Think back to the first week of August. We are halfway through training camp, dreaming about how big of a steal Devin Aromashodu will be in the 9th round of your fantasy draft, and how big of an impact newly-acquired Julius Peppers will have on a defense that was injured and insignificant much of the season before.
Well, one out of two ain’t bad.
Truth be told, even the most optimistic Bears fans really struggled to find the Bears the nine wins it takes to finish the season above .500. Even fewer fans who looked at the Bears schedule thought they could win the 10 games it will most likely take to get into the playoffs. We weren’t going to beat Dallas, Green Bay was most likely going to sweep us, and we’d be lucky if we won our home game against Minnesota. Luckily for us, we had a cupcake like Seattle in the middle of the first half of the season.
But, as Chris Berman points out so often on NFL Countdown, that’s why they play the games.
I’m not going to break down how they won each game, or what the significance of each win was. But what I do want you to ponder is exactly what it means to be 9-3 with four games left in the 2010 NFL season.
Let’s start at the top with Head Coach Lovie Smith. Remember the quotes prior to the start of the season?
“Forget the last two games, [the Bears] must fire Lovie Smith.” — Previous Tribune and current Sun-Times Sports Writer Rick Morrissey, after the Bears clawed out victories against Minnesota and Detroit to close the season 7-9 last year.
“Smith is a Dead Coach Walking, showing no emotion or leadership on the sideline and too often flashing a baffled look as to what’s going on. The defense, which three years ago carried the Bears to a Super Bowl that I’m not sure really happened, has collapsed and grown old amid realities that Smith’s “Cover 2″ defense is obsolete and has been figured out.” — The worst columnist in Chicago Sports History, Jay Mariotti, after he was fired from the Sun-Times and writing for the literary power-house, FanHouse.com.
Look, say what you want about the Cover Two, about Lovie’s lack of emotion on the sideline, and often befuddled look when a series of events do not go the way of the Beloved. Lovie has gone from Hot-Seat to Coach of the Year candidate. Is he there yet? Nope, there is still work to do. However, Lovie has ensured he will remain the Chicago Bears coach for the season that probably won’t be, in 2011. His defense has been impressive at times, and he (along with Mike Martz) have proven they can make offensive adjustments in-game.
Speaking of Mike Martz:
This offense is over the hill and so is Martz…Along with Cutler’s poor decision-making, Martz isn’t going to be the coordinator stressing checkdowns and taking what defenses give you. It’s another reason why Martz was a bad hire for Chicago. — MPNNow.com Sports Writer Joey Baskerville, in an article chalk-full of Bears hater-ade.
I, too, had my reservations about Mike Martz coming in after a season in which we fans saw our quarterback lead the league with 26 (!!!) interceptions. And with a team with as many question marks along the offensive line, the thought of dropping back for 40+ passes every game left a lot to be desired. I can admit I was wrong about it.
Speaking of being wrong, I am so damn tired of hearing about how up-and-down, how Jekyll-and-Hyde Jay Cutler is. From Cowherd to Schlereth to Chicago’s new media-villain, Trent Dilfer, they need to realize that Peyton Manning has thrown more interceptions in his last three games (11) than Cutler has all season (10). Yes, Cutler had one of the worst weeks a quarterback has had all season in week 7 against a below-average Washington team. But as anyone that watches more than just highlights can tell you, every quarterback is susceptible to a bad week.
Cutler has a QB Rat. of 92.8. That’s better than Flacco, Ryan, both Mannings, Sanchez and Palmer. The amusing thing about that, is I’ve seen Cutler below all six of these Quarterbacks at some point THIS season.
Not a fan of QB Rating? Cutler’s Yards/Attempt average is 5th best in the NFL, behind Rivers, Vick, Rodgers and Roethlisburger. Jay also has the longest pass of the season in the NFL, an 89-yard pass to Matt Forte in the first game of the season, and is 2nd to Phillip Rivers in 1st Down %.
But this season means something more to Lovie, Martz and Cutler.
Lovie Smith may have had his career validated this season. This is the 2nd season in 5 that he has taken a team doomed from the start according to everyone outside of Halas Hall to the brink of the playoffs. He still has work to do, as the Bears still need at least one more win, and would ensure playoffs with two victories.
Mike Martz was considered over-the-hill, and at the end of his coaching career. He came to Chicago after he supposedly could not find a job anywhere else. After watching what he has done with this team, this offense, this season; he may again be a hot commodity if the Bears allow him to become a coaching free agent after his contract expires.
And Jay Cutler. The man who has never even had a winning season. Guess what, critics. He’s ensured a winning season with 4 games to play, and a trip to the playoffs may be on the horizon.
Keep on relishing in the underdog role, Chicago, and bring the NFC-North crown back home.