-- In this week's episode of "Lake Forest 60045," there's trouble at home as Jay Cutler commits two costly turnovers and skips his paid radio show. Brandon Marshall emotes, Lance Briggs shrugs and Papa Marc Trestman tries to keep it all together with his placid, detail-oriented approach. With a special appearance by Brian Urlacher as "Disgruntled ex-Bear!"
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- To no one's surprise, in the weekly soap opera that is the Chicago Bears, the star-crossed lead is again in the spotlight.
Oh, that Jay Cutler, always up to something.
A new contract and an improved coaching staff and supporting cast have done little to dissuade persistent shots at Cutler's character and ability. In fact, they've only served to amplify his critics.
Hold on, I got Brian Urlacher on Line 1. He's got something to add and we need the dump button.
After a two-turnover game in a loss to the Miami Dolphins, Cutler can't seem to escape the one constant in his career: criticism. Seven interceptions and three lost fumbles, not to mention an 0-3 record at home, will do that to a guy.
Just a week after throwing for 381 yards in a win at Atlanta, Cutler's a bum again.
With the season on the line this week as the Bears head to New England, everyone is looking to Cutler to either get the team to the bye week at 4-4 or flame out in spectacular fashion. And you know what? I bet he'll be a conquering hero and lead the Bears to another surprising road victory.
And then he'll throw two picks during the bye. If anyone can do that, it's No. 6.
"Everything I do is critiqued," Cutler said, channeling Sting. "Every step that I take, every read that I'll make."
Cutler actually was talking about the persnickety coaches in the film room and how the outsider perspective that the coaches baby him is "farthest from the truth whenever we're in the meeting room."
So, who's harder on him, his coaches or the big, bad Chicago media?
"Media," Cutler said with a smile. "You guys still win that one."
That's right. Every pick you throw, every ball let you go, we're watching you, Jay. And don't you forget it.
You can't go wrong writing or talking about the polarizing Cutler, who's never as bad as his critics allege or as blameless as his defenders wail. For all the nebulous talk about missing leadership in the Bears locker room, the reason the team is struggling to win winnable games is due to real stuff like Cutler's penchant for turnovers -- whether they're his fault or not -- and a mediocre-to-poor defense that can't get off the field.
What's keeping the Bears from contending for the playoffs? An overhyped offense that has been so disappointing, Matt Forte couldn't give an honest answer as to what it does well.
"What do we do best?" Forte said. "That's a good question. I don't know right now. We kind of need to figure that out."
The Bears are 0-4 when Cutler throws an interception. Opposing teams have scored 37 points off his turnovers. But as offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer said, "Rarely is it one man's fault in football, or we'd be playing tennis."
He added that it was possible for Cutler to throw a pick and the Bears to still win.
And that leads us to the defense, which no one predicted to be a strength this year, though it's much better than last year's unit. But it's a defense that let Miami do whatever it wanted last Sunday. The Dolphins averaged 9.3 plays and 3.3 first downs in the six drives that began in their territory -- or to be more clear, the ones that didn't come off a Bears turnover. Miami had no turnovers and only punted twice, on their first drive of the game and the last of the first half with time expiring.
We can talk about accountability and coaching pep talks until there's no space left on the Internet, but the Bears just need to play better individually, collectively, whatever. It's not about pep talks and bonhomie.
And there are specific problems, like defensive players not recognizing plays fast enough, or not being talented enough to recover. Problems like Cutler throwing too high in dangerous spots and holding the ball too low in the pocket. Problems like Cutler going long on third-and-1, and missing.
It's not motivation. It's execution.
To outsiders, it looks like another loss is on the horizon as the Bears travel east to face Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, the Gallants to Chicago's Goofuses.
Now, I picked the Bears to win because their few strengths (like defensive line) could give them an edge against New England's weaknesses (like offensive line). Also, I'm 1-6 picking games, so it's time to switch it up and buck conventional wisdom.
Lose at home to Miami and then come back and beat New England on the road? Why not?!? It's Buffalo-San Francisco all over again. The Patriots are ripe for an upset, and maybe the Bears are tired of beating themselves.
One thing is for sure: There is no quarterback more experienced at dealing with adversity than Cutler. He has a PhD in Adversity Philosophy and his dissertation is on "self-inflicted wounds."
"I already know how Jay deals with adversity just by knowing him," Forte said. "I've been around him a long time, and obviously he has gone through a lot of adversity."
Don't he know it.
"Any time you lose a bunch of games you're going to be under scrutiny," Cutler said. "It's going to be tough. It's going to look not how you wanted it to look going into the season. So coaches and quarterbacks are judged on their records, on wins and losses, and right now we're behind the eight ball in that category."
While the onus on "leadership" is a bit silly when there are tangible problems to focus on, Cutler's a guy who has to take the heat and act cool at the same time.
"Leadership is definitely involved in the quarterback position," he said. "You're the guy with the ball. You're the guy that has to do the press conferences and you're always asked questions. ... This week is a big week for us."
With $54 million guaranteed in his new deal, Cutler isn't going anywhere. The question is: Where are the Bears headed? I'm guessing another 8-8 season. That's reality.
There's no quarterback better armed to get them to that win-some, lose-some state of being than Cutler, a man who unfortunately knows adversity like the back of his bruised hand.