Focus Shifts From Cutler to Webb on Sunday

| September 20th, 2012

I interrupt the now week-long drama of Jay Cutler and “the bump heard ’round the world” with some actual football talk. See, I don’t care that Cutler bumped Webb. Webb doesn’t care that Cutler bumped Webb. And our beautiful media – led by the brilliant folks at the Sun-Times and Tribune – are only harping on the issue because they know it’s Week Two and, really, what the hell else do they have to write about? (Football is a simple game that folks try to over-complicate.)

The left side of the Bears offensive line can’t pass protect. That was THE story coming out of the second week of the season. The coaching staff responded to that fact by exiling Chris Spencer to the Bench Omiyale Built and promoting a fella called Chilo Rachal to the starting unit. Rachal comes over from the San Francisco 49ers and while he had a better-than-average summer in Bourbonnais, his Niners tape is none-too-impressive. To think Rachal’s insertion into the starting lineup will suddenly keep Cutler upright more often would be a bit delusional. To think Rachal might be an improvement over Spencer in the run game is, well, fine. From the tape I’ve watched I don’t see how anyone could be worse in that department. (It’s fair for those of you so inclined to consider Spencer the last true gift of the Jerry Angelo era.)

J’Marcus Webb is now the key. Webb is the protection. Webb will be the point of entry for every defensive coordinator, the remainder of the 2012 season, as long as he continues to struggle. There are two possible tracks, as far as I can see:

  1. Webb struggles wildly Sunday against the combination of Robert Quinn and Chris Long and is replaced by either Chris Williams or somebody like Jonathan Scott. This would systematically end the Webb tenure at left tackle in Chicago and more than likely book his ticket elsewhere in the not-so-distant future.
  2. Webb plays well against the Rams. Then terribly against the Cowboys. Then well against the Jaguars and so on and so on. Webb’s inconsistency on a week-to-week basis becomes his consistency. This would lead to status quo. Lovie and Tice defending Webb, Cutler barking at him and fans shaking their heads sadly every other Sunday.

How Lovie Smith handles the Webb situation might very well define the 2012 campaign the same way his handling Red Grossman defined the 2006 road to Super Bowl deflation. In the postseason that year Smith was stubbornly loyal to a quarterback who admitted not fully preparing for the final game of the season because, you know, New Year’s Eve happened. Will he continue to show faith in a project left tackle when the remainder of the offense seems so ready to win now?

I don’t know the answer. Smith is hard to predict, especially on the offensive side of the ball. But I know if Cutler finds himself on the turf a couple times in the first half Sunday, I’d like to see a hungry Chris Williams emerge from the tunnel after the intermission.