I’m going to be straight with you. I’m a huge Chicago Bears fan, but I’ve done my best to remain as objective as possible while writing this article. With that being said, let’s take a look at what we can expect from QB Jay Cutler in 2014.
The Bears traded their first and third-round picks in 2009, another first round pick in 2010, and Kyle Orton to acquire Cutler from the Denver Broncos. Cutler has found varying levels of success since joining the Bears in 2009, but I’m expecting a good 2014 season for the former Vanderbilt product. There are two big factors to consider when trying to project how successful Cutler will be this coming season.
Bears GM Phil Emery replaced head coach Lovie Smith with Marc Trestman last year, and under Trestman’s guidance, the Bears had the second-best scoring offense behind the Broncos and the fifth-best passing offense in the league.
Cutler turned 31 yesterday and has played eight seasons in the NFL. The problem is that Cutler has a career TD to INT ratio of approximately 16 to 11, and he has only had one season where he threw for more than 4,000 yards. The talent and arm strength have always been there, but Cutler often makes poor decisions with the ball.
That’s where Trestman comes in. In 11 games played in 2013, Cutler passed for 19 TDs and 12 INTs. There’s still a lot of room for improvement, and I believe that Trestman can get him there.
Trestman has had a history of success with QBs, most notably Steve Young and Rich Gannon. After Trestman joined the San Francisco 49ers in 1995, Young led the team to league-highs in points scored and passing yards. When Trestman became the offensive coordinator for the Oakland Raiders in 2002, Gannon won the MVP award that year and led the NFL that season in passing yards.
Cutler has the pieces around him to succeed. He has a strong offensive line, an elite RB in Matt Forte and a lethal WR duo in Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. Trestman’s West Coast offense relies on shorting crossing routes and utilizes formations that allow receivers to draw man coverage and get open, making it easier for QBs to succeed in the system. If Cutler can play a full season and get comfortable in Trestman’s system, he can excel in it.
The only other important issue is health. Cutler has only played one full season since he became a member of the Bears. He missed five games last year due to ankle and groin injuries, during which Josh McCown filled in as the starter. His injury risk is the main reason why I would hesitate to draft him too early, but I think that the production will be there if Cutler remains healthy during the season.
If he can play all 16 games in 2014, Cutler should top 4,000 yards and 30 TDs. That’s a recipe to easily be considered a top-10 fantasy QB, and possibly even a top-five QB option if he can limit the number of INTs thrown.