire Martz, but they ended up with him by default

by Duke :: Thu, 10/13/2011 - 7:12pm

The reason Martz abandoned the run in the Packers and Saints games is that it was completely ineffective. Here are the runs for Forte in each game:

vs. Saints:
1 yard, 42, -4, 4, 0, -1, 8, -1, 0, 0. 10 rushes for 49 yards, but only 3 that were not total failures. Khalil Bell added 1 rush for -1 yards as well.
vs. Packers:
-1 yard, -1, 5, -4, 4, -1, -1, -2, 3. 9 rushes for 2 yards.

Yes, the passing game fell apart in the Saints game too, but it still looked more promising than the running game (the quick passes to Forte were particularly effective). And the passing game was WAY better than the running game in the Packers game.

I distrust Martz's instincts on passing versus running a lot, too, but in those games I think the facts were on his side. The problem wasn't that the Bears chose not to run, it's that they weren't able to.

by tuluse :: Thu, 10/13/2011 - 7:43pm

In the Saints game neither passing nor running was working. However, 1) calling only passing plays let's the defense tee off even more, and 2) Jay Cutler almost died from the pass rush. With a choice between having the running back get tackled for no gain or have the QB get crushed every time he drops back I'll take the former.

by tuluse :: Thu, 10/13/2011 - 7:43pm

In the Saints game neither passing nor running was working. However, 1) calling only passing plays let's the defense tee off even more, and 2) Jay Cutler almost died from the pass rush. With a choice between having the running back get tackled for no gain or have the QB get crushed every time he drops back I'll take the former.

by Marko :: Thu, 10/13/2011 - 8:35pm

Bingo. This was so true that you said it twice!

And to respond to the comment above about the run not working in either the Saints or Packers games, I am not saying it was working. But sometimes that's how it goes, and then you pop a big run. The Lions running game wasn't particularly effective against the Bears until Best broke one for an 88-yard TD. But regardless, you have to keep the defense honest with the running game. You can't let Cutler sit back there in the pocket for what amounted to target practice for the Saints and Packers. And if you are in full-on pass mode, call plays that have some chance of succeeding.

Martz didn't abandon the run in the Packers and Saints games solely because it was completely ineffective. He did it because relying on the passing game is his nature. It reminds me of the parable of the scorpion and the frog. Martz is the scorpion. Cutler is the frog.

by Chip :: Fri, 10/14/2011 - 10:13am

Agreed, a rare but poorly written and researched article by Tanier.

Louis started simply because he is the biggest and most athletic guard on the roster. If you roll the film back to last year vs. Detroit, Louis matched up and played relatively well against Suh. Same can be said against BJ Raji late in the year and again in the preseason against Marcel Darius DT BUF. He is their best pulling guard as well.

Clearly injuries are driving the changes on the line. Louis will never be an all-pro but he was a clear upgrade to Frank "Turnstile" Omiyale.

The big culprit is Martz, who refuses to abandon the 7-step drop. If you insist on the deep drop, you must chip on ever play when Omiyale is in the line-up. If you are not chipping, don't call for a 7-step drop or call a play out of the shotgun. There is nothing more frustrating than seeing opposing teams with shitty OT, chip Peppers on every play while throwing out of the gun and beating the pass rush on every single play.

by Will Allen :: Fri, 10/14/2011 - 10:29am

Part of what makes Suh great is that he tends to force playcallers into 7 step drops, where the edge rushers can feast. I suspect that if Martz had called for shorter drops, your opinion of how Louis played would have changed somewhat. Against interior rushers who aren't such a threat to collapse the pocket quickly, however, your point is undoubtedly correct.

by Will Allen :: Fri, 10/14/2011 - 11:29am

delete repeat

by rk (not verified) :: Fri, 10/14/2011 - 11:07am

It made a little sense to have Garza at center when Spencer had just signed. But at this point, Spencer's been practicing and playing in the offense for 9 games (preseason and regular season combined). Plus, is pass protection that much different in Seattle compared to Chicago?

by P (not verified) :: Thu, 10/13/2011 - 11:44am

Getting to play the Vikings D-Line the week after the Lions D-Line is probably not Cutler's idea of fun.

by speedegg :: Thu, 10/13/2011 - 12:01pm

I wonder if Cutler has flashbacks to his college days at Vandy...or does he reminisce of the Denver O-line?

by andrew :: Thu, 10/13/2011 - 1:26pm

They're not what they used to be, I mean Jared Allen is only on pace for.... um... lessee 8.5 in 5 means um... 27.2 sacks this year?

by Will Allen :: Thu, 10/13/2011 - 1:48pm

One of the few bright points for Vikings fans this year is that Brian Robison has shown why no effort was made to sign Ray Edwards. It helps to have Kevin Williams on the field too.

by specq (not verified) :: Thu, 10/13/2011 - 9:36pm

The .2 of a sack coming against the bears when Allen and 4 of his defensive teammates converge on Cutler at exactly the same time and with such force that they compress him into a black hole which destroys the Metrodome, forcing the construction of a new stadium?

by Dogg (not verified) :: Thu, 10/13/2011 - 12:22pm

Don't hold back...

by Independent George :: Thu, 10/13/2011 - 12:55pm

As someone pointed out on the Quick Reads thread, weren't we saying the exact same thing a year ago when Cutler got sacked 10 times by the Giants? I guess the only difference is that back then, Bears fans were calling Cutler soft for getting pulled from the game instead of taking his beating like a man.

by BigCheese :: Mon, 10/17/2011 - 12:06am

Yeah, those weren't Bears fans. We've actually seen the beatings he takes. No Bears fan would EVER call Cutler soft. You've got us confused with all those people who haven't actually seen them play but still think they know better *cough*MJD*cough*

- Alvaro

Phil Simms is to analysts what Ryan Leaf is to NFL QBs

by BaronFoobarstein :: Tue, 10/18/2011 - 5:02pm

All Bears fans are true Scotsmen.

by Will Allen :: Thu, 10/13/2011 - 1:55pm

I know the guy is waaayyy past his prime, and I don't know contract details, but I think it unlikely that this unit would not be better if Kreutz was still around, even just for allowing more flexibility with other players.

For some reason, the value of stability at center gets underestimated a lot.

by miqewalsh :: Thu, 10/13/2011 - 2:26pm

Olin Kreutz is on the Saints this year. It's a 1-year deal, but I don't think he's coming back to the Bears.

by Will Allen :: Thu, 10/13/2011 - 2:34pm

That's not what I meant by contract details; I don't know if the Bears just didn't want him anymore, or didn't want him at the price he could command from the Saints.

by tuluse :: Thu, 10/13/2011 - 2:40pm

The details are that he was offended by the Bears offer, talked about retiring, then took a deal with a similar amount of money, but less guaranteed than the Bears offered.

by Will Allen :: Thu, 10/13/2011 - 2:49pm

Ol' Olin always did strike me as a bit of a loon, even by NFL linemen standards. What made the Vikings mismanagement of the center position so irritating is that Matt Birk, the other outstanding NFC center of the past decade-plus, is such an eminently reasonable, intelligent, human being, by all accounts. Having an intelligent, quiet, hard-working professional, at one of the most important leadership spots on the roster, just wasn't enough for The Chiller, so Birk got antagonized, left for Baltimore, and thus began the decline of the Vikings o-line, just in time to blow a chance to raise the Lombardi.

No, I'm not bitter......

by tuluse :: Thu, 10/13/2011 - 2:26pm

Unless kruetz could play tackle I don't see him helping much. It's not like his positive influence helped a whole lot last year.

by Will Allen :: Thu, 10/13/2011 - 2:37pm

Yeah, I'm not saying he is still even a good player, but when I read people saying that Garza has to be at center, because the guy they signed can't make the line calls, it indicates to me that this is yet another example of a team mismanaging the center position.

by Charles Jake (not verified) :: Thu, 10/13/2011 - 4:27pm

I don't things would be any better with Kreutz, and for what it's worth, I think Garza is doing a good job with the calls. When Cutler got hammered last year, there seemed to be lots of free rushers teeing off on him, meaning that the line was missing blocking assignments. This year, they're just getting beat, but I don't see unaccounted-for guys blasting him.

by Duke :: Thu, 10/13/2011 - 7:16pm

The benefit of having Kreutz back is not so much that you have him as much as it lets you put Garza somewhere else. I think Garza is a better center as Kreutz is this year. But the drop-off from Garza to Kreutz at center is probably not as big as the drop-off from Garza to Louis/Omiyale/Spencer/Williams at guard, and that's the choice the Bears made. Admittedly, Carimi's injury threw a wrench in things, but still...

by tuluse :: Thu, 10/13/2011 - 7:39pm

Guard isn't really the problem, tackle is. I suppose with Kreutz there would be more depth so Omiyale would never have played, but they probably wouldn't have signed Spencer, so the depth would have been the same.

by andrew :: Thu, 10/13/2011 - 2:48pm

As we well know from letting Matt Birk go. I'm not saying Kreutz is or isn't better than Birk, but there are definitely similarities. Even if the guy tabbed to replace him seems as capable physically there's more to it than just that.

(then again when it was Birk replacing Christy it worked out pretty well so maybe its something that has to be judged on a case by case basis)...

by Jimmy :: Thu, 10/13/2011 - 2:22pm

Apparently Harris and Meriweather are to be benched and Wright and Conte will start. Why didn't they keep Manning? Why let him go just when he was starting to play well? Haven't they learnt from their previous errors at safety, it is no longer anything like a plug and play position in the NFL you need quality back there especially in a Tampa2.

All very frustrating.

by Will Allen :: Thu, 10/13/2011 - 2:41pm

Hell, their next opponent features McNabb, Jenkins, Berrian & friends. They oughta' just put 5 linebackers on the field and be done with it.

by Nathan :: Thu, 10/13/2011 - 3:32pm

Unfortunately Meriweather took a bad angle to the bench and knocked over the Gatorade.

by Duke :: Thu, 10/13/2011 - 7:17pm

But when he got to the bench he led with his helmet and split it in two.

by Marko :: Thu, 10/13/2011 - 3:48pm

Yes, very frustrating and baffling. It has been that way for years under Lovie. It seems like Angelo and Lovie consult a Magic 8-Ball before making some of their decisions at the position:

Angelo and Lovie: Should we trade for Adam Archuleta?
Magic 8-Ball: Signs point to yes.
Angelo and Lovie: Do we still need Chris Harris?
Magic 8-Ball: My sources say no.
Angelo and Lovie: Should we trade him to Carolina?
Magic 8-Ball: It is certain.
Angelo and Lovie: Should we resign Danieal Manning?
Magic 8-Ball: Very doubtful.
Angelo and Lovie: Can Major Wright solidify the position?
Magic 8-Ball: Ask again later.
Angelo and Lovie: Should we sign Brandon Meriweather?
Magic 8-Ball: Without a doubt.
Angelo and Lovie: Should we reinsert Major Wright in the starting lineup?
Magic 8-Ball: Yes - definitely.

by njwelch75 :: Thu, 10/13/2011 - 6:35pm

Should we trade our promising young linebacker to Carolina so we can get Chris Harris back?
Hell Yes!

by Dan :: Thu, 10/13/2011 - 4:20pm

The reason to be optimistic about the Bears' OL is the injuries. Carimi & Spencer were both out this week, and Louis has also missed time. Last year they were this bad when they were all healthy.

The reason to be pessimistic (besides the obvious outcomes that we've seen) is that their linemen range from below average to awful. Chris Williams is the rock of this offensive line at left guard, and he's a below average guard. Webb was awful last year, and there was some cause for optimism early this year when he looked to be just below average, but then he was downright awful again against the Lions. We're debating Omiyale vs. Lance Louis. Carimi might turn out to be average or (dare I hope) better, but other than that we can only hope for mediocrity.

by dkbergen :: Thu, 10/13/2011 - 4:38pm

The offensive line has looked bad, no doubt, since Carimi went down. The part that bothers me the most is the way we have lost some of these games - even though we looked pretty clueless on offense against Green Bay, how many huge drops occurred. I remember Knox letting a pass hit him in the face mask, and I think Sanzenbacher dropped a pass in the end zone, and I'm pretty sure they were both on third down. (I remember at least 3 huge drops on third down that game)

Then this past weekend, Hester lets a TD pass (or in the very least, a first and goal from the two) slip right through his fingers, Forte gets hit in between his 2s on a drop, and Sanzenbacher took a pass off his helmet.

As much as I miss Carimi, I think getting Earl Bennett back could be almost as big of a boost to make sure the offense can become reasonably effective.

by JCutler6 :: Thu, 10/13/2011 - 8:49pm

No doubt we are missing Bennett

A lot of the failure of the offense is on Martz. After calling probably his best game for the Bears week 1 against Atlanta - 3 of his last 4 efforts have been downright appalling. No use of screens, misdirection, end-arounds - anything to keep the defense guessing and from coming straight to Cutler. He also almost never uses a 3-step drop, despite it usually working quite well. He used it to perfection against Dallas early last year, and then it wasn't seen for the rest of the year!

O-Line is absolutely horrible (I still like Webb though, his problems seem to be more mental than physical) but Martz could be doing a lot more to allieviate the problem

by Dan :: Thu, 10/13/2011 - 10:29pm

How about getting Brandon Lloyd back? He'd finally give Cutler a go-up-and-get-it WR.