I am not a native of the city of Chicago, but I have always rooted for the Bears. I have rooted for them since the first days I started watching and caring about football. They were never a great team (besides a few specific years), but they had a constant brutal defense that punished their opponents. I loved watching the defense. They would shut down quarterbacks and turn wide receivers over the mush.
It was beautiful to watch.
So about a year-and-a-half ago, when I turned on ESPN and learned that Chicago had just made the "Godfather offer" for Denver Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler, I was conflicted.
When the Cutler rumors first started coming out that the guy wanted out of Denver, I didn't really care that much. Ever since he came into the league he has been a great player to hate. He bragged about his strong arm but threw a ton of picks, his win/loss record was inflated on the bad side, he had that odd feud with San Diego's Philip Rivers, and his face (although this is of minor importance) looked like that of a frat boy's. The rumors were that Washington was the most interested, but I generally assumed that he would patch things up with McDaniels and stay with the Broncos.
But of course, Chicago traded the disappointing Kyle Orton and a bunch of first-round draft picks (which, thankfully, Denver ended up screwing up) for Cutler. And Chicago fans were forced to welcome in this new player that most of the NFL already hated.
Trying to talk one's self into rooting for Cutler was hard at first. He didn't look like a particularly friendly guy and there were rumors, within the first couple of months, that he wasn't meshing well with veteran linebacker Brian Urlacher (those rumors were quickly nullified).
Not only that, but Chicago management was bringing Cutler into a situation where he was pretty much bound to fail: a shaky head coach; an unimaginative offensive coordinator with his head stuck up his rear; a poor offensive line; a good but not great running back (apologies to Matt Forte, I love you, but you have yet to average four yards a carry); and, most importantly, a horrendous—repeat, horrendous—group of wide receivers.
As August passed me, I grew worried that this season would be a disappointment.
The season started, and things were up-and-down like a ship in rough water.
Blowing the game against Green Bay in Week One was just the beginning. As much as the blowout against Cincinnati and the Atlanta game in which Matt Forte fumbled twice in the Red Zone sucked to watch, the worst came a few weeks later against San Francisco.
I could actually watch the game because it was on the NFL network, but as I was refreshing the game on the ESPN stat checker a similar "notice" kept popping up.
"Jay Cutler interception." And again: "Jay Cutler interception." And so on.
When the game ended, Cutler had thrown five interceptions, including the one that ultimately decided the game.
Pissed off and feeling helpless, I did the only thing that made sense to me: went out and got drunk off gin and tonics.
As Bears fans know, the season ended without a trip to the playoffs. The only shining moment came in Week 16 when Cutler took the Bears by the face masks and dragged them to a victory over Minnesota in overtime.
And now Bears fan await another season, and we find ourselves worrying about the same things. Will Cutler be able to adapt to a new offensive system (especially a more complicated one), will our wide receivers be able to show up, will Lovie Smith blow any games with his poor management, will our running game get going...
The worst part about rooting for Jay Cutler is that it's nearly impossible to label him as a "good quarterback." I've tried to do it for the past two years. Every since he came to Chicago I've been convincing myself that he was a good QB in a bad system or that he's being shortchanged by the players around him or that his coaching was bad.
The truth is that Cutler might not be a very good quarterback at all. He is a very good athlete, but he makes too many mistakes and he doesn't win ball games. Granted, I love watching him play (the roulette wheel factor comes into play; every time the man drops back, is it going to be a touchdown or an interception), but I can't look myself in the mirror and call the guy a good quarterback.
I can't look at him and say to myself that I want him leading this team over the next five or 10 years.
Cutler can throw for all the yards he wants to, and he can make a million Pro Bowls, but until he starts winning games in Chicago, I'm not going to be impressed.
I'll always have his back, but right now, it's only about wins.