I remember, as I’m sure you can too, exactly where I was and what I was doing when the news broke that the Bears had traded for Jay Cutler.
I was at work and when I saw a text from my buddy. I thought he was screwing with me (he’s a Packer fan). Low and behold, I checked out ESPN and was like a kid on Christmas.
The Bears finally went and got their quarterback; a ballsy move by then general manager, Jerry Angelo. The Bears were back, baby! Or so I thought.
After the dust settled, I was on the phone with my dad that night and suddenly it hit me, what if the Bears ruin this guy like they had every other quarterback since Erik Kramer and Jim McMahon?
My dad told me they wouldn’t. This time would be different. But unfortunately, it wasn’t different.
Cutler might be the most polarizing Chicago sports figure in recent memory, besides Derrick Rose. It all depends on your perspective. I am unapologetically a Cutler fan and always will be.
For me, he was a competitor who flashed brilliance and was set up to fail the moment he got here. Angelo never understood roster construction on offense. He thought getting Cutler was the end all, be all answer to becoming an elite team.
I saw it his first year. Cutler was thrown to the wolves. Then he became a coach killer, a bad teammate, a poor leader and that’s how the narrative started. Don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story, I guess.
Cutler was the face of an inept organization. He shined a light on all of the incompetence, survived three different regimes and a revolving door of offensive teammates. He was too talented for the Bears to completely ruin him.
I’m not here to sell you on Cutler, though. I can’t make you like him or respect his game. But let’s be honest here. He was never going to win over the city of Chicago, even had he won a Super Bowl.
(Just ask Corey Crawford and how he’s still viewed by some Blackhawk fans)
Cutler was honest and always misunderstood. He didn’t put on a front to the media. He was genuine and got killed for it.
By the way, that misunderstood label originally came from Bruce Arians after he and Cutler met during the Bears coaching search that resulted in Marc Trestman. Arians loved Cutler and believed all he wanted was to win. Cutler was a big reason why Arians wanted the Bears job.
What I respected about Cutler most though was how he never once threw his team, coaches or organization under the bus. Always took the bullets, even when it wasn’t his fault because he was a great teammate.
Cutler never had a legitimate chance to succeed in Chicago for a myriad of reasons.
The Bears pitiful quarterback history should show everyone that. Great organizations know how to acquire and develop quarterbacks. The Bears had no clue what they were doing when they traded for Cutler, just like every young quarterback before him.
When I look back on Cutler’s career in Chicago, I’m a revisionist. I recognize his faults and failures, but I’ll choose to remember all the good things.
Is that fair? Probably not, but Cutler never got a fair shot either.
I hope Cutler lights it up wherever he goes next or if retirement is his choice, I wish him all the best.
There are some who will never appreciate what he did in Chicago, but there are also people, like me, who did.
Author’s note: Joe is an associate producer at CSN Chicago and a production assistant at 120 Sports. Give him a follow on Twitter @Joe_Tidei. He talks Chicago sports all day every day.