The Chicago Bears must have thought they hit the jackpot a few years ago when a disgruntled Jay Cutler demanded a trade out of Denver after his infamous falling out with former head coach Josh McDaniels and landed in Chicago, where he replaced Kyle Orton as the starting quarterback. But after four seasons in Chicago, Cutler has yet to emerge as the elite quarterback they thought they were getting, and he is yet to take the Bears anywhere close to the Super Bowl, like they were hoping he would do. Just as they have in previous years, the Bears are wondering if this is the year that Cutler will finally break out.
The Bears thought they were getting a quarterback that was about to take off, but Cutler has never come close to matching the more than 4,500 yards passing he had in his final season in Denver, nor has he been able to match the 62% completion rate he had that season. If anything, Cutler has regressed over the past four seasons, becoming a less accurate thrower who still struggles with his decision-making and throws far too many interceptions that hurt both himself and his team. After so many seasons of it being the same old story with Cutler, it’s becoming harder and harder to believe that he’ll ever have a breakout season.
If there’s a reason to believe that this year will be different for Cutler, it could be new head coach Marc Trestman. Tresman has more than a dozen years of experience as a quarterback coach in the NFL, and has a great track record of success working with quarterbacks who are not nearly as talented as Cuter. But along with Trustman comes a complicated offense that Cutler will have to master, and the tall task of meeting all the expectations that Trestman has for his starting quarterback. Cutler worked with the keen offensive mind of Mike Martz earlier in his tenure in Chicago, but with little improvement, so if Cutler doesn’t show signs of improvement under the tutelage of Trestman, there may not be a coach out there that can turn Cutler into an elite quarterback.
Although a poor offensive line has been partly to blame for Cutler’s struggles in Chicago, the Bears have tried their best to put him in a position to succeed in 2013. They used two of their draft picks this year on offensive linemen, both of who are projected as starters, including first round pick Kyle Long, who has had a strong performance this preseason. The Bears also brought in a top wide receiver in Brandon Marshall prior to the 2012 season, after he and Cutler worked well together in Denver early in Cutler’s career. Chicago also used their second round pick in 2012 to draft Alshon Jeffery, giving Cutler two big targets for Cutler to throw to. The Bears also have Earl Bennett as a reliable third receiver and promising rookie Marquess Wilson, which should be enough weapons for a quarterback as talented as Cutler.
This season may be Cutler’s best opportunity to have a breakout year for the Bears, but it also might be his last opportunity. Cutler’s contract is up after this season, and the Bears don’t seem too eager to re-sign him if he’s going to be the same player in 2013 that he’s been the past few seasons. Without some noticeable signs of improvement this season, Cutler could have difficulty finding a team that’s willing to guarantee him a starting job for 2014 and beyond. Not only could this be the year for Cutler to break out, but it also must be the year that he finally emerges from mediocrity and starts living up to his potential, or else his status as a starter in the NFL could be in jeopardy.