4:44 PM CDT, September 15, 2012
We have nine days to debate if the Bears offense can be as bad as Thursday night's debacle in Green Bay would lead one to believe.
I'm going with yes, it can.
For the record, I've not been pushing Lake Forest propaganda. Of the nine-man Tribune football panel, my pick of a 9-7 finish and missing the playoffs were the lowest expectations of the group.
The biggest reason for doubting Team McCaskey showed itself early and often in Green Bay. We also were reminded of an even bigger reason this Bears team has been overloved.
The Bears don't have a professional left tackle. Since Phil Emery didn't do it in his first draft, soon he might begin a search for that "tackle vineyard" that escaped the vapid Jerry Angelo, his predecessor.
The Bears don't have a quarterback who can play with poise when those around him are struggling. Instead, he gets the yips.
It has been easy to forget who Jay Cutler is. I'm guilty of it. Thursday's Cutler catastrophe served as reminder that the pouty quarterback wilts when the lights are their brightest.
The four-interception night wasn't Cutler's first at Lambeau Field. He's 0-3 in Green Bay with 10 picks and 2 TDs.
With the exception of the Monday night game in Philadelphia last Nov. 7, when Cutler was pick-less in a 30-24 win, he has been a disaster when the Bears play on national television in the evening.
Perhaps we had lost sight of that because the 2011 Cutler was cruising along at 7-3 before a season-ending thumb injury. And maybe because Cutler didn't put on his "jerkface" in the offseason. He was giddy over the reunion with Brandon Marshall and the departure of Mike Martz/promotion of Mike Tice/hiring of Jeremy Bates.
The honeymoon ended this week. And whatever equity Cutler accrued in the past year and a half evaporated in that loss.
The quarterback posted his ninth sub-50 rating since he arrived in '09. Comparatively, there are four quarterbacks who haven't been below 50 once in those three-plus seasons. Five have done it only once.
To drive us all back to reality, Cutler reverted to the questionable leader. Shoving his teammate, the seemingly indifferent J'Marcus Webb, should have gotten him punched out on his own sideline.
In a night chock-full of bad decisions, there also was Cutler's unwillingness to point the thumb as well as the finger during his postgame news conference. This guy needs a PR coach almost as much as he needs better protection.
Tice did too little to protect Cutler on Thursday as he often left Webb on an island against Clay Matthews, who spent the evening using Cutler's chest for a seat cushion.
The "meat and potatoes" offensive coordinator didn't call enough runs to slow the Green Bay pressure. He didn't move Cutler around enough. Against Dom Capers' go-for-the-jugular attack, Tice coached like a first-year coordinator.
The Bears offensive line is bad. Webb is the most noticeable, but they don't have a top-tier player anywhere up front. That's difficult to overcome.
And the most important player on the field — Cutler — is bad when the world is watching. The Bears have "MNF" dates with Dallas, Detroit and San Francisco. They host Houston in an NBC Sunday nighter in Week 10.
DeMarcus Ware, Cliff Avril, Aldon Smith and J.J. Watt can't wait.
Special contributor Dan McNeil hosts "The McNeil and Spiegel Show" weekdays from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. on WSCR-AM 670.
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