Chicago Bears: 10 Reasons Jay Cutler Will Silence the Critics in 2012
Cutler has a cannon for an arm, has the prototypical size and strength for a National Football League quarterback and has sneaky mobility to escape the pocket. He has all the tools to become an elite player at arguably the toughest position in sports. He looks as good in passing drills as your cheerleader does in a miniskirt.
Regardless of what his critics say, the Chicago Bears' 2011 NFL season was lost when Cutler broke his thumb and missed the remainder of the season. The Bears were 7-3 at the time and riding a five-game winning streak with Cutler at the helm. Chicago replaced him with Caleb Hanie, and the Bears lost five in a row and failed to grasp a postseason spot that was theirs to lose.
You don't dump the hottest girl in school, no matter how much she gets on your nerves. The Bears are not going to break up with Cutler, either. Love him or hate him, Cutler is the QB of the Windy City.
Cutler was on pace for a 3,710-yard season through the air, with 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, before suffering his season-ending injury. Now entering his fourth season in Chicago, here are 10 reasons why Cutler will silence his critics during the 2012 NFL season.
Cutler was one of the hottest QBs in the NFL before suffering a broken thumb in the fourth quarter against the San Diego Chargers in Week 11.
If Cutler is 100 percent at the start of the 2012 season and stays healthy for the remainder of the campaign, there is no reason to believe that he shouldn't pick up right where he left off.
During Chicago's five-game winning streak last year, Cutler averaged 222 yards per game. He tossed seven touchdown passes during that stretch, compared to three interceptions.
Even with the addition of quarterback Jason Campbell as a backup option, the Bears' playoff hopes will hinge on Cutler's health once again. The Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions are not going away anytime soon, so it is essential that Chicago's top QB option is healthy for the entire season in such a difficult NFC North division.
Also, if Cutler plays in all 16 games, it will go a long way in silencing the critics who question his toughness.
9. Mike Tice
Cutler was never fond of former Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz's system, and the quarterback was in favor of moving on without the architect of the former "Greatest Show on Turf", according to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune.
Martz was an offensive coordinator who stuck to his guns and refused to cater the offense to Cutler's strengths. It wasn't until last season when Martz decided to let Cutler make more plays outside of the pocket, which is one his major strengths as a QB.
Mike Tice was promoted to offensive coordinator in the offseason. Tice said that his offense will vary week to week based on matchups, according to an interview with ChicagoBears.com. In that same interview, Tice said that he will design the offense to "utilize the talents of our players." He also said that the Bears will take a look at what made Cutler successful with the Denver Broncos and will implement a scheme that caters toward his strengths.
Any critic that has blasted Cutler in the past cannot deny that he is one of the most naturally gifted quarterbacks in the NFL.
Simply put, Cutler has the talent to silence his critics. He just has to turn that talent into success on the field. Cutler threw for a whopping 4,526 yards in 2008 with the Denver Broncos and eclipsed the 3,000-yard mark in his first two seasons in Chicago.
In his first season in the Windy City, Cutler threw 27 touchdown passes, good for second all-time on the Bears' quarterback list for passing scores in a single season. Critics will point to his high interception totals (he also had 26 picks during that 2009 season), but that is a knock on Cutler's decision-making, not his raw talent.
If a team has a quarterback who throws for more than 25 touchdowns in the NFL, then it has its hands on a damn good one. Cutler's natural ability and physical skills make him one of the most talented passers in the league.
7. Kellen Davis
With Tice stepping into the offensive coordinator role, expect to see an expanded role from tight end Kellen Davis.
Martz's offense did not utilize the tight end very often, which is why the Bears traded Greg Olsen before last season, despite the loads of receiving talent that he possessed.
Davis established himself as the top red-zone option for Chicago in 2011. He led the team with five touchdown receptions, but he had just 18 catches on the season. Davis, 26, will benefit from Tice calling the plays. He adds another dimension to the Bears' receiving corps, and Cutler will benefit from having this big target to throw to anywhere on the field, not just in the red zone. Expect Davis' numbers to jump to around 35 catches and seven or eight TDs if he earns the starting nod.
Also, it is possible that the Bears will add another tight end during the 2012 NFL Draft. Davis is a strong blocker and doesn't possess much vertical speed. A fast, pass-catching oriented tight end could be a steal late in the draft if the Bears find the right fit.
Cutler turns 29 at the end of the month, and he is entering his seventh NFL season. He can no longer use youth as an excuse for his bad decision-making and high interception totals.
Statistically, Cutler was on pace in 2011 to have his lowest interception total and highest yard total as a Bear before he broke his thumb.
It's time for Cutler to use his NFL experience to his advantage. He has seen nearly all of the defenses that NFL teams try to throw at him, so he should benefit from that knowledge. It remains to be seen if he can get over his stubbornness and turn that experience into success.
Cutler's stubbornness has been a problem in the past, as he refuses to make adjustments to improve his game and to help the team. He makes throws that make a your jaw drop, but then he follows it up with a ball thrown into triple coverage that makes you scratch your head.
Can Cutler put it together and limit his turnovers in 2012?
With four games against the Green Bay Packers and the Detroit Lions, Cutler has the opportunity to prove his skill against quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford. Fortunately, these two teams' passing defenses are not nearly as good as their passing offenses.
The Packers ranked last in the league against the pass in 2011, and the Lions were ranked 22nd. The Minnesota Vikings were 26th against the air attack, giving Cutler six games against opponents that ranked in the bottom 11 in pass defense in the NFL.
Cutler should turn in strong performances in divisional tilts this year, and he should only struggle in a few games based on how the matchups look.
4. Running Backs
If Matt Forte accepts the franchise tag and plays during the 2012 season, the Bears offense will be one of the most powerful in the league with Cutler running the show.
Chicago added former Oakland Raiders running back Michael Bush, and a Bush-Forte running back duo will make teams stack up against the run. The beneficiary will be Cutler and the passing game.
Along with third-string running back Khalil Bell, Forte and Bush are both excellent receivers out of the backfield. The Bears will have a lot of options in the passing game, as all three of these backs are capable of running solid screens and spreading out wide to create mismatches on the outside against opposing linebackers.
Forte is arguably the Bears best offensive weapon. Despite missing the last four games of 2011, he led the team in receptions and rushing yards.
With Chicago's well-documented offensive line struggles, Cutler needs to have a solid dump-off option out of the backfield. Forte, Bush and Bell could collect yards in bunches in these situations.
3. Jeremy Bates
Chicago general manager Phil Emery not only gave Cutler more weapons on the field, but he added another asset in the locker room to help his QB by hiring Jeremy Bates as the team's quarterbacks coach.
Bates took a one-year hiatus after losing his job as the Seattle Seahawks offensive coordinator following the 2010 NFL season. From 2006 to 2008, he served on the Denver Broncos coaching staff, spending the last of those years as the quarterbacks coach. Cutler's only Pro Bowl appearance came in 2008 under the tutelage of Bates.
Bates reunites with Cutler in Chicago. In 2012, Cutler will perform under his third offensive coordinator in four seasons in the Windy City. Bates will help the QB make a transition in offensive philosophy once again.
In an interview with ChicagoBears.com, Cutler expressed his approval of the Bears hiring Bates, saying, “I’m very excited to be working with Jeremy Bates again.” Cutler continued, “We got the right guy for the job...He was very vital in my growth and my experience as a quarterback there (in Denver). The last couple years, he had full control of my development and our plays coming in."
2. Window Closing
Why will Cutler silence critics in 2012? Because he doesn't have a choice if the Bears have any title aspirations.
Cutler can't afford to have any setbacks this season, because the Bears' window of opportunity to win a championship is closing fast.
Chicago is anchored by an aging defense led by Brian Urlacher (33 years old), Lance Briggs (31), Julius Peppers (32) and Charles Tillman (31). These players have one or two Pro Bowl-caliber years left in the tank, and the pressure is on Cutler and the offense to put together a solid unit to complement the defense.
The recipe for success was put into action last year, with both the team's offensive and defensive squads contributing to the Bears' 7-3 start. After Cutler's injury, the offense sputtered, and Chicago wasted a valuable season from its aging defensive unit.
The future is now for Chicago, and the team is leaning on Cutler to stay healthy and to recapture the success that the offense had in the first half of 2011. The pressure is on the veteran QB to have one of the best seasons of his career to match the defense's performance.
1. Brandon Marshall
For the first time since the Kennedy administration, the Chicago Bears have a legit No. 1 receiving option.
Or at least it seems like it has been that long.
Chicago traded two third-round draft picks to acquire the three-time Pro Bowl selection Marshall, who was named the Pro Bowl MVP in 2012 and has notched five straight 1,000-yard receiving seasons. Two of the those years, in 2007 and '08, came in Denver, with Cutler under center.
The Bears have not had a wide receiver eclipse the 1,000-yard mark since Marty Booker accomplished the feat in 2002. Marshall has amassed 6,247 receiving yards over his six-year career. To put that total in perspective, Chicago receivers Johnny Knox, Earl Bennett and Devin Hester have accumulated 6,438 receiving yards in their collective careers, which is a combined total of 11 seasons.
Marshall gives Cutler a much-needed top target anywhere on the field. He has also had more than 100 catches in three of his five 1,000-yard seasons. If the Cutler-Marshall combo hooks up that many times in 2012, critics will be hard pressed to find any reason to keep hating on the controversial Chicago QB.