Can Adam Gase Help Fix Jay Cutler and the Chicago Bears Offense?
Adam Gase is the new offensive coordinator of the Chicago Bears and now gets the task of attempting to tame Jay Cutler. The 36-year-old Gase has essentially re-hitched his wagon to John Fox, the Bears' new head coach, after two fairly successful years in Denver.
On the surface, hiring Gase makes a lot of sense.
Before his two-year tenure as the Broncos offensive coordinator, Gase was the wide receivers coach in Denver in 2009 and 2010. During those years, he actually coached then-Broncos wide receiver, Brandon Marshall. He moved to quarterbacks coach in 2011 and oversaw Tim Tebow before the Broncos received a massive free agent upgrade in 2012 with the addition of Peyton Manning.
Before we get in to what this hire means for the Bears, let’s take a brief look at how offenses under Gase performed and what his play-calling tendencies are to gain a better understanding of the future.
Product of Manning?
I’ll be honest. This is a pretty big vote of confidence from John Fox. It’s fairly safe to say that Gase’s success in Denver wasn’t all on him. Having one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time certainly helps. So, in way, while Gase was Denver’s offensive coordinator during some great offensive seasons, he’s still sort of unproven.
However, for perspective, here is how the Broncos offenses finished over the last two years in our Adjusted Net Expected Points (NEP) rankings. Adjusted NEP indicates, in terms of total points, how far above or below expectation a team has performed compared to a league-average team would have in the same situations. It is adjusted for strength of schedule.
|Year||Run %||Pass %||Adj. NEP||Adj. NEP per play|
Certainly the success speaks for itself. Gase was in a very advantageous situation in Denver, having weapons like Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas, Eric Decker (in 2013) and Emmanuel Sanders at his disposal.
Denver's rushing attack leaned on Knowshown Moreno in 2013 but ranked only 18th overall in Adjusted Rushing NEP. Then, the Broncos became fairly run-heavy with C.J. Anderson late in the 2014 season and were the eight-best run team this year, according to our metrics.
Unfortunately, Cutler doesn’t demand the respect from opposing defenses that Manning did. However, Gase, once again, has some of the best pieces on offense to call plays for, which could make for a fun, fantasy-friendly offense in Chicago.
Fireworks in the Windy City?
Some probably wouldn’t expect this with a Peyton Manning offense, but at least in Gase’s two years as offensive coordinator, the Broncos were pretty much aligned with league averages in run and pass play percentages. Fortunately, Chicago’s offense is set-up to be very well balanced, something they were not in 2014.
Chicago was second-to-last in pass-to-run disparity (59.4% pass to 32.4% run), largely due to playing from behind a lot in 2014. But, with key wide receivers Alshon Jeffery, Brandon Marshall, Marquess Wilson, and tight end Martellus Bennett, Gase has a ton of firepower in his arsenal, so it will be interesting to see how the Bears balance the run with these weapons out wide.
The Bears should also be able to re-balance their offense with the incredibly consistent, Matt Forte. Forte has finished 12th, 13th, and 12th in Rushing NEP over the past three seasons among running backs with 80 or more carries on the season. Even though Forte just turned 29 in December of last year, Adam Gase should help make the Bears more efficient at running the ball in 2015 based on his tenure in Denver.
We all know Chicago has great pieces on offensive. Three huge receiving targets, the ageless Matt Forte, and even a decent offensive line.
The big question mark is Jay Cutler.
Jay Cutler likes to turn the football over. Maybe “likes” isn’t the right word. He has the propensity to give the opponent the football. If Chicago is going to improve on offense, it’s going to start under-center with Cutler.
Over the past two seasons, there has been a floating notion that Cutler has incredible ability, but his inability to command the offense at the line of scrimmage, audible out of bad plays, and not force the ball to wide receivers has been his downfall. That is all true. But Jay Cutler was really bad last year. How bad? His contribution on the field actually took a small amount of points away from the Bears in 2014.
|Name||Pass NEP||Pass NEP/P||TD%||INT%||Comp. %|
|Cutler||-1.24 (32nd)||0.0 (32nd)||5.0||3.2||66.0|
To put those NEP numbers in further perspective, Drew Stanton, Geno Smith, and Shaun Hill all finished with a higher Passing NEP and Passing NEP per drop back (Pass NEP/P in the table) than Cutler in 2014.
The people of Chicago may be shaking their heads and disagreeing with me at their screen write now and asking “how can that be?” But keep in mind all turnovers aren’t created equal. Throwing an interception inside of your opponent’s red zone is not the same as making a mistake on 3rd and 27. One subtracts more NEP from a quarterbacks contribution than the other. So, those costly interceptions Cutler threw at times in 2014 really matter.
It’s hard to believe, but Cutler did actually have his career best completion percentage in 2014 (66%) but also had his second-worst career mark in adjusted yards per attempt at 6.3. The high completion percentage could be attributed to Marc Trestman, who is now in Baltimore, but even the "quarterback whisperer" couldn't fix Cutler’s woes.
Maybe Adam Gase can do what no coach has done before and transform Cutler into an above average quarterback. Maybe Gase learned a thing or two from his time in Denver with Peyton Manning. If Chicago is going to improve from their 2014 season, it’s going to have to come from a radical transformation from their quarterback play under-center.