A Look Back: Year 2 in Martz's Offense

- 7th in the NFL last season among qualified QBs with a 7.58 YPA
- 8th in the NFL last season in Interceptions (16)
- Sacked 12 more times (52) than any other NFL QB
- Once engaged to something called Kristin Cavallari
- Fans often mistake him for RotoWire Senior Writer Dalton Del Don

Hopefully, one of the first three tidbits made you think of Jay Cutler before the fourth one just permanently took hold one of your brain cells.  

Cutler was sacked more times behind the Bears' offensive line in 2010 than he was in his first three NFL seasons combined (51 in 37 games). Amazingly, he was sacked 35 times in 555 attempts in 2009 before the spike to 52 last season, and that was while throwing 123 fewer passes. It should come as little surprise that the Bears' offensive line graded out as the 32nd-ranked pass-blocking unit in the NFL last season by Football Outsiders' metrics. For what it's worth, the line ranked 13th in the NFL by FO in 2009.

While the preseason results through three games are pointing toward improvement from the offensive line, there is still some question as to what we should expect from Cutler during his third season as a Bear, and most notably, his second in offensive coordinator Mike Martz's system.

Since 1999, Martz has worked with five "new" quarterback situations during his time with the Rams, Lions, Niners and Bears. Here's a look at how those players fared in their first and second season in his offense.

Kurt Warner
1999 - 65.1% completion, 8.7 YPA, 41:13 TD:INT (14th-ranked OL in pass protection by FO)
2000 - 67.7% completion, 9.9 YPA, 21:18 TD:INT (15th)

Marc Bulger
2002 - 64.5% completion, 8.5 YPA, 14:6 TD:INT (24th)
2003 - 63.2% completion, 7.2 YPA, 22:22 TD:INT (17th)

Jon Kitna
2006 - 62.4% completion, 7.1 YPA, 21:22 TD:INT (30th)
2007 - 63.3% completion, 7.3 YPA, 18:20 TD:INT (26th)

Shaun Hill & J.T. O'Sullivan (combined numbers - Shaun O'Sullivan or J.T. Hill?)
2008 - 60.7% completion, 7.3 YPA, 21:19 TD:INT (31st)
2009 - Martz did not return

Jay Cutler
2010 - 60.4% completion, 7.6 YPA, 23:16 TD:INT (32nd)
2011 - ?

Although Warner spiked from an excellent 8.7 YPA to a ridiculous 9.9 during his second season in Martz's offense, pronounced improvement isn't exactly the norm as we can see above. Prior to his arrival in Chicago, Martz's quarterbacks were either undrafted free agents or sixth-round draft picks. Further, the success he had with Warner from 1999-2001 came with Hall of Fame talent at running back in Marshall Faulk and excellent receivers in Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt, and a seven-time Pro Bowler at left tackle in Orlando Pace.

With Bulger, two better seasons followed his disappointing 2003 as he carried YPA marks of 8.2 and 8.0 in 2004 and 2005 before tumbling considerably in four seasons without Martz (7.3, 6.3, 6.2, 5.9). A closer look at Bulger's performance in 2006 might serve as a reminder of how good Pace was during his prime.

Games 1-8: 64.1% completion, 7.9 YPA, 13:1 TD:INT
Games 9-16: 61.7% completion, 6.7 YPA, 11:7 TD:INT

Pace was healthy for the first eight games of the 2006 season, but he suffered a season-ending injury against the Seahawks in Week 10 and Bulger's numbers took a hit thereafter.

What does this mean for Culter? Ultimately, it should serve as a reminder that Martz's success in St. Louis was as much the byproduct of a perfect storm of talent as it was the byproduct of an offensive scheme that consistently turns unheralded quarterbacks into stars.

Perhaps Cutler is by far the most toolsy quarterback Martz has worked with over the last 13 years. Even an improved group of blockers could remain in the bottom third of the league this season and the Bears' receiving corps doesn't resemble anything Martz's St. Louis quarterbacks were lucky enough to have.

Keeping in mind that free-agent addition Roy Williams had his best season in Detroit when Martz was the offensive coordinator there in 2006 (82 Rec, 1,310 yards, 7 TD), is there really that much to be excited about here? It sounds like he may lose the starting job the Bears handed to him upon signing prior to Week 1. Further, Devin Hester is still projected to start at one of the receiver spots, and he's shown little in the way of growth as a receiver in recent seasons (from 8.4 YPT in 2009 to 6.5 YPT last season).

Regardless of how talented Cutler might be, what would compell any of us to believe that he can be more than a fringe top-10 QB given the subpar offensive line and overall lack of quality pass catchers? Any argument that suggests Cutler is an underrated commodity should focus more on his Average Draft Position (112.5, 14th among QB) with respect to other second-tier quarterbacks than to his experience in Martz's system, which as we can see above doesn't always lead to improved efficiency in Year 2. Johnny Knox could be the 2011 version of Mike Wallace, and become a true No. 1 wideout, but that in and of itself won't be enough to vault Cutler into the top-seven quarterbacks.


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