On the NFL
3:49 PM CST, February 16, 2013
In the event Marc Trestman and Jay Cutler do not always speak the same language, the Bears have hired a translator.
We can be assured Matt Cavanaugh can converse in Trestmanish as well as Cutlerese. What's more, he presumably understands whatever sign language Cutler may use.
The new quarterbacks coach could be the ideal go-between for Trestman and Cutler.
The fact he has been an NFL quarterback should earn him Cutler's respect. He was a backup, and an accomplished one.
He won a pair of Super Bowl rings and played behind quarterbacks such as Joe Montana, Randall Cunningham and Phil Simms. He threw passes to receivers such as Jerry Rice and Cris Carter.
He's certainly not a novice teaching quarterbacks. The 56-year old won a third Super Bowl ring as a coach. He has coached quarterbacks as varied as Steve Young, Elvis Grbac, Erik Kramer, Trent Dilfer, Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow.
"His rapport with quarterbacks is as good as anyone I've been around," said Dave Wannstedt, who hired Cavanaugh to be the Bears offensive coordinator in 1997. "Within 30 minutes, the quarterback knows he is a guy who knows what he's doing, he's a guy he can trust and he is going to make him better. When you are hire assistants, you hope to get two of those three. I know he'll do an outstanding job.
Cavanaugh has played under, has worked for or has been on teams with coaches such as Bill Walsh, Bill Parcells, Buddy Ryan, Rex Ryan, Bill Belichick, George Seifert, Pete Carroll, Brian Billick, Mike Nolan, Mike Smith and Marvin Lewis. Oh, and Marc Trestman.
So in addition to bringing credibility to the quarterbacks meeting room, Cavanaugh also brings an understanding of where his boss is coming from in terms of terminology, plays, formations, personnel packages, reads and even techniques.
In 1996, Cavanaugh was the 49ers quarterbacks coach and Trestman was the offensive coordinator. If they can get Cutler to play anywhere near the level Young played that year, the Bears should win a lot.
When he came to Chicago, Cavanaugh didn't have nearly as much success with Bears quarterbacks as he did with Young. Before he was ushered out 15 years ago, he heard some of the same sounds of disapproval coming from Soldier Field fans that Cutler has heard.
The Bears Cavanaugh coached won eight games over two seasons, and he couldn't take Kramer, Rick Mirer, Steve Stenstrom and Moses Moreno and make lemonade.
Asked how he has changed since then, Cavanaugh said, "Look at my head."
If memory serves, the last time we talked when he was wearing blue and orange, there was considerably more hair up top — on him, that is.
"It was my first coordinator job," Cavanaugh said. "I learned a lot."
Cavanaugh believes he has become more flexible in terms of molding a system to fit the strengths of his players and realizing not every player can execute every play well.
What that means for Cutler remains to be seen, but it doesn't sound like the read option is in his future. Cavanaugh's Jets team had a package in that vein for Tim Tebow last year, but they rarely used it. Cavanaugh sounds dubious about the read option becoming an NFL staple.
Based on his comments, Cavanaugh likely will focus more on Cutler's fundamentals and consistency.
Asked what excites Cavanaugh most about Cutler, the first thing out of his mouth was "Arm talent, no question."
But Cavanaugh also said a lot of the quarterbacks he worked with had arm talent. That's a good start. No more.
"A lot more goes into it than just throwing the ball well," he said. "You want to see how they handle the game, how they manage the game, what's their decision-making, how they react to adversity, how they react when things are going well. Do they put the same work in the next week? Do they take it for granted?"
In his four years in Chicago, Cutler has gone through three quarterbacks coaches — Pep Hamilton, Shane Day and Jeremy Bates.
None of them found the sweet spot with Cutler. Perhaps it will be different for Cavanaugh, who comes in with 28 years of NFL experience and a more authoritative voice.
"I know we'll be demanding," Cavanaugh said. "We'll have expectations. We'll develop the expectations as we evaluate him and learn what he is capable of doing. There aren't many players who don't get kicked in the rear end once in awhile."
That should be the type of talk Cutler can understand.
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