Jury Still Out on Jay Cutler

Despite Early Flashes of Brilliance in Denver, Shortcomings in Chicago, It's Too Early to Close the Book on Jay

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | Drafted 11th overall by Denver in 2006, Jay Cutler was (finally!) the franchise quarterback Broncos fans had been waiting for since the retirement of Hall-of-Fame QB John Elway. Cutler had a laser, rocket arm; he was brash, a bit on the cocky side. He was the second coming.

Fast forward three short years later ... and he's gone ... dealt to Chicago for QB Kyle Orton, a first- and third-round pick in 2009 and a first-round pick in 2010. Jay Cutler packed up the moving vans and hit the Windy City.

Chicago is a sports town, and the Bears rule the roost. Chicago hadn't had a franchise QB since Sid Luckman, while the rival -- and hated -- Green Bay Packers had just shown Brett Favre the door after 16 years of uninterrupted service, less than a year earlier. It's important to note: during Favre's run, the Bears started 21 different quarterbacks. How could anyone forget the era of Henry Burris, Steve Stenstrom and Moses Moreno?

Bears fans were ready to embrace Cutler full-bore; to roll out the welcome mat and shower him with adoration, just like it did for Dennis Rodman. So why does Jay find himself a pariah in a town of broad-shouldered sports fanatics?

In a word: personality. He's moody. He broods. He doesn't laugh it up with the media. He even swears at fans. A simple search for "Jay Cutler cuss at fans" on a video-sharing website will prove this. Be forewarned: it contains a little bit of adult language.

But like all soap operas between cities and their sports stars, the end has yet to be written in this installment of "Chicago's Hope: Jay Cutler."

The embattled Bears QB has had to endure three different offensive coordinators during his time in the Windy City. That's far too many for any quarterback to be effective -- the best proof being San Francisco's Alex Smith.

The 2005 No. 1 pick out of Utah, Smith was subjected to six different coordinators in his first five NFL seasons. Last year, Jim Harbaugh replaced Iron Mike Singletary as head coach, giving Smith both an offensive mind as well as consistency at the helm. In their first year together -- despite playing under his seventh offensive coordinator in seven seasons -- Smith led them to the NFC championship game. In their second, Smith had the 49ers at 6-2 before a concussion sidelined him and paved the way for "Kaepernicking." At the time of the concussion, he was completing 70 percent of his passes, best in the NFL. He was third among all qualifying QBs in rating at 104.1. He went 19-5-1 in two seasons under Harbaugh; he was 19-31 the previous five.

The lesson in the Smith narrative is simple: consistency pays off, and Jay Cutler is no exception to the rule.

In his first two full seasons running Mike Shanahan's West Coast offense in Denver, Jay Cutler threw for 8,023 yards and 45 touchdowns, despite never posting a QB rating above 89. In his four seasons in Chicago, he's yet to crack 3,700 yards and 30 touchdowns in a campaign, and that's despite playing Three-coordinator Monte and leading the NFL in times sacked. Despite these headwinds coming in off Lake Michigan, he has just one losing season in Chicago.

If new Bears head coach Marc Trestman -- whom, admittedly, I have my doubts about -- can bring stability to the offense, he will achieve former coach Lovie Smith's three-part objective: Beat Green Bay. Win the division. Win the Super Bowl.

Meanwhile, Bears fans, just breathe easy. Cutler likely won't crack 100 in the QB rating department, but his history clearly states that, with consistent coaching, he'll put up 4,000-yard seasons and lead his team to victory.

Just be patient with him. The book of Cutler's career is, quite obviously, not complete.

Doc Hopkins has followed Chicago sports for decades. He has worked in sports media over 10 years and has been published in major publications such as the Chicago Tribune. Follow him on Twitter @SupermanHopkins.

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