Each week throughout the season we'll ask five questions of PFW publisher and Bears expert Hub Arkush to get his analysis on some of the top issues facing the team. This week, Hub says giving Lovie Smith a contract extension this offseason would be "the dumbest thing the Bears could do," and that re-signing Danieal Manning would only make sense if he's coming back at the right price.
1. Could Jay Cutler help himself at all by breaking his silence and addressing the criticism of his toughness?
Arkush: Bears fans are screaming for some sign, any sign that Jay Cutler cares about anything but himself. I don't think it has anything to do with his toughness — they know he has to be tough to take the beating he took all season long and never complain. What they don't know at all is whether he could care less about his team or his fans and that's what they need to hear from him as soon as possible. Not doing it, but showing up on TMZ with his girlfriend is killing him right now and doing more damage than not being able to finish the NFC championship game did.
2. Were you surprised Jerry Angelo said Monday that a contract extension for Lovie Smith is in the works?
Arkush: Can't say I'm stunned, but it is absolutely the dumbest thing they could do right now. They spent almost all of the 2008 and ’09 seasons taking heat for the extension they gave him after the Super Bowl in ’06, and that was really a deal they had to do based on where they were at that time. Now there is absolutely no need to re-up him. He's under contract heading into a lockout and nobody is going to start a bidding war with them for him regardless of what happens in 2011. Lovie's a good coach but he isn't special, and if they want him back they'll get him for the same money after the ’11 season that they would pay now. There is absolutely zero benefit to doing a deal now.
3. Should the Bears shop Greg Olsen this offseason as he heads into his contract year?
Arkush: It doesn't really matter. They don't have anyone to replace him with in Mike Martz's scheme and no one is going to give them more than a fifth- or sixth-round pick for him, if that. They're probably better off trying to extend him if they can get him at a bargain price. Minimally that could enhance his trade value.
4. What grade would you give Mike Martz for the job he did this season?
Arkush: I think objectively you have to give him a C-minus. The Bears finished the year as the 30th-ranked offense in the NFL and the perception they were dramatically improved in the second half is fantasy. Other than the Jets game, where was the offense anything to get excited about? They won a little more in the second half, and the offense was a lot less of a liability, but it certainly wasn't the reason for their success. The only reason he gets a C-minus rather than a D or D-minus is he had less-than-mediocre talent to work with on the offensive line and at wide receiver.
5. Should re-signing Danieal Manning be a high priority for the Bears?
Arkush: Only at the right price. He may be the best kickoff returner in the NFL but he's a mediocre safety at best and is often still a liability in pass coverage. You have to ask, how many years should it take for a safety to get that his responsibility in the cover-2 or two-deep is nothing more than to pick the right half of the field and be the deepest guy in that half of the field? The number of times he still screws that up is scary. So how much is that package worth to you?