September 12, 2015 - Greg Gabriel
Is this Jay Cutler's last chance in Chicago?
When the Chicago Bears traded for Jay Cutler shortly before the 2009 NFL Draft, he was supposed to be the great quarterback the Bears have never had. It hasn’t turned out that way. In 2009 the Bears finished 7-9 and Cutler threw for 3,666 yards, 27 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. Ron Turner, the offensive coordinator, was fired at the end of the season. Head Coach Lovie Smith then hired Mike Martz to run the offense and in 2010 Cutler had his best year as a Bear. He threw for 3,274 yards in 15 games with 23 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. The Bears finished 11-5 and got all the way to the NFC Championship game before losing to Green Bay 21-14. The following year, the Bears fell to 8-8 while Cutler played in only 10 games throwing for 2,319 yards, 13 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. In 2012, the Bears improved to 10-6 and Cutler played a little better, but it wasn’t enough to save Lovie Smith’s job. He was let go at the end of the season and replaced by Marc Trestman. The two seasons under Trestman were a disaster and Cutler regressed in an offense that was supposed to get him on track. Now, in 2015 Jay Cutler is playing for his third Head Coach in Chicago, John Fox, and his fifth offense coordinator, Adam Gase, since 2009. If Cutler doesn’t produce this year, there are many who feel this will be his final season as a Chicago Bear. Prior the beginning of the 2014 season Cutler signed a seven-year contract extension worth $126 million. While the Bears have some flexibility to get out of the contract at the beginning of each league year, it will still cost them cap space if they choose to get rid of him. Viewing Cutler in both practice and preseason games this year, I have seen a different Jay Cutler than I have seen in previous years. He seems more at ease and comfortable than at any other time since he has been in Chicago. His interaction with Gase has been excellent in both practice and games. We are used to seeing Cutler come off the field with a pout face and being mostly by himself. All preseason each time he has come off the field he has gone right to Gase and it seems as if the dialogue is excellent. There has been no hollering or pout faces, just good strong conversation between the two. Cutler’s interaction with the other quarterbacks has also been very positive. Since Cutler has been in Chicago the coaching staff has always expected Cutler to win games. This year I feel it will be different. The philosophy will be for Cutler to be more of a game manager. From what I have seen to date, the offense won’t be as pass happy as it was in the past. The Bears will rely on their running game and try to control the clock. The passing game will be much more deliberate. Cutler is a very athletic player. He can make or extend plays with his feet but the offenses he has been in haven’t allowed him to do that. This year I feel we will see much more of that type of play. We should see more rollouts and bootlegs and the throws Cutler makes will be much less risky. Personally, I feel Cutler may have his best season in years. While I don’t expect the Bears to challenge for a playoff spot, I do believe that they can be at least a .500 team. Cutler seems to be playing with more confidence and he has bought into what this coaching staff wants to do. In reality, it would be better for the Bears if Cutler does succeed. The colleges haven’t exactly produced a quantity of top quarterbacks of late. Taking their chances in the draft may be riskier than staying with Cutler. John Fox is not a wait-and-rebuild type coach, his history has been to turn things around quickly. His best chance is to turn Cutler's game around and he has a chance of doing just that.