- Jeff Dickerson, ESPN Staff Writer
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There's simply no way to overstate the delicate balance that exists between quarterback Jay Cutler offensive coordinator Mike Martz. If the two find a way to maintain a professional and positive working environment, the Bears will be a playoff contender. If the relationship falls apart, the Bears are doomed to miss the postseason for a fourth consecutive year, which would likely lead to massive organizational changes next offseason.
Make no mistake, Cutler is still the same physically gifted quarterback who made the 2008 Pro Bowl as a member of the Denver Broncos, but his decision making last year hurt the team. It wasn't so much that Cutler led the NFL with 26 interceptions, it was where and when those interceptions occurred. Cutler was acquired to win close games, not give them away due to costly redzone turnovers. Six of those interceptions came when the Bears had the ball inside the 20 yard line, four of which were committed in close losses to Green Bay, Atlanta and San Francisco. Cutler wasn't the only reason the Bears failed to win those games, he didn't blow the coverage on Greg Jennings at Lambeau Field or jump offsides like Orlando Pace in the Georgia Dome, but he certainly didn't help the Bears fight through adversity to pull out those victories.
Adding to Cutler's 2009 woes appeared to be a lack of trust and respect towards former offensive coordinator Ron Turner. Nobody is going to nominate Turner for offensive coordinator of the year, but when a star player tunes out a coach, it sets a bad precedent for the rest of the locker room, and usually leads to a fair share of losing.
Enter Martz, who arrived in Chicago with plenty of credibility and a proven track record of offensive success. By all accounts, Martz and Cutler worked well together in offseason workouts, even though Martz's passing system, which relies on timing and throwing to a spot, takes time to learn and perfect. Clearly, the Bears have yet to completely master the Martz scheme, but if both the quarterback and coordinator remain relatively patient and diligent, the offense should be greatly improved in 2010.
However, the Bears don't have the luxury of a rebuilding year, and the pressure is on to win immediately. If results are slow to come, that's when trouble may occur. People accustomed to success tend to fall back into old habits if something new fails to quickly produce the desired outcome. A rocky start by the Bears could damage this partnership. Or perhaps in an attempt to coach up the rest of his position groups, Martz spreads himself too thin, thereby neglecting to give Cutler the proper amount of attention.
It can go either way for Cutler and Martz, it really can. Both have shown the ability to be extremely successful at their respective crafts, but each has their own weaknesses. Regardless of how it eventually plays out, this dynamic will be one to follow the entire year.