Cut Loose


Courtesy of Brett Starkopf

Cutler’s gone. Is the Chicago Bears seven year playoff drought finally over?

Christopher Starnawski, Staff writer

Eight years ago, the Chicago Bears made an uncharacteristic trade sending Kyle Orton, a pair of first round picks and a third rounder for quarterback Jay Cutler. It was shocking and sparked a needed enthusiasm in the fan-base as the NFL was transforming into a pass-heavy league. Fans were eager to watch Jay Cutler lead the Bears to a Superbowl, but in his eight years as starting quarterback, the Bears only made playoffs once. After six different offensive coordinators and three head coaches, the decision was made on March 9 to release Jay Cutler.

Cutler was arguably Chicago’s most polarizing athlete of the past decade. In his first game as a Bear, Cutler threw four interceptions against the Green Bay Packers and finished the season setting a franchise record with 26 Interceptions. After a miserable opening season, Chicago was left guessing about what kind of player Cutler actually was.

The Bears went on a tear the following season earning 11 wins and five losses. Cutler was able to shave off ten interceptions from his stat line with a receiving cast led by Devin Hester and Earl Bennett. For the first time since the 2006 season the Chicago Bears had made it to the NFC championship game to face off against the Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field. The expectations for the game was historically high and in return Chicago fans were delivered a historic disappointment. Cutler left the game early in the third quarter with an MCL sprain without leading the Bears to a single point.

Football fans began to question Cutler’s toughness after leaving the most important game of his career with an injury. Looking back after seven years, there’s no question Jay Cutler is tough. During his tenure with the Bears, Jay Cutler was sacked 251 times resulting in several sprains, concussions and tears. He survived behind consistently bad offensive lines but could never excel.

The fans certainly cared that the leader their team gave up a bulk of draft picks for never made it to another pro bowl, but did Cutler ever care? On top of his toughness being called into question, his leadership ability was consistently doubted. Former Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher stated on an interview with 88.7 The Game back in 2014 that “Financially, Cutler is one of the elite guys in the league but that he hasn’t produced like an elite quarterback. Rodgers has no offensive line. He wins. Brady has no receivers. He wins.”

At the time when Urlacher made this comment, Cutler had a plethora of offensive weapons at his disposal consisting of Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett. Going into the 2014 season, NFL analysts were favoring the Bears to win the Super Bowl only for them to finish the season with a miserable 5-11 record. Maybe a winning percentage isn’t a good leadership indicator, but Jay Cutler’s attitude certainly was.

On the field, fans saw no emotion or similar fire from Jay Cutler that great quarterbacks portray and off the field he was the same way. The “Don’t Care” Cutler mantra became mainstream in 2013 after a fan claimed to have approached Jay to express his fan-hood and Vanderbilt connections only to have Cutler lean his head back while using a urinal and yell “Don’t Care.”

Understandable it’s hard to blame the guy for not caring about that conversation under the circumstances, but his delivery of the seventh inning stretch at Wrigley Field in 2012 gave fans reason to raise arms. His monotone enthusiasm was unique and unorthodox yet it showed the fans the type of guy that was taking snaps under center for the beloved Chicago Bears.

Whether you’re a Cutler lover or hater it’s hard not to appreciate his memorable moments. Even though the predictions about Jay as a Bear have gone up in smoke like a Marlboro Red, he leaves the team as the franchise’s all-time leader in passing yards, touchdowns and quarterback rating.

The Chicago Bears are getting younger and are heading into the draft with the third overall pick. It isn’t out of the question for the team to draft a quarterback at that spot but from all indications made by Bears GM Ryan Pace, the team will be selecting the best player available. Regardless of who is drafted at that spot one thing is certain, and that is there will never be another Bear quite like “Smoking” Jay Cutler.