When Cutler's first pass of the preseason was intercepted, there seemed to be two schools of thought amongst fans. One was the classic overreaction of people quoting former Green Bay Packer Charles Woodson by saying "same old Jay" and wanting to get rid of him before the season starts. The other was it being dismissed as a meaningless preseason interception.
The truth lies somewhere in between.
While the interception may have been meaningless, it's a result we've been seeing a lot. Cutler has struggled early in practices this season, but the problem extends even beyond that.
According to his splits on ESPN, half of Cutler's 14 interceptions in 2012 came within his first 10 pass attempts. Another—Week 3 vs. the St. Louis Rams—came on his 11th attempt, although that one was in and out of the hands of receiver Brandon Marshall.
Over the course of his career, Cutler has thrown 32 interceptions in the first 10 passing attempts of a game. That's 32 percent of his career interceptions and a rate of 3.4 percent. While that's only slightly lower than his rate on passes after his 10th attempt (3.35 percent), the latter number includes desperation throws late in games.
It's a problem. Not a huge one, but something the Bears should address.
I recently broke down each of Cutler's interceptions in 2012, and the reasons for them were numerous. The same can be said for the seven he threw in his first 10 attempts. I found two of them to be bad reads, two were the fault of the receiver, one was a bad decision, one was bad mechanics and one was simply a bad pass that slipped out of his hand.
Without knowing the actual play call or assignments of their first play against the Carolina Panthers, it's hard to pin the blame on someone. In his postgame press conference, Cutler took the blame, but that may have just been him being a good leader.
Reasoning aside, the Bears need to be the ones who establish momentum and take care of the ball early.
Cutler is notoriously a streaky player, and the Bears would certainly rather have him start slow than choke at the end. According to Cold Hard Football Facts (in a story about Dallas' Tony Romo), Cutler is among the best closers in the league.
How the Bears can get their quarterback off to faster starts is a bit of a mystery. Some teams start with easy throws; however, the pass to Alshon Jeffery should have been simple enough.
It might be a matter of getting Cutler more focused to start the games or having him spend more time warming up so that his arm is loose. It's clearly a preparation issue and something a coach should be able to fix.
Cutler's slow starts certainly haven't prevented him from being an effective quarterback, and that interception certainly isn't the biggest worry to take away from that game.
Chicago's offensive line gave up seven sacks, they had one turnover in the red zone and a dropped touchdown pass. Many of those mistakes came from reserves, but they're mistakes that have plagued the team in the past.
Nobody should panic based on a preseason game, but this specific issue is something that has held Cutler back in the past. It should be fixable and may be something the Chicago coaching staff has already addressed.
At the end of the day, the Bears still have bigger fish to fry, and this may be nitpicking. Even with his flaws, Cutler is still among the Bears' best offensive players and one of the better quarterbacks in the league.
However, getting him off to better starts might be the key to making him one of the league's elite.
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