Is Jay Cutler worth a long-term extension?

Is Jay Cutler worth a long-term extension?
Scott Strazzante, Chicago Tribune

As a 7-1 season that once seemed palatial crumbles beneath their feat, the Chicago Bears are getting angry. They’re now 8-6, they’ve lost five of their last six games, and they no longer control their own destiny in the NFC playoff picture. Meanwhile, I’m finding myself desperately trying to love Jay Cutler unconditionally for the quixotic mirepoix of angst, pure talent and guts that make up his skill set.

I’m trying to do so rather unsuccessfully.

That’s not to say that I don’t like Jay Cutler or think that he’s a good quarterback, because I do. And I read absolutely nothing into the misconception that he’s a poor leader. I read nothing into his demeanor in general. As a matter of fact, I’ve been known to be a bit priggish myself, so if anything, Cutler’s antics are even more endearing to me.

However, as Bears’ personnel tries to deflect attention away from the abominable football that’s been played the past six weeks by shifting the focus to fandom they deem questionable, there are pressing issues for the Chicago Bears that actually don’t have anything to do with Lovie Smith. Jay Cutler enters the last year of his deal in 2013, and as the franchise quarterback in Chicago, he’ll be looking to ask the McCaskey family for the keys to the safe.

However, we’re more preoccupied with Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs’ frustration with—well—us. With good reason, too; the notion is asinine. If fans aren’t entitled to express their opinions with boos because they don’t know what they’re talking about, then what entitles them to cheer? What entitles them to be present at games at all?

And, if fans and the media should keep quiet because they don’t know anything about playing football or running a franchise, players should probably keep quiet with regard to the fans and media, as I doubt they know anything about writing a column under a tight deadline or spending a week’s pay to take the entire family out to a game.

The point of all that is, the topic is so infuriating that it deflects attention away from the things that terrify the Brian Urlachers and Lance Briggs’ of the world. Their jobs are all on the line.

Which brings me back to Jay Cutler.

I want so desperately to embrace him as the face of the franchise for the next half-dozen, or so, years. When he is in rhythm, he makes plays that no other quarterback in the League can make. However, with that mentality comes the windfall. Bad Jay is as bad as Good Jay is good.

I could live with that, if it weren’t for the fact that Bad Jay is all we’ve known against the Green Bay Packers. That alone is cause for serious concern. Under Mike McCarthy, the Green Bay Packers have been the class of the NFC, meaning championships run through them in one way or another.

Jay Cutler is 1-8 in his career against the Green Bay Packers (1-7 with the Bears) with nine touchdowns to 18 interceptions. Obviously, Jay Cutler isn’t the sole reason that the Bears have lost all those football games. You can very easily make excuses for most of those losses ranging from the talent disparity between Green Bay and Chicago to (now) bad officiating.

Those excuses, no matter their validity, are what scare me most with regard to Cutler. He’s dealing with the same issues that Bears’ quarterbacks have been dealing with for nearly three decades. He’s clearly the best of the bunch, but you can’t make potentially a $100 million decision based on the Bears’ quarterback history. That’s like buying $100 million of stock in a company solely because they’re NOT Enron. In the long haul, it may work out for you by chance, but you’re setting yourself up for a disaster.

For three years, Jay Cutler was bereft of talent at the skill positions. Now he has it, and the offensive line is still just too damn bad. Next year they may go out and address that at the expense of the defense and then it will be their fault.

In the free agency era, you never truly get to put together a complete football team. The great teams identify what they want to be the foundation of their franchise and they build from there. Normally it’s a great quarterback who can make up for a deficiency on the offensive line or in the receiving corps.

I hate the idea of getting into the semantics of how truly great a quarterback is when the definition of the word “elite” seems to float about without any tangible meaning. But I will say this: I’m not sure if Jay Cutler will ever be a Super Bowl quarterback.

That’s cause for pause for me. Granted, there are probably only eight or nine players out there who qualify under those standards, and none of them are realistically attainable. But, does that mean that Chicago has to settle for the best of the rest? More importantly, do they do so for the massive amount of money that Cutler will likely demand this offseason?

I’m not saying the answer is unequivocally no, but it definitely merits discussion—a discussion that is awfully difficult to have with everything else going on in the Bears’ organization right now. With all the chaos surrounding Halas Hall, Jay Cutler is familiar and he’s better than average. That’s probably enough to secure his future, but it’s worth noting that those are the same things we said about Lovie Smith for quite some time.

It’s all a big mess, and unless they make some startling run in the postseason, it’ll probably get even messier this offseason.

At times like this, I just thank God they’re not the Jets.


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Tags: Jay Cutler

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