<
>

The rhyme and reason

CHICAGO -- My boss wanted me to write about how, or if, the Bears made the wrong decision last year by trading for Jay Cutler instead of Donovan McNabb, who comes to town this week with the Washington Redskins.

In a lot of ways, the theoretical Cutler vs. McNabb decision can truly be scrutinized, because McNabb was more of a surefire short-term option, a proven winner, albeit one who aims at a few too many shoes, who would've energized his teammates and been a perfect counterpoint to a veteran defense.

But trading Kyle Orton and two years of high draft picks for Cutler was seemingly a no-brainer, because he's younger with more of that ephemeral upside and coming off his first Pro Bowl appearance.

The warning signs were mostly personality-related, and to be honest, Cutler's sad sack body language isn't the reason he's been mostly "meh" in a Bears uniform, nor why the Bears have struggled along with him. McNabb's style might not fit Mike Martz's system, but you can bet he wouldn't have thrown all those picks last year under Ron Turner, which means Martz would still be pontificating on a TV set, instead of drawing up plays to get Cutler decapitated.

McNabb, who has his share of flaws, would've come cheaper, had the Eagles been ready to move him before last season, and he would've been the mentor the young receivers need.

In any event, it's a silly, hypothetical discussion, because unless renowned Cutler-whisperer Mike Shanahan decides to make a trade at halftime Sunday, McNabb's a Redskin and Cutler's a Bear and both are quarterbacking teams trying to find themselves with 10 games left.

In a perfect world, this would be the week it all comes together as the Bears get ready for the bye weekend. This would be the week, Cutler's offensive line would begin to jell as they dig deep against a dangerous Redskins pass rush and Cutler would take off behind them.

If the line gives him time, Martz's offense would begin to look less offensive, and this week would be the start of a beautiful marriage between Cutler and the city of Chicago.

Sure it could happen.

Local rapper Che "Rhymefest" Smith could also skip his aldermanic race and just run for mayor and replace Mayor Richard M. Daley.

Mayor Rhymefest might come before Super Bowl MVP Cutler, the way things are going.

In reality, I think Rhymefest has a better chance to win his recently-announced bid for 20th ward alderman than Cutler does of making the Pro Bowl.

Why am I talking Rhymefest?

Well, I'm a big fan of the rapper and I love how he's trying to give back to his community by running for elected office in a city where politics is messier than the turf at Soldier Field.

In honor of Rhymefest's foray into politics this week, here are four songs from his seminal 2006 album "Blue Collar" that best represent this Bears team.

Brand New: This duet with Kanye West worked perfectly as the two friends played off the rap stars' desire to live lavishly and, I suppose, their dedication to experimenting with new styles. That's right, this is Cutler and Martz. The Bears' newfound devotion to the forward pass has been jarring, and unlike this song, it hasn't worked. In fact, it's been a bigger disaster than Turner's offense. Whither Ron?

Football Outsiders ranks the Bears' offensive efficiency at 30th. Conventional NFL statistics are a little kinder, ranking the Bears' offense 29th. (Take that Buffalo!) The running game, which flourished against the Panthers with Cutler out, was ignored again last week. Expect a few more runs this Sunday, but more of the same.

Cutler hasn't put together a complete performance since his second game of the season. He's terrible on third-down -- 0-for-22 since the first half in Green Bay -- the worst of any full-time starter in the NFC, and is coming off a concussion thanks to a dangerous game plan/line performance in New York.

As Brand New relationships go, the Cutler-Martz pairing has yet to make beautiful music, and it might be a one-and-done duet if the Bears don't put it together soon.

More: "No matter how much I get, I want more," Rhymefest sings here.

"Everybody's on every list, and everybody wants a life like this." Lovie Smith scoffed at a reporter implying that Martz owns this offense, correcting her that it's the "Bears offense." But she was right, and in truth, this is Smith's defense, not coordinator Rod Marinelli's. Smith is one of the gurus of the Tampa 2 scheme and in truth, the defense is performing as advertised. Football Outsiders ranks it 11th (down from sixth last week), while the NFL slots it at eighth.

While we love to talk Cover 2, the Bears mix in other defenses. Former Bear and current Redskins backup Rex Grossman noticed in film prep the Bears are running some quarter-quarter-half coverage, which sends three defenders (one covering a deep half and two covering deep quarter) with linebackers filling the underneath zones. It cuts off one deep side and only leaves one underneath zone uncovered.

Perhaps that wrinkle has helped the Bears confuse some teams.
But for the Bears to overcome the Martzian invasion, they need more for the defense. More turnovers, more sacks, more disruption. The Bears have 14 turnovers, tied with four other teams and behind only Pittsburgh and Detroit in the NFL, and a plus-2 turnover margin. Last week against Seattle, they had no turnovers and no sacks. The Bears' nine sacks for the season are tied with the Giants' first-half total against Cutler. The red zone defense is next-to-last in the NFC with a 64.3 touchdown percentage, and tied for 27th in the NFL.

But, there are positives, plenty of them. Julius Peppers is disrupting at the line, Peanut Tillman looks pretty sharp, Brian Urlacher's range is back and Lance Briggs, who missed last game with an ankle sprain, has played superbly.

But the Bears need more, simply put.

Tell a Story: My favorite song on this album showcases Rhymefest's civic interests and highlight his gift for gab. "You got ups and downs man, you got downs and you got ups," he raps.

My least favorite storyline this year has been Martz's tall tales while discussing the problems of his offense.

Maybe it's a good thing, internally, for the notably caustic Martz to spare the verbal whip a bit in the press, but the subterfuge is unneeded in the NFL, where accountability is expected. And because the Bears muzzle him after games, his weekly address has become almost comical in terms of truthiness. If the offense fails again, I wouldn't be surprised if someone starts talking out of school.

Smith is more of a short storyteller, the Raymond Carver of minimalistic pressers. But his quiet intensity is popular with players, and he has his defense playing well.

The story of the Bears will be told through these two men, and it will be one of actions, not words.

Build Me Up: Rhymefest's uses a chorus from the late Ol' Dirty Bastard (he sings the familiar chorus) on this play of the Foundations song. "Why do you build me up buttercup?" indeed.

This one isn't tough to decipher. Going back to the trade for Cutler, the Bears have built up expectations for a renewed run to relevancy. They fell short last year, and after a winless preseason, looked authentically competitive with a 3-0 start. But in losing two of three, the Bears look very vulnerable, and fans feel like jilted lovers.

The Bears have the talent at every position, aside from the aforementioned O-line, and with the NFC down this year, a deep playoff run looked possible. I even believed in them.

Now, I'm not sure. In fact, I'm back to being a Bears fatalist. What to think now?

While it looks bleak now, Rhymefest puts the Bears' situation in perspective at the end of this song:

This is for everybody lookin' for that perfect girl man
Sometimes you ain't got all the money in the world
And you ain't got all the looks in the world but
You can still find that buttercup

Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.