It wouldn’t be an NFL offseason without the reckless misshaping of the Jay Cutler narrative. Last summer it let up a bit with Cutler coming of an excellent campaign that was only really marred by injury, but Cutler’s regression in 2012 means that it’s now open season again.
“The Chicago Bears are right. They can’t extend Jay Cutler’s contract,” wrote ESPN’s Ashley Fox. “Not now. Not yet. Not until he proves once and for all that he is a franchise quarterback. Green Bay has one. Detroit, too. That’s why those NFC North foes re-signed Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford, respectively, when each player had two years remaining on his deal. … To earn a new deal, Cutler must lead Chicago into the playoffs, and once there, he must win. It is as simple as that.”
Never mind the remarkably simplistic view of a playoff win as the sole validator of quarterback’s quality of play over the course of an NFL season. Aaron Rodgers‘ Packers have won as many of their opening playoff games as they’ve lost, but that doesn’t change his place among the elite quarterbacks over the past four years. Dropping down 50 rungs on the latter of QB quality, the insinuation that Stafford — who the Lions spent a first-rounder on the same year Chicago traded for Cutler — earned an extension while Cutler hasn’t is frankly incorrect.
Cutler has the edge in both career playoff wins at 1-0 and career quarterback rating at 81.3-79.8, while the two have been neck-and-neck over the past couple years in Pro Football Focus quarterback grading. While Stafford has benefited from having the best receiver in football over the past four years in Calvin Johnson, Cutler didn’t rejoin forces with Brandon Marshall until just this past year. Up until then it was a mix players who would hardly even qualify as a No. 2 receiving option.
However, the Bears finally addressed the offensive line this offseason by signing a decent left tackle in Jermon Bushrod, moving J’Marcus Webb to right tackle, adding free agent Matt Slauson and first-rounder Kyle Long, and bringing in a complete tight end in Martellus Bennett who can block among the league’s best. With the protection in place if Alshon Jeffery and Earl Bennett can stay healthy, Marshall continues his tear and Matt Forte remains dangerous, Cutler will certainly be in position to make the Bears wish they had extended him.