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Diner morning news: It’s not all Cutler’s fault

He throws five interceptions, and he’s taking all the blame. Michael Lombardi

Print This November 13, 2009, 10:59 AM EST

QUOTE: “There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.” -- Aldous Huxley

Nice birthday gift from your Bears, Bowen. No wonder you have to drink so many Bud heavies watching your teams play. You might want to think about an “all-season museum pass” and forget sports.

Don’t be too fast throwing Bears QB Jay Cutler into the Jeff George category. Trust me, he’s not Jeff George. He was careless with the football twice Thursday night, but he’s not Jeff George. He cares, he wants to win, and right now this Bears team is not suited to help him win. Yes, he turns over the ball too much, especially in the red zone, but his problems are correctable because he does care.

The 10-6 loss to the 49ers was a horrible night for everyone in the Bears organization, from the coaches to the front office. In front of a national television audience, America learned the Bears have one of the worst offensive lines in the league and the defense has some real concerns. This is not a playoff team, not with problems in all three areas of the game — coaching, players and scheme. Much like the New York Jets, the expectations far exceeded the reality for the Bears this season. The prevailing feeling after the game was that Cutler stinks, and those five interceptions will be used as evidence to support the theory.

The two mistakes in the red zones are the ones that bother me most. On the first one, the Bears went to their jumbo package -- three tight ends, but not Greg Olsen, as they had offensive lineman Kevin Schaffer in as the third tight end. This is clearly a heavy run formation, and the Bears tried to fool the 49ers into thinking they were going to run the ball from the one-and-a-half-yard line on third down. They ran the classic fullback in the flat, which the 49ers played perfectly, and Cutler tried attempted to throw the ball back across the formation into a sea of 49ers. Bad mistake, bad interception.

The last throw, in the end zone, was another mistake. But at that point in the game, he was trying to make a throw, and from my vantage point, there was no one open. So he tried to fit the ball into a tight window and made a mistake. All his other interceptions were not his fault. The first one, Devin Hester slips and falls. The second, Hester stops his route, gets bumped by the official, and Cutler throws the ball to the spot he should have been. The one to tight end Kellen Davis was pass interference. He gets knocked off balance before he ball arrives. You may hate the Bears and you may hate Cutler, but be fair here. His stats will show he had a five-interception game, but in reality, he made two very big mistakes. He did not do the things he needed to do to help his team win -- but neither did his team.

Three weeks ago, after getting killed in Cincinnati, head coach Lovie Smith felt the one move he needed to make to restore order to his team was to bench left guard Frank Omiyale and replace him with Josh Beekman. That was the only move he made, in large part because he had few other options with regard to his offensive line. Last night, the Bears offensive line was pushed around all night. They have severe weakness at every position, including the right tackle, first-round pick Chris Williams. They were not able to get any movement at any point and averaged just 2.0 yards per carry running the ball. The Bears have had no balance in their offense all season because they can’t get any movement with this poor offensive line.

Before you buy into the quick perception that will be running rampant around America today that Cutler is Jeff George, you might want to check with some of his former coaches first. Former Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan probably was sitting in his home feeling sorry for Cutler because he knows there were things he could have done to help him. Mike Heimerdinger was probably watching in Tennessee feeling frustrated watching Cutler, as was Jeremy Bates in California. Those three believe in Cutler, they know Cutler, and they know he is not Jeff George. Does he have some things that need to be corrected? Sure, don’t we all?

So what do the Bears do? When they traded for Cutler (who currently has a 7.5 rating by NFP readers on the Bears' team page), I wrote that they should pay whatever it took to bring in Jeremy Bates and let him teach the coaches about Cutler and not have them learn about his strengths and weaknesses during the season when it might result in losing games. But of course, some NFL teams are too cheap to pay for any outside help — they would rather hope it all turns out well than prepare for success. Teams don’t mind paying $20 million for a player but hate to pay $50,000 to make sure the player is successful. Smart, right?

Bates is the offensive coordinator at USC and would have been allowed to visit the Bears without compromising any NFL or college rules. Bates would have helped the Bears’ offensive staff deal with Cutler the person and Cutler the player, as well as help them install plays that suit his game. You must build a culture that is successful, and the key to success is gaining as much information as possible. When you make a trade of this magnitude, you must do everything to make sure it’s successful. You must have a plan for success, not hope for success. Last season, I would see Bates on the field talking to Cutler between series, going over the photos, and last night all I saw was Cutler looking for his orange hat.

Cutler will take all the heat for now. But if the Bears don’t win, the blame will lie deeper than just Cutler throwing interceptions.

Follow me on Twitter: michaelombardi

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