Posted July 16, 2013

Marc Trestman, Bears wisely wait before committing long term to Jay Cutler

Chicago Bears, NFC North
Jay Cutler owns a career record of 51-42

Bears quarterback Jay Cutler owns a career record of 51-42. (John Biever/SI)

Apologies to Winston Churchill for bastardizing his famous description of Russia as “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma,” but there is perhaps no more apt way than that to describe the confounding NFL career of Jay Cutler.

For the past six seasons, Cutler has been a full-time starting quarterback in the NFL, first with Denver and for the past four seasons in Chicago. And for the past six seasons, everyone from fans to the media to his own coaches have tried to figure out exactly what Cutler is capable of achieving.

The latest proof that there is no definitive answer comes from a Chicago Tribune report by Vaughn McClure. He writes that the Bears had internal discussion about offering Cutler a contract extension worth about $15 million per year, “but that was before Marc Trestman took over as head coach.”

Reading between the lines, it seems that Trestman may have asked Chicago’s front office to hold off on locking up Cutler, whose contract runs out after the 2013 season.

And why wouldn’t Trestman do just that?

The 30-year-old Cutler could be a match made in heaven for Trestman’s CFL-honed offensive attack, one that will give Chicago’s quarterback every opportunity to light up the scoreboard. Cutler also might disappoint again, for one reason or another, and the Bears’ defense may not be as ready to rescue him as in years past.

The pro-Cutler arguments are easy to make: He should be in his prime as a quarterback, he has won 10 games twice in the past three seasons, is nine games above .500 for his career and has thrown for more than 21,000 career yards.

He’s also made only one trip to the postseason — that occurred in 2010 and ended with Cutler on the bench, claiming to be too injured to continue playing as the Bears fell to Green Bay.

Cutler’s play has never fully lived up to its potential, even during those 10-win seasons in 2010 and ’12. Last season, he threw just 19 TD passes (to 14 interceptions) and was downright mediocre on occasion, like a four-interception showing against the Packers. Had Chicago not finished with a top-five defense in both those 10-win campaigns, Cutler no doubt would have been expected to carry the Bears.

Even now, approaching eight NFL seasons since Cutler was drafted No. 11 overall by Denver, it’s difficult to say if he could handle that responsibility. The two seasons in which he took to the air most, 2008 with Denver and 2009 with Chicago, he posted a combined 15-17 record and fired 44 interceptions.

All things considered, a $15 million per-season average is not out of line for the Bears’ quarterback. Matthew Stafford, five years Cutler’s junior, recently received an extension worth $15.3 million per season in Detroit, and he brings the same inconsistencies to the table. The franchise tag for QBs this season, meanwhile, was worth $14.896 million.

Still, what’s the rush here for Chicago? That franchise tag option will be available next offseason, should Cutler hit free agency. (It’s worth noting that the Bears have a potentially crowded free-agent class for 2014, including current franchise-tagged player Henry Melton, Charles Tillman and J’Marcus Webb.) Delaying for a year also gives Trestman that coveted evaluation period to analyze if Cutler is the player he wants to build around for the next several seasons.

There’s always the possibility that this strategy will backfire. Cutler could raise his game and drop that $15 million price tag well into the rear-view mirror. Joe Flacco accomplished a similar ascension in 2012 … and the Bears happily would trade their skepticism over Cutler for the type of Super Bowl run Flacco had.

Whenever a team hires a new head coach, there is the distinct possibility that coach will wipe the slate clean and start from scratch. Trying to do so without changing the guard at quarterback is next to impossible.

So, Trestman has to decide if he can hang his hat on Cutler. Given how impossible Cutler’s career has been to decipher thus far, one can hardly blame Chicago’s new coach for wanting a little more time.

15 comments
Sammyz
Sammyz

Give the man some protection this year, then ask the question again. 

BathazarXavier
BathazarXavier

call me crazy but, as erratic as cutler is, what would the bears' alternative be? i don't see any potential free agents out there who could have done as well under the circumstances cutler's been operating and drafting a qb isn't a guarantee either. i'm not a cutler lover or hater, but given his talent, i don't see a problem riding with him for 3 more years, which will give emery time to acquire a potential replacement via draft or trade. 3yrs, $15mil per and keep it moving.

yadda71
yadda71

Cutler is one of those guys in the NFL that I really like to watch. He is also one who I am thankful is not on my team. He is just a little too erratic for me. Rocket arm. Maybe the best arm in the league. But sometimes it all comes apart on him in a hurry. I hope Chicago does surround him with good talent though. That offensive line has done him no favors the last couple years.

metalhead65
metalhead65

the fact that Cutler won 10 games for the bears twice is amazing considering what he has had to with during his time with the bears. he has played under a coach who knew nothing about offense and could not hire anybody competent enough to run a NFL offense. martz was the only qualified coach he has had but unfortunately for Jay it was not 1999 anymore and the bears were not the greatest show on turf team martz had with the rams. I challenge anybody to tell me with a straight face that any of the "elite" qb's could have put up their numbers working in the offense Cutler did last year. that had to be the worst offense ever seen at any level of football ever. the whole thing was based on Cutler running for his life waiting for Brandon Marshall to get open. now for the first time since arriving in Chicago he finally has some talent around and a coach who believes offense is more than just kicking a field goal and hoping the defense can hold the other team. this entire article is a joke and response to the fact Cutler does not enjoy talking to the media and does not suck up them. 2 years later and you are still saying he was claiming to be injured? never mind what the team doctors said or that his teammates backed him. if the bears choose to move on from him after this season I am pretty sure he will not have a problem signing with another team and one that will use his skills the way shanahan did in Denver and that he has never been allowed to do with the bears. allowing him to roll out was a key part of the broncos attack but the made him strictly a pocket passer ever with the worst o-line in football. the punishment this guy has taken while he has been with the bears is amazing yet you question his toughness?

eddie767
eddie767

The only thing in this article that makes sense is waiting to sign him. The injury "scandal",let it go,saying/comparing his skill set to Stafford and his extension wrong he should be better because of 5yr difference,hopeing he pulls a Flacco maybe. Let the new coach see if he fits. If he doesn't don't franchise find another qb. Just because a qb starts doesn't justify a $16-20 mil.a yr contract.

MichaelShores
MichaelShores

Do we have to hear this "claiming to be injured" BS again.  Any Bear fan who watched the game should have been furious with Smith for leaving Cutler on the field when it was obvious that he was unable to step into his throws.  Oh, but this is the NFL and the QB is expected to stay on the field whether he can be effective or not.

djp9
djp9

@metalhead65 I think it was less questioning his toughness than his decision making and the process of his decision making. Stubborn thy name is Cutler. The TD/INT ratio was put in right after that too. Not a fan but not a hater. 

How is this a bad business decision by the Bears? If he plays great they got a good deal and can franchise him with a reasonable deal for another year (or they could sign him long term). If franchised then next year Rinse and Repeat.

Now if he doesn't progress this year then they can move on or still sign him but for less.

geewhiz
geewhiz

@metalhead65 I'm not a cutler fan, but the bears organization should be in prison for putting a human behind that sorry excuse for an O-Line.  Criminal.

eddie767
eddie767

@metalhead65 I posted before you,but something you wrote made me think about a different qb to,probably,compare with. Alex Smith,he didn't get right until a real OC/HC knew what to do with him. If after this season nothings better Cutler and Bears should part ways. Anyway no qb could do any better than he's done with what he had before last season and that's coming from a Skins fan who can't stand Cutler.

JosephLoudon
JosephLoudon

@MichaelShoresAmen. Cutler was injured. Period. For a sports writer more than two years later to perpetuate the nonsense about Cutler not continuing to play on what was a strained knee because No. 6 was only "claiming to be injured" is utterly unprofessional and unethical. That supposed "experts" still questions Cutler's toughness, despite playing with the diabetes and playing behind that God-awful line I think says more about them than it does Cutler. They tear him down to build themselves up.

In an age when sports writers like to "talk trash" more than the athletes they cover, we shouldn't be surprised. 

dbum
dbum

@MichaelShores i agree. every time a journalist or even a coach question a player for not playing while injured i would like them to be thrown out on the field and sustain the same injury and be told they arent tough enough for football. when you play injured, its not tough, its dumb. look at RGIII during last seasons playoffs. the decision to keep him in cost the team a chance at winning a playoff game, if a fully qb healthy backup  kirk cousins would have been allowed to play.

i agree with a lot of the other points questioning cutler as a franchise qb but the "claiming to be injured" is not a valid criticism but a sophomoric jibe at any person that goes and suits up to play in the nfl week after week.

Joebuckster
Joebuckster

@JosephLoudon @MichaelShores Phillip Rivers found a way to play with a bumb knee in the AFCCG and nearly won, while a pouting Ladainian Tomlinson watched from the sidelines. Players play injured all the time - Cutler could have played, he just didn't. Probably because he was stinking it up with a good knee. People are welcome to make their own assumptions and they do - like many of his own NFL brethren that lambasted him for sitting out. Bunch of Cutler apologist Bears fans, every one of you.

JoeyHammel
JoeyHammel

Phillip Rivers playing through a game on a torn ACL is the exception, not the rule. Besides, he lost, so his sacrifice is moot. As for Cutler, he sprained his MCL and was held on the sideline for the rest of the game by Lovie Smith, not by his own will. RGIII turned his knee into a plate of bone pasta with blood marinara and pus alfredo by doing what you're suggesting Cutler should've been allowed to do.

Before you try to comment again, look up the individual details before generalizing any leg injury as a "bumb knee", whatever the hell that even means. It just takes away any weight your voice carries in conversations like this.

luvfoozball
luvfoozball

@Joebuckster OR maybe Phillip Rivers blew any chance his team had of winning just like RGIII did by continuing to play on that bum knee.

If you don't understand football and simple facts like QBs have to step into throws then stay out conversations between grown up. Nobody wants to talk to meat head fans like you.