Since his arrival in Chicago last offseason, the biggest question surrounding Bears head coach Marc Trestman is whether or not he can transform quarterback Jay Cutler into a more consistent performer.
Last offseason, Trestman and quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh made it a point to improve Cutler’s mechanics—particularly his footwork, dropback and overall arm delivery.
“He has the ability to have precision mechanics, high-level mechanics,” Trestman said last offseason, per Adam L. Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times. “At times, he has them. And at times, he doesn’t. But that would be for anybody in the league.”
One major area Trestman focused on was Cutler’s tendency to throw off of his back foot when pressured in the pocket.
In a Week 4 loss against the Detroit Lions last season, Cutler, who had played well in the previous three weeks, started to struggle when he began facing pressure in the second quarter.
Instead of attempting to throw the football out of bounds or drifting to his left to buy more time, he threw off of his back foot, resulting in an interception by the Lions’ Glover Quin.
Cutler finished the game with three interceptions.
Trestman viewed his turnovers as mostly fundamental, not mental, mistakes after the game.
“The turnovers and some of the under- and over-throws were more fundamentals than they were a lack of execution or reading coverage, things like that,” Trestman said the next day to the media, via Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times. “I think that they’re correctable — and I think he’ll go back to work and work on those things.”
He was injured in Week 7 against the Washington Redskins and missed five of the team’s next six contests.
While he still showed a tendency to force throws off of his back foot at times after his return, he became more willing to step up in the pocket to make his throws and showed flashes of what he can do in Trestman's system in 2014.
“Going into my ninth year, I think this is only the second or third time I’ve been in an offense multiple years,” Cutler told the media earlier this offseason, via Larry Mayer of ChicagoBears.com. “We’re still in the learning process, but guys have much more familiarity with what the concepts are and the formations and everything, so that’s definitely going to be a help; less thinking and able to go fast.”
Heading into last season, Trestman became the fourth offensive coordinator Cutler was paired with in five seasons in Chicago. The continuity he now shares within the offense should allow the Bears to be even more dynamic than they were last season.
"Each of these plays we have, there are a lot of different answers against a lot of different types of looks and coverages," Trestman said earlier this offseason, via Mayer. "I think [Cutler’s] at a place now, because he's had so much experience on these plays, he can utilize the entire play to find the right answers."
Those right answers are what Cutler is going to need to find in 2014 if he wants his second season under Trestman to be successful.
Luckily for him, he has a bevy of talent around him.
“We have the same guys we had last year, which is always good,” Cutler said, via Mayer. “Talent-wise it’s hard to top our o-line and some of the guys we have on the outside and Matt Forte, who is hugely underrated. Talent-wise and being in the system two years and the way the guys work, all that adds up. Hopefully we can stay healthy and see where this thing goes.”
With the talent around him, combined with his experience under Trestman, offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer has noticed Cutler becoming more comfortable within the system.
“It’s obvious in practice that Jay is taking more and more control by the day,” Kromer said last week to the media, via Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times. “Not that he didn’t before — he did — but with his comfort level with all of the things we’re trying to get done, he’s able to solve some of his own problems on the field.”
Kromer isn’t the only one noticing Cutler has been more in control this offseason.
“He’s the first one in the building, last one to leave, his leadership is through the roof,” Brandon Marshall said to the NFL Network, via Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com, about Cutler. “He’s correcting the coaches. I mean, this is his offense. This is his organization. He’s running it, and I love it.”
If Cutler can continue to eliminate the mistakes that have plagued him his entire career, he has a real chance to excel in his second year under Marc Trestman.
Brandon Marshall thinks greater accolades are heading Cutler’s way.
“League MVP,” Marshall told the NFL Network.
Bears fans are hoping Marshall is right.
All stats courtesy of NFL.com.
Matt Eurich is an NFL/Chicago Bears Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report.