This Jay Cutler is different

This Jay Cutler is different
Bears' quarterback Jay Cutler celebrates the game-winning touchdown. — Jose M. Osorio, Chicago Tribune

No, there’s nothing unusual about Jay Cutler being the topic of conversation following a Chicago Bears game. But this time, instead of making excuses for him, or simply ripping right into him, we’re commending him.

And rightfully so.

If you are going to slam Cutler when he plays terrible, then it’s time to give him some credit in the clutch. For a second week in a row, Cutler led the Bears’ offense down the field for a game winning touchdown against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.

Love him or hate him, there’s no denying that something is different about this version of Jay Cutler. He seems comfortable and not easily rattled. I know I certainly started to have my doubts on Sunday after a fumble and two interceptions — doubt usually unknown for the ultimate Cutler apologist like me.

But because “Cutty Does It,” the Bears came out on top with a game-winning TD to the self-proclaimed “Black Unicorn” … or “Orange Dinosaur” … or whatever alter-ego Martellus Bennett is going by this week.

For maybe the first time, the Bears have a happy huddle. Kyle Long raved about how cool Jay Cutler has been, and Martellus Bennett spoke of Cutler’s calm and in control in big moments.

“I wish I was as cool as Jay Cutler,” Long said. “I was all fired up, and Jay was just like his heart was going two beats a minute like nothing is going on. He does a great job. He’s our leader on the offensive side of the ball, and we’ll follow him to the promised land. Today, that was the end zone.”

And …

“I call him ‘Mr. Fourth Quarter,’” Brandon Marshall this time. “He’s just ice cold, man. I really appreciate him, and I’m grateful to play with him.”

And …

“He’s just cool, calm and collected,” Martellus Bennett now. “You don’t have to stress. It’s just like, he trusts me to make a play, he trusts Brandon, he trusts the line to do their job, and he can relax and just do his job. It just goes to a team effort and the coaches doing their job and everyone working hard to get better.”

Sounds like everyone loves Cutler now, huh? So what’s changed?

Well, winning always helps. And the fourth-quarter success isn’t new to this year’s Cutty. Last year he was the number one rated quarterback in terms of fourth-quarter passing success in the NFL, and he’s orchestrated 19 fourth quarter comebacks in his career.

The second thing, and maybe the most important to keeping Cutler “cool” in the huddle, is that the offensive line has … well, done its job and kept Jay Cutler upright thus far, allowing just one sack through two games against ferocious pass rushers.

The third thing is that he now has three 6’5”+ guys to throw to, and he has a running back that quite literally does it all, and a coach who is committed to using said running back. And Cutler is spreading the ball around extremely well. Matt Forte caught 11 passes versus the Vikings on Sunday, while Marshall and M. Bennett each caught seven.

All things we’ve been saying this QB has needed, or needed to do, since day one.

According to modern ledged — we wouldn’t know because the soviet Russia version of the Fox broadcast was on (but I digress) — Cutler also executed a set of plays that set the Bears up for a field goal heading into the half, which turned out to be a very important drive.

He has shown resilience and poise like never before when it comes to bouncing back after, say, a bad turnover, and that is what people need to be optimistic about. And the fact that two weeks in a row, Cutler drove down the field for touchdown passes when he absolutely needed to.

Cutler is starting to use his feet more regularly, something I’ve been screaming about for years. Look at how Aaron Rodgers, for example, uses his legs — he kills teams on third down when no one is open, and Cutler can mimic that.

So why is Jay Cutler different? I think the answer is simple: Marc Trestman actually knows how to run a modern NFL offense. For years, Cutler has had offensive bums Lovie Smith hand picked out of his ex-coworker rolodex calling plays. He now has a trust in his offensive coaches and teammates.

Even for you body language readers, the difference has shown. The QB whisperer is at work, and we have seen enough through two games to think that this just might work out. Everyone, from the QB coach to head coach to the players, seem to be on the same page.

So far this season (even though it’s only been two games), Cutler has a 68 completion percentage and a 95.4 passer rating. Those would be career highs if he were to finish the season with such numbers.

The three turnovers are bad, and they are all basically on Cutler. The goal line play call was one I didn’t care for, but your quarterback has to push reset at that point and get back into the huddle. The fumble can’t happen, and the last interception was a head-scratcher, as he was baited right in.

But now there seems to be the ability to shrug plays like those off and move on, because there’s a confidence level now going forward, and probably a bit of what the young kids would call a touch of “swagger.”

Am I sitting here trying to tell you the Bears are as good as the 49ers or Seahawks right now? No. But they do have something going for them. And I don't know if they are close to being great, or are just a grindy team. Either way, they’re putting checkmarks in the win column.

But hey, you don’t have to dominate to win Super Bowls. Just look at the Giants in recent years — a grindy team that came through in big moments. Who knows, maybe the Bears can be that kind of a team to start with.

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Filed under: Players, Post Game Report

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