The Chicago Bears And Jay Cutler: A Love/Hate Relationship

Punk. Cry-baby. Spoiled brat. Lifeless. These are just a few adjectives that have been levelled upon Jay Cutler. Ever since landing in Chicago, Jay Cutler has been the main source of controversy for the Bears. It has been said by many critics that he has all the talent in the world, but he’s not living up to his potential. Furthermore, Cutler’s attitude and persona have had critics disliking him even more. Chicago is a sports town and I completely understand its hunger to win another Super Bowl, but at the same time, Chicago can be one of the harshest cities on an athlete.            

Jay Cutler has played for the Chicago Bears since 2009. Since becoming their starting quarterback, he's had plenty of ups and downs. His first year was a disaster. Cutler threw 26 interceptions and the Bears went 7-9. 2010 was a completely different story, however; with the help of their notorious defense, the Bears made it to the NFC Championship game. Cutler had a respectable season, throwing for 23 touchdowns and 16 interceptions, but he was sacked a league-high 52 times, including 9 times in the first half against the New York Giants. He sustained a concussion in that game, causing him to miss his only game of the season. In the NFC Championship game against the Green Bay Packers, Cutler’s toughness was called into question after he sat out the second half with a knee injury. The Bears eventually lost to the Packers after a modest effort from Caleb Hanie, and the criticism for Cutler started. Analysts, former players, current players, and fans questioned Cutler’s toughness and why he couldn’t finish the second half against the Packers. The eventual prognosis was that Cutler had sustained a Grade II Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) sprain in his knee. The following year, Matt Forte had almost the same injury, missed four games, and yet no one said anything.         

In 2011, Cutler was set for another successful season before he broke his thumb in week 11 against the San Diego Chargers. Cutler was injured trying to make a tackle after wide receiver Johnny Knox slipped and his pass was intercepted. Before Cutler got injured, the Bears were 7-3 and looked to be on their way to the playoffs again. Instead, the Bears lost five in a row, finished 8-8, and missed the playoffs with Hanie and Josh McCown at the Quarterback position.           

In 2012, the Bears missed the playoffs yet again despite having a respectable 10-6 record. Cutler had a sub-par season, finishing with 3,000 yards, 19 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions. Cutler’s lowest point came against the Packers, when he threw an abysmal four interceptions and got sacked seven times. The Packers game was also where Cutler infamously yelled at and shoved left tackle J’Marcus Webb after getting sacked multiple times from that side. After that incident, Cutler was again scrutinized for his lack of leadership and poor attitude. Once the 2012 season had finished, the Bears cleaned house and fired head coach Lovie Smith along with the majority of his staff. Marc Trestman assumed the helm as head coach.            

    In 2013, Cutler had improved his game, posting a career-high passer rating. But his interception total was still high (12 interceptions through 11 games), and he missed five games due to a groin injury. Josh McCown then had the best five games of his career. Despite McCown’s best efforts, the Bears still finished 8-8 after a heartbreaking loss to the Packers in the final game of the season, and missed the playoffs. Under Trestman, the offense improved significantly, however, the defense had taken a massive blow. The Monsters of the Midway had nearly disappeared and the Bears' defense ranked in the bottom 3 in total yards, rushing yards, and points allowed.            

Almost every Bears fan knows how bad the 2014 season was. Without going too much into detail because the wounds still run deep, last season was a complete disaster. The New England Patriots came to town and absolutely dismantled every aspect of the Bears. The Patriots ended up scoring 51 points. Then two weeks later, coming off a bye week, the Bears showed no signs of improvement. Watching the Bears play the Packers was a comedy show. Forty-two points were given up in the first half. I wasn’t sure if I was in my right state of mind or if I was in my worst nightmare. The Bears lost 55-14. 

Jay Cutler was the man who took most of the criticism. He led the league (along with Philip Rivers) in interceptions but had the highest completion percentage of his career (66%) and a career high in touchdowns (28). What most individuals have said is that Cutler’s completion percentage is so high because he has been completing passes during garbage time. I can agree with that to some extent, however, allow me to give you some different perspective. 

Jay Cutler threw the ball 561 times last year and, leading up to the week he got benched for Jimmy Clauson, he had thrown the ball 332 times when the team had been trailing. Furthermore, 213 of those passes were when the Bears were down by more than nine points (Prisco, 2014). That stat is absolutely baffling. This is mainly due to the fact that the Bears defense last year was a revolving door and gave up points at will (ranked last in points allowed). Did Cutler have a stellar season? No and I am not suggesting that, but it's hard to go after an offensive player when his defense is giving up 50 points in consecutive games.

    Am I saying that Jay Cutler is an elite quarterback? No. Should he have gotten that unreal contract? No. Jay Cutler is the definition of a decent quarterback. Since starting under center for the Bears, Cutler has a 44-38 record. Without him? 4-10. Interceptions have always been a factor with Cutler, there is no question. Since joining the team in 2009, he ranks third in interceptions behind Eli Manning and Drew Brees. With that being said, he has still been the best option the Bears have had in years. Cutler holds 14 franchise records for the Chicago Bears which include most 4th-quarter comeback wins, highest career quarterback rating, and most career passing yards, but also most times sacked in a career. The Chicago Bears have not had a proud history of quarterbacks, so having Cutler at the helm is not nearly as bad as what the Bears have had in the past (i.e Craig Krenzel, Caleb Hanie, Rex Grossman).

    Also, give the guy a break when it comes to facial expressions and having an “attitude.” First off, Cutler can’t win with the media. When he doesn’t show any emotion, he’s lifeless. When he yells at a lineman who keeps getting him hit, he’s a whiner. There’s no winning here. In the past there has been skepticism about his toughness, yet Cutler has been sacked 256 times since coming into the league, 11th among active Quarterbacks. The sad part is that half of the players ahead of him have been in the league since early 2000’s. Cutler takes a beating every time he steps onto the field.

    At this point in time, there is no better option than Jay Cutler for the Chicago Bears. Cutler will have bad games and he will have good games. Cutler will make a plays that will make you jump out of your seat, then plays that will have you scratching your head. With all of that being said, Cutler is not as bad as people are perceiving him to be. It is understandable that when a team loses eleven games people want to point fingers, but it was a team that lost eleven games, not just Jay Cutler. Have a little faith in Jay Cutler Bears fans, he’s not all that bad. 

                     

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