The Rams and Bears meet this weekend on what is supposed to be a 40 degree windy day — classic grind-it-out football weather for two teams who are ingloriously grinding out the rest of the season. The teams arrive at this miserable place from two different directions. While little was expected of the Rams this season, the official Year One of our Rebuild, the Bears took a spectacular gamble at remaking themselves into a playoff threat, and failed.
Like their NFC North brethren, the Vikings, the Bears considered themselves to be “one player away” from being a contender, and put all shame aside in their pursuit of that player. Ostensibly, the Vikings were taking the greater risk, going after a twice-retired geriatric glory hound with a bad shoulder, while the Bears chased a young and shockingly available Franchise QB. But while the Vikings are now cruising toward the playoffs and a probably first-round bye, Bears fans have been tormented by this guy:
This quote, by Cutler himself from a recent Chicago Sun-Times article, sums up the misery:
Then Cutler seemed to make a plea for help.
”It’s more than just the system,” he said. ”It’s just getting the right guys in place.”
Rams fans know all about that. The vaunted attack-first defensive system that Steve Spagnuolo and Ken Flajole were supposed to bring in has been hamstrung by the lack of personnel. And even when we had guys in place who were producing, like Will Witherspoon at weakside linebacker (polling still open: Who would you play there in 2010?), their age/salary made a mismatch with the team’s direction. It’s not just about having the right guys, it’s having them at the right time, ready to emerge together.
The Brett Favre story would be completely different but for the emergence of Sidney Rice, and the coagulation of a top-notch offensive line. (No one notices that Adrian Peterson is no longer carrying that team – he doesn’t have to.) The Jay Cutler story has fallen apart because the Bears simply can’t run the ball, have no trustworthy receivers, and their defense lacks (as always) healthy playmakers.
Funny, that last sentence sounds almost like the Rams.
The big difference? While we can run the ball, we simply can’t throw it. And for all the grief Cutler has taken, the plays he’s made in the passing game are directly responsible for the four wins Chicago has. The NFL is a passing league, make no doubt about it. And for St Louis to take that next step forward in our rebuild, we just might need our own Jay Cutler. God help us.