I wondered why Denver Bronco fans were unanimously negative about Jay Cutler when I visited Denver shortly after he was traded to the Chicago Bears in 2009. I know he doesn't have an endearing personality, but I'm starting to see why they were happy he was traded - he's really not that good.
At the time, I couldn't fathom how the Broncos would trade a pro-bowl quarterback who was just twenty-five years old. Finally, I think I understand what they were thinking.
I'll be the first to admit that he doesn't have good receivers, and that his offensive line can be like a sieve at times, and generally, is not very good.
He has an offensive coordinator in MIke Martz who runs an antiquated system that seems set up to get him killed with all of the seven-step drops it involves. He is not allowed to audible at the line either.
You would think when a team trades for a "franchise quarterback," they would do everything they can to bring in the players around him to insure success. GM Jerry Angelo has done none of that, expecting Cutler on his own to make everyone better. So far, Cutler hasn't succeeded in doing that.
If it looks like I am defending him, I may be to an extent. But I also see the flaws.
Other than high school, he has never been a winner. His career record at Vanderbilt was 11-35, and 5-27 versus the SEC.
You could say he was playing in a tough conference, but if he's a legit superstar, shouldn't he elevate his team, especially in the college game. Bears wide receiver Earl Bennett also played with him some.
Denver traded up to get him in the draft, and in two seasons starting for them in 2007 and 2008, he finished 7-9 and 8-8, including losing the last three games of the year to keep them from making the playoffs in '08.
He was traded after that season to the Bears after a regime change in Denver. Chicago fans celebrated like the Cubs won the World Series, because a franchise QB for the Bears is almost as rare as a Cubs championship.
Yet again, Cutler failed to lead his team to a winning record, with the Bears finishing the season 7-9.
That changed in 2010, as Mike Martz took over the offense. The Bears went 11-5 and made it to the NFC Championship game, but the team didn't play up to expectations until they scaled down the passing game and balanced the attack more.
Even Cutler's first winning season was marred with controversy as he was maligned for his body language on the sideline of the championship game after he was pulled out with an MCL injury. He didn't appear hurt, and didn't seem into the game as the camera kept on showing him sulking on the bench.
Before his injury, he had a bad game, completing only 6 of 14 passes for 80 yards, and an interception.
Everyone from players to media criticized him for sitting out after the first offensive series of the second half, calling him "soft."
One thing Cutler definitely isn't is soft. He's one of the toughest quarterbacks in the league. Since he came to Chicago, he has been sacked 101 times in 34 games, the most in the league.
At the NFL Scouting Combine, he bench-pressed 225 pounds 23 times, which was more than some lineman. He's not soft, unless you're possibly talking in the head.
He has bad foot work, and regularly throws off his back foot. He doesn't step into his throws. Sometimes he seems to hold on to the ball too long, while other times, he gets rid of it too quickly.
He's an enigma. He has all the talent in the world, but you get him on a football field and he doesn't win you games.
Is it his fault or the coaching staff and general manager for not putting him in a position to succeed? If you ask that question with the Bears, can you ask that same question when he was with Denver and Mike Shanahan as his coach? The same Mike Shanahan who coached John Elway.
He also had better talent in Denver, including Brandon Marshall in the receiving corp. How come he couldn't win there either.
Watching him last Sunday against the Packers, he had a lot of time to throw most of the game, yet he was badly missing receivers, usually high.
Sometimes you can criticize a guy for running the wrong route, or breaking off a route, but can you criticize a receiver for not being seven-feet tall?
When you watch an Aaron Rodgers throw the ball, or a Tom Brady or Drew Brees, they hit receivers in stride, even with defenders in their face. Rodgers is actually second in being sacked to Cutler, but you can watch them and see one guy is in another league.
Is Cutler unfairly criticized, or is he just not that good? It would be nice if he had a good line and some better receivers, along with a normal offensive coordinator.
Then maybe we could see if he is just an illusion, or he really is a franchise quarterback.