By Bryan Dietzler
It’s suffice to say that Bears quarterback Jay Cutler is probably the most recognized player on the Bears and has been that way for the past seven seasons he has been with the team. Cutler has been much maligned over his career in Chicago and has been the focal point for a lot of criticism and blame for the Bears offensive woes. On the flip side, Cutler has been part of some amazing comebacks and plays for the Bears over the course of his career and he’s due for some more great play with the team while he is here.
The following is a short synopsis of Cutler’s career with the Bears, where he was before the Bears and where he has been since. Finally, there is a look at his future with the Bears and where he might go at the end of the 2015 season.
Cutler was born in Santa Claus, Indiana in 1983. Cutler played his high school ball at Heritage Hills High School in Lincoln City, Indiana. He was a three year player at the quarterback position and played very well (on winning teams) while he was there. He was named to several All-State teams while he was in high school and was also an accomplished basketball and baseball player.
Vanderbilt University recruited Cutler out of high school and he played his college ball there. Cutler set several records while he was at Vanderbilt including passing yards, pass completions and touchdown passes. He was honored several times during his collegiate career including being named SEC Offensive Player of the Year, a finalist for several passing awards and being named first team freshman in the SEC. After such a strong performance in college it was assured that Cutler would be a high pick in the 2006 NFL Draft.
Cutler had a decent combine and provided scouts with some nice workouts. He was rated to be the third best quarterback prospect in the 2006 NFL Draft (behind Vince Young and Matt Leinart). Some projected him better than both those quarterbacks but the consensus was that he was a good third option at the position in the draft.
The Denver Broncos selected Cutler with the 11th overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft. Cutler’s career as a starter began during his rookie season with the Broncos as he replaced then starter Jake Plummer in November of that season. Cutler lost his first game as a starter but did win his first game on December 17th against the Cardinals. He went 2-3 as a starter that year. In his second season with the Broncos Cutler went 7-9. In his third season, the 2008 season, Cutler was voted to the Pro Bowl for his efforts.
In between the 2008 season and 2009 season, Denver fired head coach Mike Shanahan and replaced him with Josh McDaniels. Talks of trading Cutler to either the Detroit Lions or the Tampa Bay Buccaneers surfaced and Cutler was upset with the possibilities of being traded. After some back and forth by both Cutler and the Broncos Cutler was eventually traded to the Chicago Bears. They Broncos gave up Cutler and a fifth round pick while the Broncos got Kyle Orton and the Bears first and third round pick in 2009 and their first round pick in 2010. The Bears had thought that they had finally found their franchise quarterback.
Cutler’s first season with the Bears was a rocky one. He had some up and down games (including a five interception effort against the 49ers) but the fan base and the coaching staff felt that there was a lot of hope with Cutler at the helm. In the 2010 season the Bears had a new offensive coordinator in Mike Martz and he was a quarterback guru so they though that he would be able to help Cutler overcome his problems with turnovers and play much better. Things were looking up for Cutler and the Bears.
As it turns out 2010 was a good season for the Bears. Cutler led them to the playoffs and got them all the way to the NFC Championship game playing against the Green Bay Packers in a matchup for the ages. The biggest controversy of that game involved Cutler who went out of the game with a knee injury and did not return. The Bears lost that game and Cutler was heavily criticized by fans, the media and even NFL players for not returning to such a critical game. He had his defenders but overall the impression of Cutler was that he was soft and not able to withstand the rigors of an NFL game. Cutler has often been injured during his career with the Bears but has shown toughness and resiliency in many cases.
Cutler went out later in the 2011 season after a 7-3 start and Chicago missed the playoffs. For the 2012 season the Bears brought in former Denver Bronco coach Jeremy Bates as their new quarterbacks coach hoping that reuniting him with Cutler would make him better. The 2012 season was a rocky one for Cutler and the team eventually head Coach Lovie Smith was fired.
The Bears felt that Cutler would thrive under new head coach Mark Trestman and while he did play better for the most part, injuries drug him down again in the 2013 season and he missed a lot of playing time. In between the 2013 and 2014 seasons Cutler was signed to a huge contract that would keep him in a Bear’s uniform up until the 2020 season.
It was thought that Cutler would do well under Trestman in his second year in the system but both Cutler and the Bears really struggled. Cutler was criticized by then offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer and things started to head downhill from there and the entire coaching staff was replaced at the end of the season. The Bears brought in former Denver Bronco’s head coach John Fox and offensive coordinator Adam Gase to help improve the team and Cutler. Although Cutler has missed some time this season with an injury he has improved overall and the Bears passing offense is looking much better.
Some of the honors that Cutler has achieved during his career with the Bears include earning NFC Offensive Player of the Week in 2009 and FedEx Air Player of the Week also in 2009. A few of the Bears franchise records that Cutler currently has include the highest completion percentage in a single season, most career pass completions and most career passing yards among others. Cutler is about to eclipse a few more quarterback related marks as the season goes on.
The future of Cutler with the Bears is somewhat cloudy. He is performing well enough this season to possibly have the Bears keep him for yet another year but there has been a lot of talk about the Bears drafting a quarterback in the 2016 NFL Draft so it’s hard to know where Cutler could be come next season. If he keeps on playing the way he has been playing and gets even better (he has gotten some of this good weapons back like Alshon Jeffery and Eddie Royal) he should easily be able to stick with the Bears next season.
Cutler has been the focal point of a lot of criticism from fans and the media during his time with the Bears. He has a penchant for throwing a bad interception or fumbling the ball at critical times in games. His mechanics throwing the ball are off a little bit and he sometimes throws the ball a little odd. Still, Cutler is a good quarterback, a good scrambler and someone that can easily lead the Bears to victory.