• All Eyes on Cutler

    Starting up a long conversation about the Chicago Bears is easy. Say the name Jay Cutler. The Vanderbilt signal caller has been the source for most of conversations in Chicago and around the country about the Bears since he arrived from Denver 4 years ago. Recent events and the upcoming future prove that the lens will be focused on Cutler more than ever.

    Fair or not, Jay Cutler has often been the source of criticism. There's a website for it. It began with reports by Fox during the 2010 NFC Championship Game that Cutler was not helping Caleb Hanie in the huddles on the sideline after he left with a knee injury. Other players around the league did not offer support. Since then, the hits on and off the field have not stopped coming for number six. Cutler pushed J'Marcus Webb on the sideline during a game, which drew comments from a teammate. Cutler has been ripped on national networks by Tom Jackson for not saying hello to stadium workers. Terry Bradshaw did not like that there was a confrontation on the field between Mike Tice and Cutler. Finally, well-respected special teams coach Dave Toub questioned the quarterback's leadership on his way out of town after Lovie Smith was dismissed.

    This is the point of the article where I should make my opinion and my background clear. When I am not writing here, I am a Chicago Bears fan and a season ticket holder. I pride myself on honest fandom. There's nothing wrong with face painters, but I am just not that guy. The Jay Cutler Show on ESPN 1000 in Chicago is something I always listen to. My take? I think he is a private guy who certainly doesn't like his name to be thrown around. That alone makes it tough to be a NFL quarterback. I shrug off any notion about questioning his toughness when I think about the year in Denver before he knew he had diabetes or when I have flashes of him being jack-hammered into the ground over the past 3 seasons. I can confirm that he was in plenty of huddles with Hanie in 2011 because I was at that game. In my opinion, he comes off as a smart guy with a dry sense of humor. He's the type of guy that seems like a jerk when you first meet him but will become a loyal and hilarious friend if you ever got into his circle. Unfortunately, his circle is not that big and you have probably met him too late in life to get into it. He dislikes talking about himself so much that he definitely doesn't want the positive things he does in the media. There are talks to diabetic athletes, visits to hospitals and charity work done in Tennessee, Indiana and Illinois that none of us will ever hear about. I've read that if someone reports on it without his permission, they just don't bother asking about future interviews.

    Criticism about leadership from a respected coach is something to be taken seriously. Part of the rest of it is that the NFL still needs villains. Plus, Cutler has always been described as a guy with a ton of talent who has not gotten the most out of himself. He hasn't had the type of success people seem to have expected from him. So, when Tom Brady gets into a shouting match with a coach, there is talk about him being the ultimate competitor. When Aaron Rodgers takes offense to an obtuse comment about his height on "60 Minutes" or pushes a cameraman out of the way, a winner's attitude and his drive are things that are said.

    When it comes to leadership, the 2013 season will be the one that might answer it once and for all for the many Jay Cutler opinion-holders out there. This off-season has been one of tremendous change in Chicago. With Brian Urlacher and Lovie Smith gone, the Bears no longer have the two biggest leaders in the locker room this last campaign. I read a rumor that Cutler had problems with taking more of a leadership role in the locker room with both of them there, though he had a good relationship with Urlacher. The truth? We have no idea. We'd have to ask players who would break the locker room code or reporters who had good timing but no longer want careers. Either way, the door is open for Cutler to walk through if that is what he wants. The team probably needs him to unless Lance Briggs or Charles Tillman push themselves into the role.

    Supporters of Cutler will talk about how difficult it could be to be a leader without offensive talent or without an offensive line. It's hard to be a leader when Devin Hester is supposed to be the #1 receiver. Now, those arguments have less meaning with the skills of Matt Forte and Martellus Bennett along with the outworldly production of Brandon Marshall. Of course, the questions on the offensive line are the darkest clouds hanging over the Bears offense.

    Cutler backers also talk about learning three offensive schemes in four years with two of those seasons being with an offense that no longer fit into the league. After Mike Martz and his "kill my own QB" offense left, the Bears gave the offensive coordinator position to a guy who had mostly been a line coach on the offensive side of the ball. The off-season changes at Halas Hall made those arguments weaker as well. While Cutler will be learning another new offense, it will be with former NFL and CFL offensive guru Marc Trestman. The offense is supposed to fun, fast and quarterback friendly. If true, Bears fans probably won't know exactly what they are looking at, but will like it. It will be similar to the first time Genghis Khan saw two high school kids come out of a telephone booth.

    Since quarterback success and health are the two largest predictors of having a good record in the NFL, what else might Cutler's season decide? The entire make-up of the Bears roster next season. The following starters and major contributors will be free agents next off-season: Henry Melton, Charles Tillman, Tim Jennings, Devin Hester, J'Marcus Webb, Roberto Garza, Robbie Gould, Corey Wooton, Major Wright, Craig Steltz and Jay Cutler. Also, this is probably the last season in Chicago for Julius Peppers. If cut next year, the Bears would have about $11.8 Million more to spend on keeping some of those players. In 2013, Cutler's cap hit is just over ten million dollars, or about 50% of what the top quarterbacks in the league make. A good season would push the Bears into signing him to a better deal than he currently has, a move that would mean the Bears would not be able to keep everyone, fully implementing him as the face of the team.

    Cutler definitely seems smart enough to know all of this. The question remains as to how it will all end. Cutler is better than 16-20 of the starters in the league. He would find a job somewhere else. Talented quarterbacks always do. All that is left to know is how Cutler gets through his most important season, because, well, the NFL is going to be watching.

    Comments 3 Comments
    1. ScottDCP's Avatar
      I look at Cutler and think about the fact Buffalo considered drafting him, but got Donte Whitner instead.
    1. iwatt's Avatar
      Always been a Cutler fan, ever since the Diabetes diagnostic. We have also seen what the Bears offense looks without him. Unfortunately, you need the NFL hype machine to be considered a good QB
    1. Pruitt's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by ScottDCP View Post
      I look at Cutler and think about the fact Buffalo considered drafting him, but got Donte Whitner instead.
      Ahhhh, but remember, Whitner has been to more Super Bowls than Cutler.

      Nah, I got nothing else.

      Is it too late to take Levy's name off the ring of honour at Rich Stadium?