Last Dance With Jay Cutler

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Mike Morbeck

There was a ton of blame to go around at the Chicago Bears headquarters, Halas Hall, after last season’s embarrassing 5-11 season. Regarding front-office staff, a number of names could have been thrown into the mix (and were, as many front office executives were fired). However, it was what transpired on the field that had fans pulling their hair out.

Other than the newly added coaching staff, the biggest topic of discussion in the offseason has been the status of mercurial quarterback Jay Cutler. There is significance behind the scrutiny of the quarterback position because NFL teams revolve around it. Almost all the great teams with historically winning cultures that go deep into the playoffs and ultimately win Super Bowls have had great quarterbacks to lead them.

With six seasons in Chicago under his belt, Cutler has yet to display the level of greatness his physical talent would have you believe he is capable of. The 31-year-old will be entering his seventh season as Bears starting quarterback, and with him at the helm, the team has been to the playoffs just once in 2010, when they lost in the NFC Championship against their hated rival, the Green Bay Packers. Also, with Cutler as a starter, the Bears have had an overall record of 49-47.

Sure, the quarterback’s often-dismissive attitude may be part of the negative energy surrounding the franchise. However, giving up on him at this point may lead the franchise to a much darker place than where it currently stands.

During Cutler’s tenure, one topic of discussion has been his nonchalant demeanor and seemingly uninterested personality. He is often criticized for not being an off-the-field leader, and he is especially scrutinized when the team is not winning. But, when the team is winning and Cutler is on his game, he can be one of the best players in the league at his position. During the two seasons under the Phil Emery/Marc Trestman regime, the Vanderbilt product put together two decent statistical years. In Trestman’s West Coast styled offense, Cutler threw for 2,621 passing yards, 19 touchdowns, a completion percentage of 63 and a quarterback rating of 89.2 in 2013. In 2014, he threw for 3,812 yards, 28 touchdowns, a completion percentage of 66 and a quarterback rating of 88.6. Clearly, he can be a statistically productive quarterback when surrounded by the star talent the Bears offense possesses. That fact alone makes any fan or analyst believe that his apathetic attitude and inability to read defenses in clutch situations is what is truly holding the Bears back.

Cutler has an arm like a rocket, and when he’s into the game both physically and mentally, the Bears offense is noticeably much more dynamic. Unfortunately, the biggest downfall in his game always seems to be the unnecessary game changing interception that comes at the most important moments of the game. That can’t happen if you want to contend for the playoffs.

There are a number of future picks to be selected in this year’s draft. However, bringing in a rookie quarterback may be more of a risk than just keeping Cutler for the time being. Over the past fifteen years, the Bears have had seven different starting quarterbacks and none of them were able to sustain success during or after their tenure in the orange and blue. That, in and of itself speaks volumes. This vital piece to an NFL organization has been an issue for Chicago in recent history.
So, should Cutler be the Bears starting quarterback? No, probably not. Will he be? Yes, because even with all of the baggage that comes with him, he is still the best option heading into the 2015 season. Ultimately, will Cutler be a long-term option? That should finally be decided after the upcoming season.