Bears’ odd couple has learned to coexist
ALL ACCESS: A lot of networks do TV interviews, but have you ever wanted to know the juicy details that never make air? You can tell a lot about who people really are when the cameras aren’t rolling. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at the interview that Pam Oliver had with Chicago’s Jay Cutler and Mike Martz for this week’s segment on the NFL on FOX pregame show
Jay Cutler “greets” you with a brusque handshake. No sooner does the hand extend than it draws back like you have diphtheria.
After he sits down with me for a feature on the Cutler/Mike Martz experiment in Chicago, he doesn’t bother with a handshake as he heads out the door. I’ve experienced Cutler’s drive-by handshake before and have learned it’s not personal.
For two days, snowstorms at home in the South left me stranded in Philly, the site of last week’s Eagles-Packers’ wild-card game. I eventually made it out of there just before the storm moved east and threatened to lock down that city.
Once at the Bears’ practice facility Wednesday, I make a joke to Cutler as he walks in about my travel nightmare, lamely asking if I can use his plane to get home. I don’t even know if he has one.
“Atlanta’s still shut down?” he asks.
“Oh yeah,” I say, about to launch into a reply that’s more than a one-word answer. Before I embark on that small-talk suicide mission, Cutler’s face goes blank. And then silence.
I’m thinking roll camera. Please.
We turn to the subject at hand: the Bears offense and the success it had during the second half of the season. Chicago won seven of its last nine games, and during that span the Bears offense rushed 258 times and passed 276 times.
If you know offensive coordinator Mike Martz’s history, that balance is staggering. He’s long been considered a guy who never met a pass play he didn’t love, someone with no affinity for the ground game, sometimes to the detriment of that group.
“It’s deliberate,” Martz says of the closing gap between the rush and the pass.
“We need to get the offensive line solidified. The whole offensive line, other than the center, was new at the positions they were playing.”
Cutler was more blunt.
“We need to run the ball,” Cutler noted. “And we found out the hard way.”
Once the offense made its about-face during that nine-week span, running back Matt Forte rushed for 717 yards on 147 carries against four of the top rush defenses in the league.
As for the offense in general, Cutler said, “ the defense carried us those first seven games. We were pretty bad on offense and there was a point when we couldn’t even come up with a first down.”
Martz told me it’s stressful when you have to lean heavily on the passing game as much as the Bears did early.
“Unfortunately there are situations where to stay in the game you’ve got to throw it. That’s not fun.”
The so-called marriage between Cutler and Martz is oft discussed with reporters trying to read into everything the quarterback and coach do or don’t do on Sundays. When I bring up the relationship aspect Martz heaps praise, while Cutler steers clear of a mushy response, centering his answer on his game and Martz’s acumen.
“I think there was a lot of speculation about what I could do as a quarterback, what I’ve done in the past and where Mike is as an offensive coordinator,” Cutler said. “I think we both kind of met in the middle at this point, I do a lot of things that he wants to do, and he does some of the stuff that I want to do. You just have to listen to him and do the right things.
“I just think the world of him,” Martz said. “I have to be very careful, because there’s some things that because he is smart, I assume things about him.”
Martz goes on to point out how with Cutler, 27, “I can get a little further ahead than I need to be with him. And that happened a little bit earlier in the year.”
As the two have found a happy place, the Bears might be able to count on the offense for one and not lean so heavily on defense and special teams.
As for the non-existent handshake, I can’t wait to talk to Cutler again and force him into a solid handshake. It’s become comical, LOL comical and nothing personal. I hope.
For Pam’s complete interview with Jay Cutler and Mike Martz tune in Sunday to NFL on FOX for America’s No. 1 pregame show at noon ET / 9 a.m. PT.