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Cutting the competition

Jason Flam, Opinion Manager

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Kyle Orton has Denver at 6-0. No, that isn’t a misprint. Jay Cutler has the Bears sitting somewhere in between Minnesota and Tennessee at 3-2. However, the fact of the matter is that Orton plays on a better TEAM. The Broncos under first year head coach Josh McDaniels, posses a better defense, better receivers, better offensive line, and a much better offensive scheme.

Let us not forget the way Cutler led those very same Broncos to being one the most potent offenses in football just a year ago. The difference was that he had no defense to help him out there en route to an 8-8 record and a late season collapse that allowed San Diego to capture the division title after a 4-8 start. The proof is there about how much the Denver defense has improved since last season. Let me begin by introducing future hall of famer Brian Dawkins. Dawkins played 13 seasons for the Philadelphia Eagles, and was named to seven pro bowls in the process of becoming one of the great safeties of all time.

Anytime you can bolster your lineup with someone of his stature, I’d say your doing yourself more good than bad. The Broncos have catapulted themselves up from being the 29th ranked defense, to the 2nd rated team in the entire NFL. I think that says enough about the lack of support that Cutler had in the past out in Denver in comparison to the security blanket that Orton now has.

On the flip side, Cutler has been dealt the 13th ranked defense in the league with the Bears, and an offensive line that is aging faster than Benjamin Button gets younger. Olin Kreutz has not looked like the six time pro bowler we’ve come to rely on when the rest of the O-line has been in shambles. 2nd year tackle Chris Williams seems light years away from where he’s supposed to be, and while for the most part Orlando Pace has been good enough, there have been times when he’s really hurt the Bears. With the blocking attack being virtually nonexistent, Cutler has had little time to make the passes that he’s certainly capable of making as opposed to the ample time Orton receives under center in Denver. The lack of protection also extends beyond affecting Cutler, because Matt Forte cannot get any sort of momentum going forward, something that doesn’t allow Cutler to open up the passing game.

Even when Jay has been on his game (which is most of the time), the running game has not. Forte has had one 100 yard performance this year, and that came against the lowly Lions (they have a win?). Not to mention that Orton is throwing to a few proven receivers in Brandon Marshall, a pro bowler, Brandon Stokley, and Eddie Royal, who emerged on the scene last year as an explosive deep threat.

Cutler has been stocked with inexperienced and unproven wideouts such as Earl Bennett (no receptions prior to this season), Devin Hester (only 2nd year as fulltime receiver), and Johnny Knox (rookie). The only truly viable threat that he has in the passing game is tight end Greg Olsen. However, teams have taken notice and by channeling their primary focus on Olsen, they have successfully forced Cutler’s other receivers to beat them. Thus far it has proven a difficult task, made even more difficult by the fact that Cutler has no time in the pocket to unleash the deep ball as effectively and as often as he would like.

The offensive play calling in Chicago isn’t much of a help either. Ron Turner has no idea how to actually run a football play, let alone a successful NFL offense. This has been one of the Bears’ biggest problems throughout Turner’s tenure. It is apparent that the problem does not lie with Cutler because he led the Broncos to being the 2nd ranked offense last year, while under Orton they’re now 9th. The Bears last year were the 26th ranked offense, while this year they sit at 19th. Whether the minimal upswing in the ranks of the Bears’ offense could be contributed to Cutler or not, the fact remains that it hasn’t vastly improved by any standards. The fact that the Bears offense was awful before Jay arrived (26th in 2008, 27th in 2007, 15th in 2006, and 29th in 2005) has nothing to do with Cutler. Those are the years that Turner has been the offensive coordinator.

Kyle Orton’s QB ratings over the course of his career before this season are as follows: 59.7, 73.9, and 79.6. Compare that to Cutler’s 88.5, 88.1, and 86.0. While Cutler has posted a 86.9 rating so far this year, that is nearly 10 points higher than Orton ever accomplished while with the Bears. The fact that Orton has a 100.1 QB rating thus far in 2009, can be greatly attributed to the change of scenery and better cast of characters around him. Orton’s quarterback play was nothing but mediocrity in a mediocre offense while in the windy city. He can thank his lucky stars that he no longer has to deal with one of the league’s worst supporting casts.

However, when it comes down to it, and you need a big play at an opportune time- say, oh….the Super Bowl, wouldn’t you rather have a guy that has big-play capabilities and has the leadership and drive that could ultimately deliver a championship back to Chicago? Cutler is that guy, sorry Kyle.

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Free of Bull, Full of Bulldogs
Cutting the competition