Receiving line

There was a second offering from Matt Bowen at the National Football Post that took the perspective that if you ask about the Bears' receiving corps, Jerry Angelo counters by asking you how many real #1 WRs there are in the NFL (no definition is given: you‘ll know one when Matt or Jerry sees one) in an attempt to avoid the question and to turn it back on the person asking. This is a good example of a straw man argument. It takes the question of Chicago's receivers and avoids it by claiming that most other teams don't have good receivers either.

The kindest thing I can say is that this seems disingenuous. Brandon Marshall is relegated to a wannabe status in that accompanying article and they don't even mention Eddie Royal, who has a better chance of being a good #1 than any player on the Bears squad. Apparently the point is that if you don't accept that Brandon Marshall, a third season Pro-Bowler with two 100 catch seasons to his credit isn't - which avoids the question of how many guys have back to back 100 catch, 1000 yard seasons in their first three years - is a legitimate #1 then you can't argue that the Bears receiving corps is weak. I'm missing- no, dismissing that entirely.

Bowen apparently felt so passionately about this that he wrote a followup trifecta article, What Teams Have Issues at Wide Receiver? In it Bowen said,
"Great quarterbacks can make any receiver look good, and that's the idea that Angelo and the Bears had when they pulled off the trade to bring Cutler into Soldier Field from Denver."
Didn't Bowen get an interview with anyone else this year - perhaps someone who has a history of obtaining good WRs? At any rate, I see the above comment as the kind of pithy thing that sounds good and everyone accepts it because they think that they'd look foolish if they demurred. Since I don't mind looking foolish from time to time, I'm going to go past demurring and go straight to contradicting it - I think that there is little or no evidence that this statement is true and I'd go a step further: A great receiver can make a middling QB look better just as a great QB can make a middling look better. Other than that, this is a great case of wild overstatement masquerading as dogmatic truth. The ideas that might be missed here are these:
1.      Jay Cutler isn't a great QB - at least not yet
Topping the list of problems is the fact that this whole statement is pointless. Jay Cutler is just what most on this site have painted him - scratch that, what he has painted himself. He's a young guy with a big arm and good feet. He has problems with maturity on and off the field and he hasn't really accomplished much yet. Jumping from good numbers between the 20's and lousy red zone numbers to being painted as greatness is just too big a leap.
Great QBs have certain things in common - great vision, great football intelligence, strong personal drive, great abilities at minimizing weaknesses and great centeredness and composure. You hear over and over that in the huddle, great QBs pass on the knowledge that winning is assured. A player believes it because the QB lives it, manifests it and will not consider any other outcome. Jay simply hasn't done that.
Great QBs learn from their mistakes. Getting Jay to do a simple checkdown and to look off his primary receiver was like pulling teeth. Will he be better this year? I have no idea - hopefully so. But even if your argument is that he will suddenly overcome his weaknesses and emerge into greatness, he just hasn't done it yet.
2.      No QB on earth can keep a guy from dropping a pass
I've heard the saw that a great QB makes his receivers look great a lot recently - it seems to be the kind of thing that's going around. I understand where it's coming from, but I think that it's like most simplistic aphorisms: it's partly true. While a good QB can put the ball where a receiver can get it, the QB can't catch for the receiver. For that matter, no QB can run a route for a guy, get separation, fight for a pass or run after the catch. This is at best an over-statement. If the Bears did pick up Cutler, who is a talented young man, in order to make their receivers better, they also need to get better coaches than they had last year (when the receivers were a lot way from great) and outfit them with catchers' mitts. Like a lot of big-armed QBs, he can make a good receiver less talented by simply spraining or breaking their fingers - he's done it on the Broncos.
I remember reading some comments over the years about guys trying to catch Elway's throws in the earlier seasons. John had a lot of skills and few would argue that he wasn't great. But I don't recall John overcoming the issues of line, running backs and yes, receivers until he had much better pieces and Jay hasn't even begun to scratch the surface of obtaining Elway's skills.
3.      Great QBs are great because they inspire, command, diagnose, and throw well
Great QBs aren't great because they take lousy receivers and make them great although they may take the owner aside and demand that they provide much better receivers. What do they do? They make a great analysis of the defensive formations and make the necessary audibles to correct for it. They have good footwork for their own style of play and get set quickly. They know how to go through checkdowns, to look off safeties and to make throws quickly and accurately. they maintain their composure in the face of adversity. They inspire their fellows. There are about 10 million other things that they do, but making lousy receivers great isn't on that list.
By the way, Bowen had to add this gem:
"I agree that you don't need a dominant No. 1 WR to win ballgames - or a franchise quarterback for that matter - but you do need something to offset the lack of talent on the outside on Sundays in the NFL"
Apparently if you don't have a dominant WR (at least one in his mind) and you don't have a QB that Bowen thinks is a ‘franchise QB', then you have a lack of talent on the outside. I can't even figure out what he's saying this time, so at least I can't argue about it. It made me recall the great Groucho Marx line from ‘Animal Crackers':
"And east is east and west is west, and if you take cranberries and stew them like applesauce they taste a lot more like prunes than rhubarb does."
That pretty much covers it for me.
While we're at it, though, what's your idea of great?
Originally posted at MHR

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