What follows is a text message exchange between a fellow Bears fan and I that took place approximately two hours after news of the Jay Cutler trade broke. I think that our conversation perfectly summarizes the two types of reactions that one can have to this news, from a Bears fan's point of view.
Friend: "(The Bears) gave up a lot. More than I expected. (Cutler) better shut his mouth and play. But, finally, a good QB."
Ghost: "(The Bears also) got a lot."
Friend: "Yeah, (but) those first round picks are important."
Ghost: "So are those franchise quarterbacks. The Bears have had plenty of top picks. They haven't had a franchise quarterback in 60 years."
Friend: "I know. I just hope (that) this attitude (problem) is an anomaly."
Ghost: "Brett Favre was a whiny @!%$&. But you know what? I'd still take him."
That, Bears fans, is what we are looking at here. Yes, the Bears may have inherited a prima donna. But they also got perhaps the most physically gifted quarterback in the NFL. Cutler is 25 years old. He has been in the league three years, two as a full-time starter. In those two years, he has posted QB ratings of 88.1 and 86.0. In their 89 years as a franchise, where a quarterback has had at least 275 attempts, these would be the third and fourth best seasons in Bears history. IN HIS FIRST TWO YEARS AS A STARTER.
Let's look at some more numbers. Cutler has been durable, not missing a start in his last two seasons. From last year alone, he would already hold the Bears' single season records for completions, attempts, completion percentage (minimum 275 attempts) and yards. He would be third all-time in touchdown passes and QB rating (minimum 275 attempts).
What's funny is, prior to writing this article I was already going to write a piece about how pleased I have been with the Bears' offseason. To this point, Chicago has already signed three offensive linemen in free agency, anyone of whom could have easily started on last year's line. Orlando Pace and Kevin Shaffer are both arguably better than any Bears lineman from last year. Frank Omiyale is a young, versatile prospect who drew interest from as many as ten teams. Consider that Chris Williams, last year's first round pick, is essentially an addition after his "redshirt" rookie season, and the Bears have basically added four linemen who could have realistically competed for starting positions on last year's line. And, to the surprise of many, last year's line wasn't even that bad. Matt Forte must be very pleased.
Think about what Cutler does to the Bears' offense. How many times did Kyle Orton miss Devin Hester deep last year? By my count, at least four or five times. How many times will Cutler, who may have the most accurate deep ball in the league, miss those passes? A play action fake to Matt Forte followed by a deep strike to Hester will become a staple of the Bears' attack. Yes, the Bears are still lacking in wide receiver talent. However, can't Forte, Greg Olson, and Desmond Clark handle many of the possession receptions required to move the chains? Won't Cutler make some of the Bears' mediocre receivers better? Won't the threat of a consistent deep ball open up more rushing lanes for Forte? Folks, with the addition of a legitimate star talent at quarterback and an improved offensive line, the Bears will have a much better offense next year. All of this after one of the more encouraging offensive years in recent Bears' history (though that's not saying much). AND the team still has second and third round picks in a draft deep in wide receiver talent.
Think about how Cutler fits into this Bears' team. The Bears have a young prospect at wide receiver, a man who has flashed ability, but who has struggled to adjust to the NFL game. Don't you think it will help Earl Bennett to have Jay Cutler back, the quarterback who made him the SEC's all-time leading receiver? Don't you think Cutler will feel at home having his favorite receiver in college running routes for him in the NFL? What about having his college blindside protector (Chris Williams) back keeping pass rushers off of his back? What about returning to the Midwest, only a day's drive from his hometown, for his childhood team, and his first choice for a new location to ply his trade? Don't you think Jay Cutler can settle in to that situation?
And what does Cutler do to the Bears' defense? That unit has underwhelmed as of late, but there is still a lot of veteran talent on that side of the ball. Doesn't an instant infusion of offense motivate some of those frustrated defenders, whose effort has been lacking? The Bears' defense has not played with anything approaching a one/two punch of Cutler and Forte- or at least not for a long, long time. Don't you think that this will motivate those defenders to put a little more into their offseason workouts?
Without question, Jay Cutler needs to mature. Without question, the Bears still need to improve their football team. Without question, the Bears gave up a lot of high draft picks. But how often do those high draft picks turn into something that the Bears can use? And on the flip side, the Chicago Bears now have a quarterback who can likely pilot this offense for the next ten years.
At the most important position on the field, the Bears haven't been able to say that in the majority of our lifetimes. Somewhere, Sid Luckman just sighed in relief. Finally, after waiting 60 years, his successor has arrived.
Yesterday, the Chicago Bears had a veteran team whose championship window had virtually slammed shut. Today, that door got pushed open a little wider. For that alone, Jay Cutler was worth the gamble.
Jay Cutler is our quarterback. Are we sure that it isn't April 1st?