The other day, I was working — at Jimmy John’s, if you must know — and a man approached me, obviously unaware that I was a sports writer (not that he should have been), and asked me what I thought about the Chicago Bears this upcoming season.
I was busy at the time, so I just gave him a generic answer such as, “I think they’ll do pretty good this year. [GM] Phil Emery fixed a lot of the holes they had on offense last season.”
He responded, “Yeah, but I think they need to give some of the backup quarterbacks an opportunity, Jay Cutler ain’t the guy.” (And yes, that is not word-for-word, but hey, I wasn’t recording it.)
So, really? We should give Josh McCown or Matt Blanchard, an undrafted second-year quarterback, the reigns to the offense over Cutler? Okay, so he wasn’t exactly a genius, but he did make me realize something: Not a lot of people believe that Jay Cutler is the long-term answer at quarterback for the Bears.
Cutler is perhaps the most polarizing figure today in Chicago sports, and one of the most in the entire nation, at least according to Forbes, who ranked him the fourth-least appealing player in America. And to think, all that because of some “body language” issues — sorry the guy isn’t Tim Tebow. Actually, scratch that. Thank “God” for the Bears’ sake that he isn’t Tebow. Man, I love puns.
But that kind of stuff is unimportant for the topic of today’s discussion. Whether or not you care if Cutler is Mr. Wonderful or the guy who looks like he just ate a piece of watermelon smothered in horse radish (I apologize if that’s a dish you enjoy, it’s not weird at all) is irrelevant to how you should feel he can perform on the gridiron.
What it really all comes down to is how good of a quarterback is he? And it’s the answer to this question that should compel you to believe that he is the right man for the job in the Windy City.
Cutler is hands-down the most talented quarterback to suit up for the Bears ever. Yes, ever. Elder Bears fans like to say, “oh, Sid Luckman was so good.” No, Luckman took his last snap in 1950, he’s irrelevant to the discussion of today’s quarterbacks. Anyway, no quarterback — and they’ve had a lot of them — has had Cutler’s combination of arm strength, touch, accuracy and escape-ability in Bears history.
Now I understand, talent doesn’t always equate to success on the field, and the numbers do not back up Cutler as being one of the elite signal-callers in the game. And I also understand the excuses get old, but they are so true, no matter how exhausted.
Former-GM Jerry Angelo did not give him nearly enough pieces to have success. Former-head coach Lovie Smith did not do anything to improve the offense and could not hire a good offensive coordinator. The offensive line was among the worst in the league all four years since Cutler was acquired. There has also been no true No. 1 receivers until Brandon Marshall was traded for last season.
However, all of those things have seemingly, finally been corrected. Second-year GM Phil Emery has given the Vanderbilt-product a very good left tackle, four new lineman who will compete for other spots on the O-line, a solid tight end, at least three reliable receivers (including one beast), a new offensive coordinator who specializes in coaching the offensive line and a head coach that not only is an offensive and quarterbacks-guru, but calls the plays of his offense as well.
This, for all intents and purposes, is the best situation Cutler has come into a season with since his days with the Denver Broncos. Speaking of his Denver-days, does anyone recall the progress he made when he had a good offensive-minded coach, offensive line and receivers? He made the Pro Bowl the season before he was traded to the Bears, throwing for over 4,500 yards, 25 touchdowns and an 86.0 passer rating in only his third NFL season.
No. 6 has certainly taken a step back numbers-wise since then, but he’s taken a beating nearly every single game he’s suited up in the navy and orange. This season, he has a legitimate chance to prove himself, and he’ll need to in his contract year.
I, for one, believe he’s going to have his best season yet. Soon, you all will too.