Jay Cutler has maintained his status as one of the most polarizing sports figures in Chicago for the better part of the last five years. Cutler’s critics have been quick to point out the quarterback’s mechanical flaws as well as his perceived personality flaws. The faction of detractors likens Cutler’s on-field demeanor to that of a spoiled teenager (as seen in Cutler’s highly publicized thrashing of the now deposed offensive tackle J’Marcus Webb). Cutler’s supporters, however, have eschewed the antics in favor of highlighting the enigmatic QB’s supreme physical tools. Passionate fans from both sides fueled an offseason-long debate as to whether or not Cutler, who just so happens to be in a contract-year, deserves Joe Flacco or Tony Romo money in 2014 and beyond. NFL pundits have opined that Cutler’s future remains tied to his performance as well as the Chicago Bears win-loss record and, through three weeks, an undefeated Smokin’ Jay certainly looks like a franchise QB. However, Cutler’s future was likely cemented months ago by General Manager Phil Emery and new Head Coach and alleged “QB whisperer” Marc Trestman. The Bears brain trust likely never entertained the thought of letting Cutler venture into the wilderness known as NFL Free Agency. Rather, Cutler laid claim to a portion of the McCaskey family fortune when the aforementioned Emery began his coaching search some nine months ago.
The Bears franchise has long stood for stout defense, marginal offense, and embracing the status quo. Under the leadership of Emery, however, the charter organization has taken steps toward modern-day NFL roster construction and coaching staff assembly. Lovie Smith, despite his impressive Bears tenure, repeatedly failed to identify an offensive coordinator, quarterbacks coach, and auxiliary staff to maximize Cutler’s potential. With that in mind, Emery made a concerted effort to hire a coaching staff ready to embrace Cutler’s aura. Enter Trestman. Cast-off to the Great White North, Trestman learned more about relationship-building than he ever thought possible and, in the process, garnered the NFL’s attention. Emery has stated that he developed his offseason strategy with Cutler’s development at the forefront. Mr. Emery backed up the plan by inking a blindside protector in Jermon Bushrod and a matchup nightmare in tight end Martellus Bennett. If the additions of a new coach with a progressive philosophy, a Pro Bowl protector and a self-proclaimed ‘Black Unicorn’ aren’t enough to convince you that Cutler is here to stay, look back at last April’s NFL Draft. Emery & Co. selected offensive guard Kyle Long with the 20th pick to further ensure Cutler’s safety, and they failed to select a quarterback at any juncture. While the 2013 draft class admittedly lacked QB depth and talent, the fact that the Bears did not even take a flier on a developmental type player with a late-round pick suggests they have an “all-in” mentality with No. 6.
Love him or hate him, Jay Cutler has done enough in the minds of the Bears front office to earn a big time contract. At age 30, Cutler will likely command a five-to-seven year deal. The only question that remains is how much coin can Cutler command? Two key factors will likely decide the dollar amount: first, if the Bears make a deep run in the playoffs, Cutler will likely flirt with Flacco’s $120 million mark; and second, Cutler’s demands could hinge on the contract statuses of other noteworthy Bears who are due to hit the open market including Charles Tillman, Tim Jennings, Henry Melton, Corey Wootton, and Devin Hester. Even if he decides to re-up with the Bears for a “team-friendly” deal, Cutler will channel his inner ‘Rod Tidwell’ in 2014. Show the man his money.