Normally when the name "Julius Peppers" is involved, I find it hard to dish out any real criticism toward a team.
However, the Chicago Bears are a team on the rise, but without great quarterback play, they are merely another thorn amongst the roses.
In 2009 Jay Cutler threw one more touchdown than he did interceptions, and although the Chicago Bears looked decent and more or less promising at times, they failed to see their wheels leave the tarmac in 2009.
Fortunately, there is a 2010 season. To "turn over a new leaf," as my mother would say, this season is not only a year where the Chicago Bears need to prove to everyone that they are legit contenders in the NFC North; they also need to prove that the millions of dollars spent signing this offseason are meaningful.
It's almost like a celebrity donating money to charity. Sure, the dollar sign is there, but if the heart and soul aren't behind it, then the money hasn't been donated for the right reasons.
In Chicago, the same story may be told, but we'll have to wait a while to find out. We've seen it before in the past, owners going all-out to impress their fans and hopefully quieten down speculation, but in the long run seeing it all implode in front of their very eyes.
Certainly Chicago won't let this happen. Surely a team with this much history, pride, and integrity in its rich roots won't let such a travesty happen. Well, we hope not. But Jay Cutler's 2009 performance is a cause for concern in Chicago, and instead of the owners trying to please, the time has come for Cutler to step up his game and act like a true quarterback.
Some people out there may feel I'm being a little hard on Cutler. After all, he has only spent one season in one of the toughest cities to play football. However, there is a select group of fans that will agree with me and make the claim that Cutler is well overdue for a standout year, and unless he improves in 2010, he may find himself in the unemployment line next to Rex Grossman sometime soon.
When it boils right down to it, 2009 was an utter disappointment not only for the Bears, but for Cutler as well. With interception after interception, and the hot seat growing close to the boiling point underneath Lovie Smith's behind, 2009 is a year to forget in Chicago's history.
But what can Cutler use to improve in 2010?
Well, it's simple: confidence.
Sure, it isn't a tool that he can switch on at any given time, but when you have Julius Peppers and a healthy Brian Urlacher on the opposite side of the ball, suddenly things look to be going in the upwards direction offensively.
Not only that, Cutler is also looking to work hard this offseason. Throwing mechanics and better vision awareness are key for Cutler, and hopefully in the long run his interception ratio will drop dramatically.
At the moment, though, the weight of the Bears is on Cutler's shoulders. With signings, coaches, and a rowdy fanbase that is eager for a playoff-caliber season, Cutler would be wise to take that extra second in the pocket that could ultimately mean the difference between a pick six or a gain of 10 yards.
With that said, the sky is also the limit for Cutler. There's still months to go until September, so the time has come to just familiarise himself with the Chicago Bears. Hopefully in 2010 we'll see a new-look Chicago outfit, ready to compete with the Packers and Vikings for the No. 1 spot.
If not, though, it's Cutler's head that is on the chopping block. Bears fans already have the centrepiece drawn up on the mantle, and they are just waiting for Cutler to underperform.
Take it easy for now, Jay, but 2010 is the year to prove yourself.