NFL players are back to work and with that comes the challenge of baring the heat wave that has swept the country recently. Warm temperatures should be nothing new for Bears QB Jay Cutler, however, after having the thermostat turned up on him by the entire football community last January for an early exit in the NFC Championship game.
It was a chance for everyone to get their shots in at Cutler, who has been criticized for just about everything during his young career. Throwing too many interceptions, not playing nice with the media, blaming his receivers and “wimping out” after injuring his MCL against Green Bay have all been gripes with Cutler. Want to know more, I’m sure Trent Dilfer would be glad to add to the list.
The game against the Packers has long been decided though, Bears fans have almost forgotten about the nausea caused by watching Todd Collins play quarterback and the Lombardi trophy is safely locked at Lambeau Field. The Bears are trying to leave those moments in the past but the pressure facing Cutler to step up this season is at an all-time high.
Bears faithful have seen their quarterback play on both sides of the spectrum while in Chicago. When Cutler is on his game, he can look like an All-Pro quarterback. Other times he has been not so good. Take his last eight games for example. Five of those eight games, Cutler finished with a QB rating over 100, all leading to Bears victories.
Two of those games included crucial home matchups with the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Jets, both playoff teams, where Cutler totaled 8 TD’s (1 rushing) and 1 INT. Take those performances away and the Bears don’t win the division. On the other hand, the additional three games to finish the season included two losses to the Packers and a thrashing from Tom Brady and the Patriots. Cutler was a non-factor in each of those contests, throwing 6 INT’s and no TD’s in 10 quarters of play.
Now it’s time for Cutler to take the next step if the Bears hope to win in an increasingly tough division. Cutler has done his part this offseason, becoming more of a vocal leader and organizing all of the Bears workouts during the lockout. He also has a healthy knee, which is good news for everyone in Bears camp.
Cutler is going to need a little help from his friends on offense though, which is exactly what he did not have from his offensive line on numerous occasions in 2010. It is unknown whether the departure of C Olin Krutez will make Cutler’s life any easier, but from the reaction out of Bears camp it seems like the players did not like the move.
The same can be said about the loss of Cutler’s favorite target Greg Olsen, who appeared to have too much talent to play tight end for Mike Martz. The addition of WR Roy Williams has been under speculation as well, having many Bears fans wondering how much of an upgrade Williams is to the position. Sure, Cutler was in need of a big target to go along with the speed of Knox and Hester, but Roy Williams isn’t Brandon Marshall.
Williams had a monster season under Mike Martz in 2006 while with the Lions, totaling 1,310 receiving yards and 6 TD’s, making for a Pro Bowl selection. That was five years ago, however, and Williams had only 1,324 yards in his 35 games as a Cowboy.
This is a big season for Cutler and the Bears as a whole. There is no less talent in training camp right now than there was in 2006 when the Bears went all the way to the Super Bowl. It is not going to be easy to get past Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, but each of the three games between the rivals in 2010-2011 could have gone either way. The Bears will go as far as Cutler can take them, Cutler’s performance along with the pieces around him will determine just how far that will be.