Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
Such is the case with Jay Cutler in Chicago.
Cutler has never been a winner. While he was highly decorated and praised while in his four-year starting tenure at Vanderbilt, his numbers don't lie. Cutler's best year came when he threw for 21 touchdown passes and nine interceptions. In his four years as a starter, Cutler only won eleven games and lost 35. Furthermore, Cutler only had five wins in four years against SEC opponents.
Then there are Cutler's skills. There is no doubt that he has all of the physical tools which give him the potential to succeed. He has outstanding arm strength. His pocket presence along with his scrambling ability out of the pocket have given him a distinct advantage over many other NFL quarterbacks.
He draws comparisons to Brett Favre for his willingness to gamble, but that has gotten him in trouble throughout his pro and college career. Cutler completed less than 60 percent of his passes in college, and his accuracy in the pros has been less than stellar. Since his rookie season, he has just barely completed more than 60 percent of his passes.
Cutler has been blessed with two very talented offensive teams. The first of which was Denver. In 2008 Cutler played with two Pro Bowl receivers, Brandon Marshall and Javon Walker; a former Pro Bowler, Brandon Stokley; and a future Pro Bowler, Eddie Royal. As a result, Cutler ended up making his first and only Pro Bowl.
In Chicago, he was blessed with an extraordinary runner in Matt Forte, who rushed for more than 1,300 yards in the 2008 season. With Forte leading the offense, the load that Cutler had to shoulder in Denver should have been lifted. Cutler also was reunited with college teammate Earl Bennet. In addition, he was blessed with a big deep threat in Devin Hester, who is nearly impossible to overthrow.
Yet Cutler found a way to turn the ball over again and again. His lowest interception total of his career is 14, and that wasn't even the season when he went to the Pro Bowl (when he threw 19). However, the worst was yet to come. Cutler threw a league high 26 interceptions. Cutler struggled in Lovie Smith's system, often forcing throws and telegraphing passes to opposing defensive backs.
Then there is the issue of maturity, a hallmark trait of successful quarterbacks in the NFL. The top quarterbacks, from Brees to Manning to Brady, all demand a a high level of respect from teammates, coaches, opponents, fans, and critics. Cutler has earned none from anyone.
In Denver he fought with receivers. Cutler has had no problem passing the buck on to the next guy. Part of the problem may have been a six-year $48 million rookie contract, despite falling to the 11th pick. This sense of entitlement may have led to Cutler's inability to effectively lead an offense, and co-exist with other high profile players.
That sense of entitlement also led to the rift between head coach Josh McDaniels. At first, many critics and pundits blamed McDaniels for the break-up of "franchise" quarterback and rookie coach.
Now, in hindsight, it seems McDaniels wasn't that wrong after all. The Broncos started the season 6-0, with former Bears quarterback Kyle Orton, something Cutler couldn't achieve
After demanding a trade, Cutler arrived to a franchise clamouring to anoint a savior under center since the era of Jim McMahon. The city called him the next great Chicago Bear before he even took a snap. They thought they were getting a franchise quarterback.
Instead what they got was one of the lowest rated quarterbacks in the league. A clubhouse cancer that blamed coaches, teammates, game plans, officials, and even fans. In essence, Cutler blamed virtually every possible person but himself.
Whether it was the guaranteed money, plethora of talent, lack of wins, or consistent turnovers, and most importantly Cutler's appalling lack of maturity and leadership, the Bears were unable to come to the realization that when a twenty-five-year-old multi-millionaire demands a trade, then maybe there is a reason he is being shipped off in the first place.
Chicago was so desperate for a great quarterback, they were willing to bet anything. "Anything" in this case is a first- and third-round draft pick in 2009 and a first-round draft pick in 2010. In the NFL, this is a gambler's version of going all in. Guess we know it's not worth it. Just ask Lovie Smith.