NFL Chicago Bears: Grading Jay Cutler's Performance Thus Far

Matt CoanCorrespondent IISeptember 28, 2011

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 25:  Jay Cutler #6 of the Chicago Bears walks off of the field after a failed 1st down attempt against the Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field on September 25, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. The Packers defeated the Bears 27-17.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Chicago Bears have a 1-2 record heading into Week 4 of the NFL season.

Even after facing three of the toughest opponents on their entire schedule and playing games that should have helped us gauge how they stack up with the rest of the league, it seems they still haven't.

There are still many holes the Bears need to fill and many questions they need to answer.

The Bears' offensive line is still horrible and needs fixing. The team's lack of playmakers on the offensive side of the ball is clear. Even the strongest area of the Bears, the defense, has been shaky at times, especially at the safety position.

There is, however, at least one area of this Bears team that does not need fixing or upgrading and is perfectly fine the way it is currently constructed: the quarterback.

Jay Cutler is probably the most criticized quarterback in the NFL and easily the most polarizing among fans.He is attacked in the media constantly about his body language, his interception rate and his mental makeup as a quarterback and as a person. People rarely give credit to Cutler for doing so much with so little.

Cutler is playing with the worst offensive line in football and quarterbacking a complex offense filled with average-at-best receivers, below-average tight ends, and a quality running back, Matt Forte, who averaged 0.2 yards per carry in a game at home against a hated division rival last weekend.

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 25: Jay Cutler #6 of the Chicago Bears talks with a coach on the sidelines during the game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on September 25, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Scott Boehm/Getty Images)
Scott Boehm/Getty Images

Still, Cutler helped the Bears win the NFC North last season and brought them to the NFC Championship game and nearly the Super Bowl.

This year, Cutler was a huge part of the Bears' Week 1 win and still hasn't laid an egg in a game so far. Many of you may consider that crazy, but consider this: Cutler has been forced to drop back and attempt 114 passes so far this season, seventh most in the NFL. That's behind the worst offensive line in football, one that has given up a league-leading 14 sacks so far this season and is showing no sign of improvement.

The Bears know they have a terrible offensive line and they still decide to pass the ball twice as often as they run it. The Bears' offensive game plan so far this season has been to abandon the run as soon as it starts to fail and they are paying for it.

Opposing defenses pick up on this by the second half and begin to drop more players into coverage, allowing the pass rushers to pin their ears back, ignore the run game and try and hit Cutler has hard as they can.

This was clearly what happened in the Week 2 game against the New Orleans Saints and against the Green Bay Packers in Week 3. 

The Bears are dead last in the NFL in total rushing attempts and second in total rushing yards. If those numbers stay that way, Cutler will not play all 16 games this season.

This trend makes for bad football. The fact that Cutler has both kept his team in games and thrown for as many yards as he has are good examples of why he's having a solid year so far.

Cutler has thrown for 858 yards, tied for eleventh in the league, and five touchdowns, tied for tenth. He has also only thrown three interceptions, one of which was great defensive play—a tipped ball at the line of scrimmage caught by a defensive linemen. Cutler hasn't made the major mistakes this season, and overall led the team in three solid showings against three high quality opponents. All this while running an offense without quality personnel or effective offensive game plans. 

Cutler is performing well so far this season, and if he continues throwing the ball like he has and gets a little more help from his offensive line, running game and offensive coordinator, the Bears will compete for a playoff spot at the end of the season. 

Cutler's grade thus far: B+