Everybody up at Halas Hall needs to look in the mirror after the travesty that was the 2009 season. This includes Jay Cutler.
However, the embattled Chicago QB is far down on the blame list, and certainly is the team's best shot at meaningful seasons down the road.
Before we go comparing Cutler to Jeff George, Ryan Leaf or other notable quarterback headcases in NFL past, let's analyze the current state of the entire roster. I think you will see that Cutler had little chance for success in year one.
Lovie Smith is a great guy. He's a good football coach as well, but when the team brought in Cutler, it was a signal that they were no longer going to be the run-first, aging defense-dependent sqaud of yesteryear.
The team is committed to Cutler, longer than they are committed to Lovie. For good reason too. Every current successful franchise has a franchise quarterback. The top playoff seeds currently have Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Phillip Rivers, Drew Brees, Brett Favre, Kurt Warner and Donovan McNabb playing quarterback.
Cutler is far from the first strong-armed quarterback with an ego. The ones who have had success in the past have had strong-willed coaches who were able to reel them in when necessary.
Smith is many things, a task master he is not. He is the wrong fit for Cutler and the wrong answer for the Bears.
All of the above stated about Smith is absolutely true of offensive coordinator Ron Turner as well. Turner is as good as gone anyhow, so this is the extent to which I will talk about him.
It is hard for a quarterback to have success without a strong corps of receivers. I was encouraged by the play of the young receivers this season, but at times, they certainly made life tough on Cutler.
The offensive line was abysmal—the worst unit on the team. They were pathetic and made it difficult for Cutler or Matt Forte to get anything going in the backfield.
Speaking of Forte, he failed to duplicate the success of his rookie season, and the team saw little success running the football. I think this was, in large part, due to the failure of the offensive line.
A running game has been called a "quarterback's best friend," and Cutler must have felt awfully lonely this season.
The defense is aging, and that was evident in 2009. Injuries plagued the unit, exemplified in franchise player Brian Urlacher sustaining a season-ending injury in the opener.
Combine the age, injuries and outdated Cover 2, 4-3 scheme the Bears have stubbornly refused to abandon (see the success the Packers had switching to the 3-4), and you have a recipe for defensive disaster.
In 2009, you do not win football games by playing ball control, defensive style football. While I understand that this has been the Bears M.O. for decades, they have to be willing to adjust to the times. General manager Jerry Angelo made a great step in acquiring Cutler.
The pattern set by teams like the Pats, Colts, Chargers, Saints and Eagles is to pass to set up the run, score quickly and put the ball in thier star quarterback's hands. Like it or not, that is how you win football games in 2009.
With Cutler, the Bears have that opportunity. If they can surround him with the right type of people, mainly, an offensive line that can protect, a 3-4 defensive scheme and coach to help him manage the game, Cutler (and hopefully Forte as well) will see some success in 2010.
Don't give up on Cutler, yet. He still has the opportunity to be the franchise quarterback we all thought he could be.
But, he can't do it by himself.