Chicago Bears’ Jay Cutler is entering the final season of his current contract and not a whole lot is being said about it by the organization or Cutler. Playing well in 2013 gets him a fat, new contract. Play anything less than that and Chicago may help him pack his bags and hold the door open for him as he departs. The problem that both Cutler and the team have to face is a week to week question: which Jay will show up; good Jay or bad Jay? And in a nutshell the answer comes down to a consistently high level of performance. That is a commodity that Cutler hasn’t been able to deliver with any regularity over his four year span in the Windy City. Do not think for one minute that fact has gone unnoticed by management.
It is obvious that Cutler is going to be under some pressure to perform, and that won’t help his sometime sour puss on-field demeanor, particularly if things go poorly from time to time. Not helping much is the fact that the poor guy has been pounded mercilessly, taking 148 sacks over the past four seasons. His QB rating can only get better; last season it wound up in the low fifties and during his time with Chicago it has never been better than 59.8. In that time he has managed to toss 63 interceptions and fumble the ball 24 times. Lest anyone think that I am picking on the Bears QB, trust me I am not, but his tenure with Chicago makes avoiding that somewhat of a challenge. Oh yes, his passer rating? Hovering in the low 80’s for all but one of the last four seasons when it dipped into the 70’s. To put that in perspective, Cutler was ranked 20th in both total quarterback and passer ratings at the end of the 2012 season. So there has been some consistency, just not the good kind and those numbers do not consistently win championships or inspire confidence over the long term.
One can make a respectable argument that a significant portion of Cutler’s problems came from poor pass protection and lousy offensive schemes and that new head coach Marc Trestman, his coaches, some line shuffling and a new offense have fixed those issues. But time and again over Cutler’s stay in Chicago that kind of bleating has been heard by fans and the press alike, while nothing had been substantially repaired and Cutler’s difficulties continued.
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What is being said here is that Jay Cutler will not only have to play exemplary football this season to be in a position to make contract demands next year, but he will also have to rely upon another rebuilt offensive line to do the same and, along with the balance of the team, learn and rapidly implement Trestman’s new offensive and defensive visions. Not an easy task by any means. Just ask Cutler himself.
Already seemingly an expert apologist for new offenses, Cutler recently estimated that it would take three years to thoroughly learn a new offense and frankly, he should know for this is his fourth new offense in five years. He has warned that it will be difficult to “blow the doors off” in 2013. If that is how the Bears’ shiny new offensive attack is being viewed by its leader, might it then be difficult to make the playoffs this year, too?
Jay Cutler hasn’t really played to what many consider his potential, but that hasn’t been entirely his fault, either. No matter whose fault any of it may be, if he cannot make a strong case for himself this season, Bears fans may want to prepare hankies in order to wave bon voyage when his contract does expire.
Earl Richmond is a long suffering Detroit Lions fan, NFC North observer and writer for TPF. He can be reached at ERichmond@ThePenaltyFlagBlog.com.