Jay Cutler in Chicago: Work in Progress or Utter Failure?

Kevin Roberts@BreakingKevinSenior Writer IJanuary 6, 2010

The 2009 NFL season is over for the Chicago Bears, both because it's now 2010 and because playoff season has started.

The Bears, at 7-9, despite once hoping that their ambitious trade for Denver Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler would make them a complete team, will not be taking part.

After a horrid debut, in which Cutler displayed all the bad he brings to the table in a four-interception debacle against the Green Bay Packers, many thought they had him pegged.

They thought they had these Chicago Bears pegged. Maybe they did, and maybe they didn't.

After all, the resolve that NFL&id=3608" title="Jay Cutler" target="_blank">Jay Cutler has carried with him ever since playing for a perennial loser at Vanderbilt and then failing to end with a winning record in Denver, he led the Broncos to three straight victories.

Suddenly, the awful performance on opening day was forgotten. Cutler was a hero, and these Bears were NFC North contenders.

Fast forward to the Bears standing at 5-9, eliminated from the NFC playoff picture, and clawing for any kind of momentum toward's last season, while still clinging to a season that had been lost for weeks.

Why the Bears wound up sitting where they are isn't important anymore. You can point fingers at offensive coordinator Ron Turner (fired this week) or the offense as a whole, which finished the season at 29th at running the ball and just 23rd overall.

You can even use Brian Ulracher's season-ending injury in the first game of the season as an excuse or an often banged-up and inconsistent secondary.

Or it's Matt Forte's fault. Or it's Devin Hester's fault because he's not a true No. 1 receiver. And then there's Lovie Smith and his often questionable decision-making.

But, where Bears fans have their questions, there will always be answers.

What was wrong with that offense? Well, in the last two weeks, Jay Cutler went up against a weak Minnesota pass defense and a Detroit Lions defense that couldn't stop anyone all season.

But more than just the cakewalk opponent, Cutler was given time to throw, as his line kept him upright all day in both contests.

Or maybe it was because Cutler knew (or at least had the feeling) that the nit-picky and restrictive Turner was halfway out the door.

Whatever it was, it was nearly enough to make anyone forget about the turmoil Cutler and the offense were engulfed in for the previous 14 games.

Cutler re-instilled hope into the organization with back-to-back four-touchdown games, while throwing just one pick in his last 71 passes.

Not bad for a guy who has 26 interceptions thrown on the season.

However, regardless of his late-season surge and the Bears winning their final two games and finishing with a respectable record, one has to wonder: Is this just Cutler and the Bears rescuing an average team from the depths of a 5-11 season? Did they just merely benefit from running into two horrible pass defenses?

Or did we just see (gasp) some progress?

In more ways than one, the answer to that question is an emphatic, "yes."

Cutler stopped throwing picks. He made better reads, utilized his weapons, and found a new dynamite weapon (and possibly future starter) in Devin Aromashodu.

He also had more time to throw, was poised in the pocket, didn't force the ball, and made great decisions. He was at the top of his game in front of the nation against the Minnesota Vikings, and despite the Vikings' pass defense wavering, he still made plays and played at an extremely high level.

Add the cutting of the ties of the ineffective Ron Turner (along with five other assistants), and Cutler and the rest of the offense's progress meets the front office's intuition.

They saw what this writer saw and what many of the Chicago Bears fans are seeing now.

Cutler isn't so bad. In fact, when he has the blocking, less than foolish play-calling, and players who actually make plays, he looks downright poetic on the field.

Until Cutler leads the Bears (or any team) into the postseason, a division title, or firmly establishes himself as an elite quarterback, he and the Chicago offense will always be in question.

But to say that bringing Cutler in was a failure, in the big picture, would be a grand mistake.

 

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