Quick Shots column on Jay Cutler and the Bears, the Packers, the Cardinals and more.
How much is it the player and how much is it his surroundings? That’s the Bears’ main question now with Jay Cutler. He’s not going to get better. Like Rex Grossman, he’s progressively gotten worse each year, dropping from an 88.5 passer rating as a rookie to 88.1 to 86.0 to his current 74.5. And as I wrote in 2006, the career rating of an NFL passer is hardly ever higher than his best number in his first four seasons.
Yet better teammates and coaching can make a player look better. The passer ratings of Tom Brady and Donovan McNabb each jumped 25 points when Randy Moss and Terrell Owens first joined the Patriots and Eagles, respectively. Brett Favre’s rating is 40 points higher with the Vikings than it was in 2005 and 2006 with the Packers. John Elway’s rating jumped 27 points when Wade Phillips replaced Dan Reaves as Denver’s coach, and his final six seasons were his six highest seasons, under Phillips and Mike Shanahan.
The Bears plan was for Cutler to make everyone else better. That bombed. The No. 1 goal now needs to be how to make Cutler better, either with better teammates or better coaching.
Pushing Packers to victory
Last week, the refs helped Green Bay win by giving them a fumble that Dallas recovered and denying a challenge because replay rules don’t allow fumble recovery reviews. Sunday, the refs aided Green Bay by ignoring the 10-yard penalty for “helping a runner.” The 49ers stopped Aaron Rodgers on a third-down sneak at the two-minute mark before fullback Quinn Johnson blatantly shoved him forward.
NFL Rule 12, Section 1, Article 5, subsection D reads it’s a 10-yard penalty to: push or throw his body against a teammate to aid him. In 2005, USC beat Notre Dame and played in the BCS title game because refs ignored Reggie Bush using “all 200 pounds of my body to push” Matt Leinart in for a game-winning TD. Pac-10 commissioner Tom Hansen said refs never call that penalty.
That’s wrong. Either change the rule or call the penalty. Ignoring a penalty that everyone in the stadium saw is cheating.
Cardinals discover run game
The Cardinals rival the Titans (from 0-6 to 3-6 before Monday night) for most dramatic improvement the last month. That sounds odd to say about a team that almost won the Super Bowl last year, but the Cardinals (7-3) came to Chicago on pace to have the worst rushing season of any team in the Super Bowl era. But Arizona has gone from averaging 65 yards rushing the first seven weeks to 162 the last three games, all wins.
Harris a huge loss for Packers
The Packers can survive losing linebacker Aaron Kampman to a knee injury; they’ve taken three linebackers in the first round of the NFL draft in the last seven years in Nick Barnett, A.J. Hawk and Clay Matthews. But the season-ending knee surgery for Al Harris could be devastating. Harris and Charles Woodson are a tandem at cornerback. They need each other. If Harris’ replacement isn’t strong, opponents will simply throw away from Woodson to the other side. No team in the NFC North has depended on its corners nearly as much in recent years as the Packers.
Matt Trowbridge’s Quick Shots on the NFL appear Tuesdays. He can be reached at 815-987-1383 or firstname.lastname@example.org.