As I’ve discovered over the years, it’s difficult to build a consensus on almost any topic when sports passions are involved.
But here’s an area where Bears fans are practically in universal agreement:
They don’t like Jay Cutler.
Some don’t like him because they think he’s not a very good quarterback, others don’t like the high-risk manner in which he plays and more than a few simply believe he’s an arrogant, smirking jerk who’s not a leader and never will be a winner.
When the Bears re-signed Cutler to a big-money contract in the winter ($54 million is guaranteed), I don’t think I met anyone who was thrilled with the move. About the most positive response I heard was, “Well, yeah, I guess they had to do it. Let’s hope it works out.”
I understand your angst, Bears fans, but here’s my take on the prospects of the team and its quarterback in the near future:
You better hop aboard the Jay Cutler train because it’s the only one leaving the station with any chance of delivering you to your desired destination.
I’m not saying Cutler will get the Bears to the Super Bowl this season, or even the playoffs for that matter. What I am saying is there is no Plan B. Either Cutler plays well and the team has success or the season is a bust. The same goes for next season and probably the season after that.
So, as much as it might pain you, it’s time to (you can hold your nose if you’d like) cheer on Cutler.
Actually, I think that’ll be easy this season because I think Cutler is headed for a break-out season.
Despite all the hand-wringing and cries for Josh McCown to take over the team a year ago, Cutler had a pretty good season. With another year of maturity (stop laughing!) and another year getting comfortable in head coach Marc Trestman’s offense, I think the only thing that can derail Cutler at this point is an injury.
Bears quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh raved about Cutler’s improvement frequently during the offseason.
“I've seen incredible progress,” Cavanaugh told reporters before the start of training camp. “When we got in here last year and evaluated him, we had a real good conversation with him about certain things that every quarterback should do. We said, ‘Jay it might not be natural, but we want you to try it.’ And he did.
“To his credit, he’s taken every suggestion we’ve given and he’s embraced it. From how he holds the ball to how he lines up in the ‘gun pre-snap to how he drops back, to his throwing base to his follow-through. Every little fundamental we've talked to him about, he's embraced, and it's like night and day.”
The other reason I think Cutler will have a big year is the Bears have the best group of the receivers in the NFL highlighted by wideouts Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery and tight end Martellus Bennett. Besides being talented route runners, all at least 6-3 and can go up and get the ball in a crowd.
That was the secret to McCown’s success last season when he took over after Cutler was injured. When he was in trouble, McCown just flung the ball up for grabs -- within reason, of course -- and let his big guys go get it.
Don’t think Cutler didn’t notice. When he’s in trouble this season -- which, hopefully, will be less often following another year of experience for the young offensive line -- look for him to do the same thing. In the past, most of his interceptions have come when he’s tried to fit throws into small windows, but he doesn’t have to do that with this group.
That’s why Cutler was smiling on Monday -- yes, he smiled -- when talking about his receivers.
“It makes it easy,” he told reporters at training camp. “You kind of just hang balls up there for those guys and they make the play. They all do a really good job of finding the ball in the air and knowing when the back-shoulder [throw] is coming. We’ve just got to keep everyone healthy.”
That includes the quarterback. If everyone on offense remains healthy, I think Bears fans will fall in love with this offense … even Cutler.
Then you can focus your angst where it belongs -- the defense.
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ESPN's "First Take" discusses the prospects of Bears quarterback Jay Cutler:
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