By Dave Wischnowsky –
(CBS) In Chicago, the heat is cranking up on Lovie Smith, Jay Cutler and the rest of the Bad News Bears. But even as the team’s championship hopes fade away, support for the embattled coach and quarterback hasn’t cooled among some members of the fan base.
Last week I took a look at Smith’s career regular-season record against winning teams (it was an ugly 19-38 in nine years) and then placed it beside Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy’s career mark (a solid 21-25 in seven years). Naturally, I heard from a reader who took issue with those numbers.
“This isn’t a fair comparison,” the reader said. “McCarthy has enjoyed stability at the QB position throughout his coaching career. Lovie Smith has not had that luxury. This is a passing league and a coach looks good if he has the QB. A fair comparison would be what is Lovie’s record with Cutler. Clearly, nobody can deny it has been stellar.”
That’s a fair enough request. However, I’m sorry to break it to the reader – and anyone else on board the Lovie and Jay bandwagon – but I am going to have to deny that Smith’s record with Cutler has been stellar. Because, the truth is, it really has not.
Since the Bears traded for Cutler before the 2009 season, Lovie Smith’s overall record is 34-27 for a winning percentage of .557, which is actually a drop off compared to his 45-35 record (.563) B.C. (Before Cutler).
That stat indeed is not fair, however, as Cutler has missed eight regular-season games due to injury since arriving in Chicago. The Bears have gone only 2-6 in those contests. By removing those games from the mix, Smith’s career mark with Cutler as his starting quarterback does appear strong at 32-21 (.604).
However, just like my research from last week, looks can be deceiving. And that 32-21 record doesn’t tell the full story as, once again, we need to dig deeper and examine exactly who Cutler’s (and Smith’s) victories with the Bears have come against.
Since Cutler joined the team in ’09, the Bears are only 10-20 (.333) in games against opponents that have finished a season above .500 or have a current winning record this season. If you measure only the games that Cutler has played in during that time span, the Bears’ record against winning teams is just marginally better at 10-18 for a .357 clip.
That unimpressive stat got me wondering what Cutler’s record is against winning teams for his entire career.
Here’s what I found: During his seven seasons as a starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos and Chicago Bears, Jay Cutler has a career record of 49-41 for a winning percentage of .544. That number looks pretty good until you peel off the layers and realize that, like an onion, there’s a stench of failure buried inside.
Against teams with losing records, Cutler’s mark with the Broncos and Bears is a stellar 27-10 (.730), and against teams with .500 records, it’s almost as impressive at 7-3 (.700). But against teams with winning records? Well, in his career Cutler is an awful 15-28 for a winning percentage of just .349.
During his four seasons with the Bears, Cutler’s numbers are even more skewed. He’s gone 10-18 vs. winning teams (.357), a stunning 19-2 vs. losing teams (.905) and a solid 3-1 (.750) vs. .500 teams.
So, what do all those numbers mean? Well, what they tell me is that the Bears simply do not have a big-game coach. And, while the team’s roster certainly has its share of other big-time problems, I don’t think the Bears have a big-game QB, either.
If nothing else, Dave Wischnowsky is an Illinois boy. Raised in Bourbonnais, educated at the University of Illinois and bred on sports in the Land of Lincoln, he now resides on Chicago’s North Side, just blocks from Wrigley Field. Formerly a reporter and blogger for the Chicago Tribune, Dave currently writes a syndicated column, The Wisch List, which you can check out via his blog at http://www.wischlist.com. Follow him on Twitter @wischlist and read more of his CBS Chicago blog entries here.