The 2011 season began with questions surrounding Jay Cutler and how he would respond from the fiasco that was the NFC championship game. After 312 passing yards against the NFC South division winners, many are still wavering on hitching their wagon to the horse named Jay Cutler.
Well, waver no more. This is the year Cutler joins the new wave of elite quarterbacks. This is the year he passes Matt Ryan, Tony Romo and Matt Schaub and joins Philip Rivers as an elite quarterback who has yet to win a Super Bowl. This is the opening paragraph that most Chicago Bears fans would like to have read. However, it is difficult to argue that Cutler is ready to take the next step from erratic to exceptional. This is difficult but not impossible.
Every athlete has a natural maturation process that they must adhere to. There are some players who have managed to momentarily avoid the process of learning how to fail before they can succeed. Yet, in time, they all go through the despair of defeat and only the truly great ones rise above the humility of failure to feel the adulation of success.
Cutler has felt the disdain of his peers as well as the frustration of the fans of both Denver and Chicago. In his first two years as a full time starter, Cutler threw for 8,023 yards. What makes this total so impressive is the names that the passing yards eclipse. When you sit atop a group that includes Brady, Elway, Brees, Marino and Manning it is impossible to not take notice.
His third and final year in Denver, the quarterback notched a Pro Bowl berth and continued to improve the Broncos record. Then things began to go awry for the perplexing quarterback. After finishing his most accomplished season as a professional, Cutler was headed to Chicago and once he arrived, he was greeted with Super Bowl aspirations.
Cutler was the quarterback Chicago Bears fans had prayed for. He was the championship arm that they had yearned for since their inception in 1920. Very few franchises have experienced the ineptitude at the quarterback position that the Bears have. Prior to Cutler’s arrival, only five quarterbacks had passed for over 3,000 yards in a single season and none had gone over the 4,000 passing yard mark.
Chicago has been given multiple opportunities to turn their fortunes around at that position and just failed miserably at identifying talent. Their lack of identifying talent was masked by a great defense and a Super Bowl win, eventually the mask was removed and an ugly quarterback situation would manifest into a horrific debacle.
In the 1982 draft, Chicago selected Jim McMahon which led them to passing on Jim Kelly and Dan Marino in the 1983 draft. While the Bears danced with McMahon, who was more carnival show than quarterback, they passed on some quality players who could have been the answer to their quarterback needs.
Boomer Esiason and Randall Cunningham were both second round selections that would have been upgrades at that position but were overlooked. Over the years, the Bears, like most NFL franchises, experienced missed opportunities and opportunities that should have been missed. Their futility was exacerbated by the fact that they never had success at that position, a position that the Chicago Bears have only had one Pro Bowl player in since 1963. That is over 47 years of baffling failure.
The trade for Jay Cutler was supposed to end this difficult to stomach quarterback play. Cutler was the kid from Santa Claus who was supposed to bring the gift of potent pocket play. When Cutler was acquired, the Windy City was glowing brighter than the Chicago River on St. Patty’s day. The city had a buzz about it that had never been felt before, at least when it came to the Bears.
The ransom given for Cutler was fit for a king and Chicago was willing to bestow upon him their kingdom. Regardless of what happened from this moment forward, Chicago had their quarterback for the first time EVER.
Once Cutler took to the field, things were inconsistent to say the least in his first year. The season began with a four interception performance at Green Bay and ended with a four touchdown performance at Detroit. At season’s end, he had thrown for the second most yards in Bears history, with 3,666. His 27 touchdown passes placed him third behind Sid Luckman and Erik Kramer.
He giveth and he taketh away and never was this more evident than in his first year, where the quarterback had four games with three or more interceptions. The Bears were just as sporadic as Cutler and finished the season 7-9 and to some this was a failure because it fell short of expectations. Falling short of playoff expectations two years in a row are the failures one most fight through in order to reach success.
Those expectations were met the very next year despite a reduction in passing yards and touchdowns. As Cutler’s interceptions went down, the team’s win total went up. The Chi finished 11-5 and made it to the conference championship game. Then all hell broke loose.
First, there were cries that Jay was soft, which on the surface was ridiculous and once indulged were asinine. How can a cat that has started 68 of a possible 69 games be soft? How can a cat who in his last 32 games was sacked 92 times be mentioned as delicate? His toughness and grit should never have been questioned.
People tend to judge Cutler by the cut of his jib rather than by the merit of his talent. He appears to be disinterested and sometimes makes the spectacular look mundane. He seems to lack the fire necessary to be a leader, which is what has been used to give credence that he is not one of the game’s best. This could not be further from the truth. The Bears’ signal caller may not be the loudest voice in the room, but sometimes the loudest voice in the room says the least.
He showed what lies in his chest after throwing four interceptions against the Washington Redskins and thus helping DeAngelo Hall make a Pro Bowl appearance. Cutler when asked about Hall’s performance basically said he is not that nice and if given another shot I would go right back at him. It is that bravado that makes him a one of the game’s best. His arrogance is unwavering and his “I don’t give a” attitude permeates through the team.
After the Hall comment, Cutler was ripped nationally, but his team responded by winning seven of its next eight games. The run did not stop until the conference championship game and if Cutler remained healthy, there is no, well, ifs and coulds do not matter in sports. If you are a Bears fan, you should take solace in knowing that Cutler is your quarterback.
Despite not receiving much help from management in acquiring wideouts, the quarterback still manages to make plays. The last two drafts the front office has decided not to select any wide receivers. The 2011 draft class has yet to show if they can play but there were players available late in the 2010 draft. Players like Mike Williams who was selected in the fourth round or Mike Wallace and Austin Collie who were both third round picks in 2009. Missing on players like this seems to revert management back to their previous years of appeared allergic reactions to drafting game breakers.
Nevertheless, with Cutler at the helm, the Bears are a force to be taken seriously. His infectious swagger and unyielding arrogance makes this team a legitimate Super Bowl contender, even if the pundits are turned off by his “body language.” Cutler may not display the “body language” that makes his critics giggle but his body of work aligned with his talent should translate beautifully to their eyes.