Bears fans want to embrace Jay Cutler. They really do. Chicago is a loyal town, and you can’t walk in to a sports bar in the Windy City and not hear someone say, “He’s the most talented quarterback we’ve ever had,” while simultaneously motioning to the bartender for another round.
Love/hate doesn’t even cover it. The Bears’ often mercurial QB has a level of talent that’s only matched by his penchant to make the wrong decision at the absolute wrong time. And It’s not just Bears fans that know it. No statement sums up Cutler’s Chicago career better than this, from Charles Woodson on ESPN, after his Packers beat the Bears last September:
“… it's the same-old Jay. We don't need luck; Jay will throw us the ball," he said.
And in 56 games as the Bears’ signal caller, he has… 63 times.
The $100-million question (at least, that’s what it will cost the Bears if Cutler actually puts it all together in his 5th season with the team) is simple: why?
Why did one of the most promising young quarterbacks in the NFL become Brett Favre without the touchdowns? (Although fortunately, he’s also without some of Favre’s other high-profile faults.)
It’s hard to blame Cutler for a certain degree of post-traumatic stress disorder, having started 46 games with J’Marcus Webb as one of his primary protectors on the offensive line. And the 52 sacks Cutler sustained in 2010 must have made David Carr cringe. Plus, learning three offensive systems in just four years hasn’t exactly promoted growth and consistency.
But here's the strange part: no quarterback in the NFL has taken more sacks since that 2010 season, than Cutler’s counterpart to the north, Aaron Rodgers. That's right, former NFL M.V.P. Aaron Rodgers.
Yet somehow, Rodgers has managed to throw just 14 picks over those two seasons… to go along with a mind-numbing 84 touchdown passes… which is exactly two more than Cutler has thrown in his entire Bears career.
The Bears just never helped Cutler develop. The team put him behind a poor offensive line, and gave him (prior to the arrival of Brandon Marshall) inadequate receivers to throw to.
But the NFL is a bottom line business. And the bottom line for Cutler is simple. He’s a free agent after the season, and G.M. Phil Emery and head coach Marc Trestman aren’t going to pay for potential. Cutler is 30-years-old now, and it’s about time for him to start playing like an eight-year veteran.
The Bears don’t need 5000 yards, or 40 touchdowns. If Cutler can prove he’s ready to start managing games more effectively, and value possession of the football, he’ll be right back under center at Soldier Field in 2014. It also means the Bears will probably feel pretty good about 2013 as well.
Charles Woodson isn’t roaming the defensive backfield for the rival Packers anymore. But there’s one thing Bears fans hope he can’t say this season, no matter where he plays, and that's “same-old Jay…”
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