Weekend mailbag, with a twist
In a continuing effort to keep the Weekend Mailbag lively -- or, at least, to make you want to read it on a spring weekend -- I culled a few representative submissions that touched on some of the issues surrounding the Jay Cutler trade that we haven't yet discussed on the blog. That'll give me a bit more leeway to expand my answers and spare you the trouble of wading through 15 of the same questions. So on with it:
Josh of Melbourne, Fla., writes: To call the NFC North "decided" because the Bears picked up Cutler I think is a bit of an overstatement. In no way does this make the Bears a front-runner to win the Norris division. In fact I believe it harmed Da Bears a little. Cutler does NOT have a winning record in the NFL as a starter. We can blame some of that on his defense last year, the same way we can blame the Packer defense for blowing it. However, the Bears are now going to give up two first-round picks in 2009 and 2010 and have brought a "gunslinger" to a team with no top wideout. I believe it is an upgrade but if this thing flops than the Bears are doomed for years and the Lions will be looking down laughing!
Kevin Seifert: Josh, you were one of many readers who misinterpreted the point I made in the post you referred to. I do believe the trade will directly impact the outcome of the 2009 division race. But I never suggested it would give Chicago the title. Cutler could deliver a division championship, or his acquisition could limit the Bears' ability to improve at other positions and/or simply not be enough to get his team over the hump. Minnesota, meanwhile, could fall victim to subpar quarterback play -- or perhaps they could use their full complement of draft picks to ensure they remain ahead of the Bears. And don't forget about Green Bay, which could capitalize on those potential deficiencies and grab the division for itself.
If anything, I'm guilty of drawing no conclusion. (ExCubsFan, in fact, commented: "Good job Seifert, way to take a stand." I assume he/she was being sarcastic.)
Zach of West Des Moines, Iowa, writes: Personally, I think the Bears paid a very steep price. They gave up Kyle Orton (who really isn't that bad!) AND two first round draft picks for a guy that has done very little in Denver. Ok, ok. The Bears upgraded the position, but at what cost? I'm not a Bears fan or a Denver fan, but I would either be extremely frustrated and extremely excited, respectively, if I were. I think the Bears just set themselves back a year or two with the loss of those draft picks. Denver clearly got the better end of this deal if you ask me (as a neutral observer).
Kevin Seifert: No doubt, Zach, the Broncos got a nice haul for a guy who basically was refusing to play for them. If they draft wisely, they could rebuild themselves in a hurry. And if the Bears aren't careful, they could get old in a hurry at some positions after giving up three high draft choices over the next two years.
But I think the Bears are a perfect example of why it's reasonable to go all-in when you have the rare chance to acquire a young, star quarterback. On Friday, ESPN Stats & Information produced a chart that showed how Cutler's 2008 performance would qualify as the best passing season in Bears history. It's really hard to find a true franchise quarterback, and the Bears have been trying literally for decades. They've had one quarterback in the Pro Bowl in the past 46 years and have started 22 different quarterbacks since 1990.
With such a long history of swinging and missing, the Bears went for a player who is as sure of a thing as you can get. Nothing is guaranteed, but it's very likely the Bears set themselves up for the next decade at the most important position in sports. Even if it causes some short-term pain, which it might not, it's worth the security in the long run.
Costa Rica writes: I don't get it... I understand that the Bears gave up a lot in terms of picks, but some commentators (Trent Dilfer and Mark Schlereth in particular) are hammering the Bears for FINALLY addressing their need at QB. If they DIDN'T address it, we would be hearing another year of how the Bears haven't addressed their QB position since Sid Luckman. It's a ridiculous double standard. AND suddenly Orton has gone from a very average game manager to some sort of super duper teammate/QB who is going to add a ton to the Broncos. Bizarre. I like Orton. He seems like a stand-up guy. I get that the Bears gave up picks too. But they got the best player hands down out of this deal and I can say that *without* even knowing who the Broncos will pick with those three Bears picks.
Kevin Seifert: Strong point, CR. That's one of the most maddening -- and stimulating -- parts of sports media. Everyone has an opinion, and there are loud voices on both sides. It's unfortunate when you catch a commentator, writer or -- gasp! -- blogger contradicting himself based on the changing validity of his points. I hope, for example, that someone who now believes the Bears gave up too much for Cutler would at least acknowledge the change of heart if he later suggests it was the best move of the offseason.
But ultimately, there are very few instances when a move is so obviously right or wrong that you have a public consensus. There are almost always debatable points, which makes it fun and interesting and adds another level to being a fan. Reasonable people can make an argument, good or bad, for this trade. It's one of the secondary pleasures of sports -- and what keeps us guys at ESPN employed.
Patric of Chicago writes: I hear everyone being SO excited about Jay Cutler throwing to... wait for it.... DEVIN HESTER!!!!... But, as a Packers fan maybe I'm missing something, I don't remember seeing Hester getting off bumps at the line too well. How well do you think Hester will be this year as a wide receiver with Jay Cutler throwing? I think he has potential but am not totally sold that he can be the #1 wide receiver the Bears want him to be.
Kevin Seifert: Patric, you've hit on one of the most common complaints about this trade: Why would the Bears commit so many resources to a quarterback with such a thin receiving corps?
Hester is the least of most peoples' concerns. He played pretty well the final month of the season. The bigger problem: What do the Bears have after him? Earl Bennett, who didn't catch a pass last season? Rashied Davis? A rookie or two? Sub-par, no matter how you look at it.
I don't think of Hester as a classic No. 1 receiver, but he can make big plays on an offense that is still going to run through tailback Matt Forte. And Cutler without question throws a better deep ball than Kyle Orton. So there should be a higher frequency of connection.
As for the rest, I imagine Cutler will focus on tight ends Desmond Clark and Greg Olsen, much like Orton did. And if he is as good as the Bears hope, Cu
tler will help make Bennett a serviceable receiver. But overall, this issue bears watching as the, er, Bears enter training camp.