It's time for Jay Cutler to deliver

It's time for Jay Cutler to deliver
Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune

For the common NFL player, reaching the age of the 30 signifies that the best of their playing days are behind them. It’s a harsh reality for some and denial is usually the first reaction. They refuse to accept that it’s impossible to defeat Father Time and in turn fail to devise an exit plan that conserves their bodies, and in some cases, their dignity.

Quarterbacking is different, though. Players at that position, a la John Elway, can solidify their greatness well into their 30s. Elway was able to win, not one, but two Super Bowls toward the end of his storied career, putting him in the conversation for the greatest NFL quarterback of all-time.

The same franchise that Elway delivered two world titles to also drafted current Bears’ quarterback Jay Cutler with the 11th overall selection in the 2006 NFL Draft. Like Elway, Cutler hasn’t found the success that defines a quarterback’s legacy as he approaches the ripe age of 30 years-old: Super Bowl wins.

As Chicago embarks on a fifth season with Cutler at the helm, there is more pressure than ever for the Vanderbilt University-product to deliver in a big way. With Brian Urlacher now off Chicago’s roster, there is no question who’s team the Bears are. Cutler, who heads into the final year of his current deal, is looking for a big-time contract, and Chicago is thirsting for a champion, presenting the perfect storm for both parties involved.

Let’s be clear about leverage in the contract situation, though: Cutler has it all. He is a remarkable talent who the Bears would be hard-pressed to replace. Regardless of whether the Bears decide to cut the check or not, Cutler will be paid a substantial amount of money in 2014 by an NFL team to be their starting quarterback.

But, with the way Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco cashed-in after leading his team to a Super Bowl win, Cutler has to be eyeing a similar scenario and payday. Believe it or not, the seemingly nonchalant Cutler is concerned about his legacy as much his bank account — every quarterback is.

General manager Phil Emery has done all he can to make sure that Cutler is able to compete for a championship in 2013. He placed an emphasis this off-season on keeping Cutler upright in the pocket by signing left tackle Jermon Bushrod and drafting right guard Kyle Long in the first-round of April’s Draft.

Emery also found a security blanket tight end in former Giant Martellus Bennett, something Cutler hasn’t had since Greg Olsen was shipped to Carolina. Save a speedy slot receiver, Chicago has all the makings of a great offense heading into the 2013-14 season.

But for Chicago to compete for a title there has to be a change in Cutler. First, he has to display leadership within the organization. With Urlacher now gone, there is no more hiding for Cutler on that front. The Bears will now go as he goes.

Secondly, he has to begin to accept responsibility when things don't go right offensively. Too many times in the past Cutler has thrown the blame on his offensive peers, and while some was deserved, a quarterback can't have that mentality when trying to will his team to championships.

Lastly, Cutler has to perform at a high level. There has to be an ascension in Cutler’s game, especially when he basically was able to handpick his play-caller in new head coach Marc Trestman. The biggest question is not whether Cutler is capable of doing these things — he is. It’s whether he’s willing to do these things, and I guess we will all find out soon enough.

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Filed under: Players

Tags: Jay Cutler

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