Are There Troubles With Cutler Contract Talks? And Other Bullets

PhilEmeryConfused

If you didn’t get to see the Detroit-Philadelphia game yesterday, I apologize; it was an entertaining affair, despite numerous sloppy mistakes by the Lions. (In fact, that made it all the more entertaining for me!) I had some thoughts last night on that game, as well as what it means for the NFC North race. You can find that post here. (I actually didn’t spend too long on that title, either. I don’t think I’ve ever been happier with a pun. If the New York Post gives me a call today, I wouldn’t be surprised.)

I’ll have a Monday Night Football preview post up this afternoon, with some things to look for in tonight’s crucial game. And now, your bullets:

  • Considering the Chicago media pendulum has seemingly swung toward the side of “Bears will keep Cutler going forward” it was a surprise to see this tweet yesterday from NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport: “Name to watch for #Titans future QB: Jay Cutler. Sources: He’s on the radar & believed to be interested in being back in Tenn. if out in CHI” This struck me as odd timing, but not unbelievable. In fact, I’m sure it’s quite likely that if the Bears were to part way with Cutler, he’d explore the potential of playing for the Titans. He played college football at Vanderbilt, and he lives there in the offseason. (Ah, the “sports figure has ties to an area” storyline; those always work out, which is why Joe Girardi is managing the Cubs right now. Oh, wait.) Taken alone, I assumed it was a case of Rapoport talking to a Titans source about their QB plans, hearing that they might be interested in Cutler if he was available, and then checking with other sources as to the likelihood of Cutler wanting to play in Nashville, should things not work out in Chicago. That leads to the Tweet above, and if you were paying attention, you’ll realize that it’s missing a very important piece of information: the Bears control Jay Cutler. They may not want to franchise him with the intent of forcing him to play under a one-year contract; as Emery noted in a chat last week, that doesn’t make a lot of salary cap sense for quarterbacks. But applying the franchise tag to Cutler doesn’t necessarily mean that he will play under that one-year contract. The other benefit to the Bears in that case would be the extension of an exclusive negotiating window, all the way into July, within which the Bears and Cutler can try to hammer out a long-term deal. At that point, if they haven’t agreed on a long-term deal, Cutler will play under the one-year provision of the tag; a major risk for any player, to which Henry Melton can (sadly) attest. That leverage is why players hate the tag system. So if the Bears want Cutler back next season, he’ll be back next season, one way or another. And considering recent statements from Chicago reporters that have played up the idea that the Bears are looking to keep Cutler, this all seemed like false hustle.
  • Except I then learned, via this piece from CBS Chicago’s Adam Hoge, that Rapoport had expanded on his earlier tweet when he was on the NFL Network’s GameDay Morning. Apparently Rapoport said that though Cutler would like to re-sign in Chicago, “there’s some serious doubts from both sides about whether that can happen.” Hmm. That’s the first I’d seen anything like that reported, and Hoge himself noted in an accompanying tweet that he hadn’t heard anything like that. I’m still trying to figure out what to make of this, but Rapoport seems at odds with a lot of local guys who have been more been fairly firm lately in their predictions that Cutler would be back. National guys like Rapoport often can swoop in and get the story, but unless there was a massive sea change from both Cutler and the Bears very recently, I’m not sure where this is coming from. (And considering how staunch Emery seems to be in terms of waiting until after the season for contract talks, I doubt that sort of change happened recently.) It could be any number of things, including a leverage play from one side; I honestly don’t know. But my position still hasn’t changed; reading the tea leaves, I think the Bears will franchise him with an eye on a long-term contract. But it’s certainly a fluid situation.
  • The Tribune’s Brad Biggs wrote a piece espousing the numbers behind Josh McCown’s play, and he drew the conclusion that the offense has been better with McCown than with Cutler. This has been a popular narrative lately, and I’m all for statistical analysis, but I have a few issues with Brad’s methodology. He attempts to boil down the numbers to figure out how much the offense is scoring per-possession with McCown versus their performance under the same metric with Cutler. He removed defensive and special teams return points, and then subtracted points scored by opponents off of fumble or interception returns from each quarterback’s total. He came up with 2.06 points per-possession for McCown, versus 1.75 points per-possession from Cutler. If you’re still with me, you’re probably thinking “Hey, this doesn’t exactly sound like rock-solid statistical analysis.” You’d be very right. Ignoring the obviously small sample sizes at play, there is no effort made to adjust for the strength of the opposing defense, no effort made to adjust for starting field position, no attention paid to the fact that the offense was still cohering as a unit at the start of the season; basically no effort made to adjust for any of a number of variables that could factor in to how efficiently an offense scores points on any given drive, nor is there effort made to divine how crucial the quarterback play was to those scoring drives. By any rational metric, Cutler was playing very well, with the first Detroit game the only real blemish. Josh McCown has also played very well, but anyone who tries to spin this into some grander point that the Bears could plug any quarterback into Trestman’s system and get results comparable to Cutler’s ceiling is just not evaluating players properly. McCown has played some very good football for a backup; the best he’s played over his entire career. That is certainly a credit to him, and to Trestman, and to the Bears wealth of talent at the skill positions. But it’s essentially a 4.5 game sample size. Trying to tease out any sort of statistical meaning from such a small sample is pointless. Especially when you start with such flawed methodology.
  • Apparently Thom Brennaman said during his broadcast that he’ll be doing the next two Bears games for Fox. Don’t everyone cheer at once!
  • It was the second consecutive rough week for referee Jeff Triplette; following the debacle with the chain gang last Sunday, he failed to overturn a Bengals touchdown despite quite a bit of visual evidence contrary to the call on the field. (Edit: I had this backwards; the call on the field was somehow reversed TO a touchdown. That’s even worse for Jeff. Thanks to Twitter follower Frank Gerard for the heads-up.)
  • Mike Shanahan is likely coaching out the string in Washington. ESPN’s Dan Graziano reported early Sunday that Shanahan had been prepared to quit following last season’s playoff exit due to a growing rift between himself and the Dan Snyder/Robert Griffin III power couple. That report is fairly damning of Snyder (not exactly a sympathetic figure to begin with) and according to this Washington Post piece from later in the day, Snyder was not happy about it. Combine Dan Snyder’s anger, an embarrassing 45-10 home loss to the Chiefs on Sunday, and a 3-10 record on the year and you get a the formula for a firing. Knowing Snyder, I’m sure the team will take a cautious, measured approach to this decision-making process. (Just kidding. They’ll probably fire him tomorrow and try to hire Bill Cowher.)

Jay Rigdon is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation Bears, and can also be found @BearsBN on Twitter.