Shanahan proteges meet as Bears host Redskins
Mike Shanahan was talking about Jay Cutler. He could have just as easily been discussing Robert Griffin III.
''You could see he was a natural,'' Shanahan said.
The Redskins' coach will get a close look at proteges past and present when Cutler and the Chicago Bears host Washington in a preseason game on Saturday. It figured that the two quarterbacks were a topic of conversation this week, even if their situations weren't quite the same.
Griffin is being handed the keys right from the start after Washington took the Heisman Trophy winner with the second pick in the draft. Cutler had to wait to get behind the wheel in Denver, but he quickly made an impression.
''We had a guy (Jake Plummer) that took us to the AFC championship game and beat a team that had won 10 straight playoff games,'' said Shanahan, the former Broncos coach. ''We weren't in position really to make that change right then but had an opportunity to get a quarterback that I thought was a difference-maker. I think Jay is that type of guy, but other quarterbacks are a little bit different. Everybody will have their restraints. What you do is try to run an offense around their restraints, and hopefully, it pays dividends.''
The Broncos were expecting big things when they drafted Cutler out of Vanderbilt with the 11th pick in 2006, and he put up the numbers once he got the chance.
Cutler started the final five games as a rookie, threw for nearly 3,500 yards the following year and set a club record by passing for 4,526 while making the Pro Bowl in 2008. A rift with new coach Josh McDaniels ultimately led to a trade with Chicago.
Now, he's leading a team with big expectations after an offseason overhaul. The Bears believe they have the talent and depth to compete for an NFC championship after a series of moves, none bigger than the trade with Miami for Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Marshall. That gave Cutler a go-to target for the first time in Chicago (tied for 11th in the AP Pro32), and, even better, he's reunited with a teammate he had in Denver.
They figure to play together Saturday for the first time as Bears, after Cutler was held out the preseason opener against Denver following the birth of his son. Now, he is eager to see what this offense can do, even if it's a work in progress.
''What we unroll against the Washington Redskins isn't the final product, we've still got a lot of time, we've still got the rest of the preseason and then a game week where we have to prepare and really hammer down what we want to do offensively,'' he said. ''We want to get in and out of the huddle, we want to execute plays, but it's not going to be the end of the world if we're not clicking on all cylinders Saturday.''
With most of the starters playing a series, the Bears simply got nothing going in a 31-3 loss to the Broncos.
Griffin showed some promise in his brief appearance last week against Buffalo, leading the Redskins (No. 25) to the lone touchdown in a 7-6 win. He didn't get a chance to run the ball but did complete 4 of 6 passes for 70 yards, capping it off with a 20-yard TD to Pierre Garcon.
It was a good start, something to build on. He's still trying to adjust, though, to life as a pro - and his new surroundings.
''It feels like I have been in a movie,'' Griffin said. ''I walk outside my house one Saturday, and there are kids selling lemonade on the side of the street and that is funny to me because I have never experienced that. Next thing you know somebody knocks on the door and brings a ''goodie'' basket. So, those types of things have been great, but I haven't experienced the city too much. I am not really a big-city guy. I really don't do too much. I can sit at home and have fun and be content for the rest of my life if I need too. Hopefully once D.C. starts `poppin' because this team is doing extremely well, we will all be able to enjoy.''
The Bears game is just another step for him. That he won't have to deal with Brian Urlacher should make things a little easier.
The Pro Bowl linebacker had an arthroscopic debridement procedure on his left knee this week and will likely sit out the preseason. He expects to be ready for the Bears' opener against Indianapolis on Sept. 9, though.
Even so, Griffin figures to be tested. So does the Bears defense, for that matter.
''He can do everything you want a good quarterback to do,'' said Chicago coach Lovie Smith, who is friends with Griffin's high school coach.
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