By Adam Hoge-
BOURBONNAIS (CBS) By the time it was over, it was obvious the Jay Cutler-Mike Martz relationship never had a chance.
It was also pretty obvious that Cutler preferred communicating to his offensive line coach, Mike Tice.
And that’s a big reason why Tice was promoted to offensive coordinator instead of the Bears going outside the organization. A week into training camp, it would be fair to describe the Cutler-Tice relationship as the exact opposite of the Cutler-Martz relationship.
“It’s been good,” Cutler said after Tuesday’s practice at Olivet Nazarene University. “I think Mike probably has one of the toughest jobs on the field. Just being able to take everyone’s input, different ideas and being able to dissect it, figure out what’s best for this offensive football team. Because we got a lot of bright minds out here and a lot of guys who have been in a lot of football games. He’s doing a great job. He’s accepting that role and really relishing it.”
That communication was something that didn’t always exist with Martz last season. Eventually it reached a boiling point on the field when Cutler didn’t have any problem communicating how he really felt about Martz, with the infamous “Tell Martz I say “f*** you” that was caught on camera.
But could you really blame Cutler for being frustrated? Already the most talented quarterback the Bears had ever had, he was hardly treated as such in his first three seasons in Chicago. He didn’t have the weapons or offensive line he deserved and his offensive coordinator was constantly putting him in precarious positions with repeated seven-step drops.
That appears to have changed. Based on how Cutler’s relationship with Tice is going now that the former offensive line coach is calling the shots, it seems doubtful we’ll see No. 6 yelling four-letter words in the direction of his offensive coordinator any time soon.
“I think (our relationship is) great,” Tice said. “We talk all the time. I talk to him while I’m calling plays.”
And Cutler often talks back, but in a productive manner. The Bears are finally treating their franchise quarterback like a franchise quarterback, giving him much needed input in the offense.
“I got a little bit of input. Not much, but I got a few things that I whisper into his ear and he’s always receptive of it,” Cutler modestly said. “At the end of the day we are going to do what’s best offensively for us. No matter if a rookie has the idea, Mike has the idea or Jeremy (Bates) or me, whatever is going to work against a given defense, we are going to use it.”
Together, more ideas are being thrown around more than ever, and it’s a large departure from how things were run under Mike Martz the past two seasons when Cutler was constantly put in uncomfortable positions.
“Why call things they’re not comfortable with? If you’re calling things they’re not comfortable with they aren’t going to make the tough throws,” Tice said. “If we’re calling runs the running back doesn’t like, he’s not going to hit it up in there. If we’re calling routes the receiver doesn’t like to run, he’s not going to run them with any type of authority or confidence. So I think it’s important across the board to have a great line of communication between the players and coaches.”
Also involved in the conversations is new quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates, who has a large amount of control over the passing game. Bates a is favorite of Cutler after the two worked together in Denver.
“(My relationships with Tice and Bates are) different,” Cutler said. “I’ve been with Jeremy before. He has a really good understanding of what I like, what I dislike. I don’t really need to say much to JB about a certain play, it’s just kind of a look here and there. Mike, we’re trying to explain everything to him. I’m trying to give him everything that is on my mind — what I dislike, what I like, what I love, what I hate, what I think is going to work. That’s why he has the toughest job. He has to take it all in and figure out what’s best for us offensively.”
What hasn’t been hard to figure out is giving Cutler more control. He was handcuffed in the Martz system because he didn’t have the ability to audible. That changed in a hurry when Tice took over.
“We have a tremendous line of scrimmage package — as much as anybody,” Tice said. “And we have guidelines for that line of scrimmage package and we want to makes sure he stays within the guidelines. He’s been doing a great job — all the quarterbacks have been doing a great job with it. Excellent job. Very pleased with it.”
The benefits of being able to audible are obvious. Cutler said “it makes everyone’s jobs a little easier” and even told one reporter “I think you could probably do it.” The challenge, however, will be to keep Cutler within the “guidelines” Tice referenced. But as long he does, the Bears offense — and the coaching staff — will look at lot better.
“When we’re running into bad numbers counts and we’re doing things like that then that falls back on us and then we look like dummies,” Tice said. “So we want to put them in position to succeed.”
Ah, yes, a position to succeed. Something that rarely existed in Cutler’s first three seasons in Chicago.
Adam is the Sports Editor for CBSChicago.com and specializes in coverage of the Bears, White Sox and college sports. He was born and raised in Lincoln Park and attended St. Ignatius College Prep before going off to the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he earned a Journalism degree. Follow him on Twitter @AdamHogeCBS and read more of his columns here.