Thursday, May 20, 2010
On the radar: Cutler-Martz dynamic
By Kevin Seifert ESPN.com
A player, coach or issue that should be on your radar as training camp approaches.
How well Jay Cutler adjusts to running Mike Martz's offense will be critical to the Bears' success this season.
The Chicago Bears committed up to $120 million this spring to secure the most high-profile free-agent class in the NFL. In all, they turned over nearly half of their defensive starters. Those moves garnered most of the Bears' offseason headlines, but none of them will matter if the unlikely pairing of quarterback Jay Cutler and offensive coordinator Mike Martz doesn't work out.
Cutler spent the first four years of his NFL career in versions of the West Coast offense, which places a premium on quick-release passes. Under Martz, he will take more seven-step drops while waiting for receivers to finish off deeper routes. He'll orchestrate a much more intense pre-snap set of shifts and formation changes.
Most important, Cutler must coexist with a coordinator who is every bit as strong-willed and stubborn as he is. Much of the groundwork for that relationship is being laid now, and it will continue during this weekend's veteran minicamp. Speaking recently on ESPN 1000 in Chicago, Cutler said he is spending "a couple hours" in Martz's office every day to watch film and absorb the offense and insisted they've "hashed out" any philosophical differences about the scheme.
"I had some issues with a timing offense and not being able to see things [before the throw]," Cutler said. "He had only worked that way. There was a little bit of give and take, and we're definitely on the same page with everything. It's been really interesting working with him and a lot of fun."
NFL optimism is always high in May, and you wouldn't expect Cutler to feel any differently at this point. The real test will come when the season begins. Will the Bears' offense function at a high level from the start or will it take some time to develop? If it's the latter, will Cutler and Martz work through those issues or build a wall of frustration?
The answer to that question will provide the single strongest indicator of the Bears' success this season.