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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Cutler Did It

Sports offer us real life theater. The excitement of sports, such as NFL football, always goes beyond the action on the football field, in some manner. This is a big part of what captivates us.

Sports often produce stars who elicit mixed reactions, controversy. There are characters that we, generally, either love or hate. Bears quarterback Jay Cutler has fully evolved into one of those characters.


Cutler was drafted 11th overall in the first round of the 2006 draft by the Denver Broncos. He arrived with high expectations as an eventual replacement for incumbent signal caller Jake Plummer, who has just guided the Broncos to a 13-3 records and hosting the AFC Championship game the year before.

Controversy attached to Cutler from the beginning. The Broncos started 7-4 in 2006, though Plummer struggled. Then Broncos Head Coach Mike Shanahan benched Plummer and replaced him with rookie Jay Cutler.

The Broncos would only win two games for the rest of the year and the Broncos missed the playoffs. Cutler, statistically, outplayed Plummer, but the win/loss record is the only stat that counts after Week 17 and Cutler and the Broncos fell woefully short. Plummer would retire after the season, rather than agree to play for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, to whom he was traded in the following offseason.

Shanahan was fired after the 2008 season and replaced with Josh McDaniels. Allegedly, McDaniels covertly made attempts to bring in free agent Matt Cassell to replace Cutler. Cassell signed with the Kansas City Chiefs, Cutler got wind of want happened, and Cutler, the franchise quarterback, demanded out of Denver.

The Cutler flap forced a QB swap with the Chicago Bears for their serviceable but unspectacular quarterback, Kyle Orton. The Broncos would suffer two consecutive, and wrenching, losing season and McDaniels was fired after his second season as coach. The Cutler Carnage continued.
The Internet has endless rips on Cutler. He may not be the NFL QB with whom fans would most like to drink a beer. 1


Jake Plummer…Mike Shanahan…Josh McDaniels…future employment is not something one may easily associate with colleagues of Jay Cutler. Nonetheless, the arrival of Cutler before the 2009 season was celebrated in Chicago. The Bears acquired a player who appeared to be a long term solution at the quarterback position, something the team has not had for any extended period since local legend Jim McMahon was with the team in the late 1980s.

Cutler has received a myriad of criticisms since arriving in Chicago. He has been criticized for his body language during games. Reporters have said teammates described Cutler as “distant” in the locker room.

He was accused by NFL players on other teams of not being tough enough and checking out the NFC title game, this past January, with an injury he could have played through (which turned out to be a torn knee ligament). He was even made into the bad guy for the alleged manner in which he (supposedly) dumped ex-fiancĂ© and reality starlet Kristin Cavallari over the summer. The label “Jay the Jerk” has stuck with Cutler among many in the public eye.

Cutler's ex, Kristin Cavallari. He must be doing something right if he can dump her. 2


Bad luck…lightning rod…controversial…jerk. Every unflattering descriptor under the sun could be tossed at Cutler. Since arriving in Chicago, though, he has been a leader on the field. The guy wins, sometimes having to do so the hard way.

Through 34 starts in Chicago, Cutler has been sacked 101 times, and hit countless other times. The Bears offensive line has been Swiss cheese. In a (offensive coordinator) Mike Martz scheme that relies heavily on deep, downfield passes, this is a recipe for quarterback stew. Cutler has only missed one start since coming to the Bears.

The bottom line, in the NFL, is winning. The goal is to reach the Super Bowl. The Bears failed to reach the playoffs in the two seasons after their appearance in Super Bowl XLI and before Cutler’s arrival in 2009. The Bears did not have a winning record in those two seasons, combined, prior to Cutler’s tenure.

Since Cutler’s arrival, the Bears have won more games than they have lost. They won a division title last season, and hosted the 2010 NFC Championship Game. Cutler continues to be a high profile member of the “Eat Grass Club”, having been sacked 14 times this season through three games. Yet he often finds way to turn broken plays into gains and the Bears have had an opportunity to win each week because of Cutler’s quick decisions, having never trailed by more than 7 points at halftime in 2010.

Cutler celebrates with teammates during the Bears' divisional round playoff win over the Seattle Seahawks last year. 3


Jay Cutler is not in the same class of quarterbacks as Tom Brady or Peyton Manning. However, only Brady and Manning are in the class of Brady or Manning. Still, Cutler has fulfilled his role of leading the offense and putting his team in position to win, better than the majority of starting quarterbacks in the NFL.

You can love him. You can hate him (and a lot of people do). But the Bears are better off with him than without him.

Cutler's time in Denver was just a boot camp for what he would experience in Chicago. 4
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