By Matthew Barajas
Light Post // January 2015
The Chicago Bears have made quite the splash so far this offseason. Having landed experienced NFL head coach John Fox and offensive coordinator, Adam Gase, from the Denver Broncos, and former San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, the Bears have positioned themselves quite nicely to have a bounce back season next year.
But the question that seems to be on every fan’s mind, as well as all the talking heads on television, is what happens with Jay Cutler. The answer is quite simple.
He stays put.
No, Cutler’s contract situation isn’t ideal, which very well could have been one of the key factors that led to Phil Emery getting fired as general manager. Which, if that’s the case, then we should be in love Cutler’s contract!
But seriously, Cutler has the deal he has because the Bears didn’t want to risk losing the best quarterback the franchise has ever had for nothing.
But here’s the thing - the guaranteed money he’ll be receiving in 2015, as well as the money he’s guaranteed for 2016, wouldn’t look so bad if the Bears were a playoff team this year. What became the “issue” is the fact that the Bears were horrible in 2014, which no one in the organization, or across the league for that matter, expected.
No one thought the defense would again be ranked 30th in the league, or allow the second most points in franchise history behind only the equally horrific 2013 defense. And no one imagined our special teams would be as bad as it was either.
The Chicago Bears, as a collective team, played extremely bad this season. The coaching staff lost complete and total control of the team as the season went on, and Marc Trestman no longer looked like a guy who belonged as an NFL head coach. His benching of Cutler at the end of the year was his last ditch attempt at saving his job, trying to prove Cutler was the one holding the team back. Clearly, that wasn’t the case.
Did Cutler live up to his contract this year? Come on. But when you think about it, did any Chicago Bears player this year really live up to his contract? With the exception of maybe Matt Forte, the answer is an astounding no.
People bring up the possibility of trading Cutler, but they never mention any names of players the Bears should bring in to fill his position. The reason for that is because there isn’t anybody available. When you look across the board, every quarterback in the league that is worth a damn is locked up with their team. You think bringing in a perennial backup as your new starter is the answer? Or how about crossing your fingers with an inexperienced rookie or second year guy?
If you were to ask any Bears fan, or football fan for that matter, to honestly tell you who is the best quarterback the Bears have ever had, the name you would hear most would be Jay Cutler.
But so many people choose to be against him when they really shouldn’t.
Remember every time the Bears played against Brett Favre and the Packers in the early 2000’s? At some point in the game, the list of 800 quarterbacks the Bears went through since Favre took over as the starter in 1992 would appear on the screen.
Usually, it would happen in place of a commercial break right after Favre threw his third touchdown pass. It was as if this was something we forgot and needed to be reminded of.
What a crappy feeling.
For over 20 years, all Bears fans have done is complain about who is playing quarterback. It doesn’t matter who it is. They will never be completely satisfied. Now granted, a lot of those quarterbacks that were on that list were pretty atrocious, but thats the mentality of people. They will always shine light on the negatives, never the positives.
In 2011, Cutler broke his right thumb in a Week 11 victory over the San Diego Chargers, ending his season. The Bears were 7-3 after that game, their fifth straight win. With Caleb Hanie starting the rest of the way, they would lose the next five games, three of which came against a horribly weak AFC West. They finished at 8-8, missing the playoffs. Had Cutler never gone down that year, the Bears would have been a wild card team.
To say the Bears are better off without Jay Cutler is misguided.
In 2014, Cutler finished 13th in passing yards (3,812), 188 yards shy of a 4,000 yard season, and he didn’t even play in Week 16. He finished eighth in completion percentage at 66.0, which was a career best, and was tied for 10th (Matt Ryan) in touchdown passes at 28, also a career best. But the first thing everyone will point to is the 18 interceptions and the fact he led the league in turnovers.
Jay Cutler isn't perfect, and nobody is saying he is. No, he's not Tom Brady. He’s not Peyton Manning or Aaron Rodgers. But neither are many other guys in the league. So rather than continuing the attempt to elevate his game to keep up with the likes of the elite, how about using Cutler differently, possibly more like an Alex Smith?
With Adam Gase as the new offensive coordinator, and the emphasis we’ve heard preached over and over of becoming more of a run-first offense, Cutler is the perfect type of quarterback to have under center.
When Tim Tebow had his fifteen minutes in Denver, Adam Gase was the Broncos QB coach. Two years later, he was calling plays for Peyton Manning as the offensive coordinator. During his time there, Denver was able to win the AFC West four straight years and put together playoff runs with both quarterbacks in that system.
Now, we all know its a huge leap from Tebow to Manning, but the point is the offense was structured around the strength of each player to give them the best opportunity to succeed within the system. With having Cutler now in Chicago, expect Gase to bring the same philosophy, especially with the type of talent and intangibles Cutler possesses. If they can cater to his strengths and don’t try to turn him into a player that he isn’t, then you will see a much better Jay Cutler.
The truth is, going into the 2015 season, there isn’t an available quarterback for the Bears that will be better for them more than Cutler. Implementing a new offense with an already established rapport amongst the players on that side of the ball will prove to be extremely beneficial for Adam Gase and John Fox.
The attempt to re-establish a strong defensive identity under new defensive coordinator Vic Fangio will hopefully lead to the offense not having to play from behind, something they did pretty much all last season.
Because of the coaches set in place right now, the potential is there for the Bears to be the most balanced team Chicago has seen in a long time. And with a top of the line, championship caliber coaching staff, it just might be what Jay Cutler needs.