Surprised? Closing out the most to prove series is Jason Whitlock and Michelle Beadle's favorite punching bag, Bears QB Jay Cutler. Coming off a disappointing 2009-10 campaign that saw Cutler throw a league high 26 interceptions, Cutler came into the 2010-11 season with a new offensive coordinator in Mike Martz and a musical chair offensive line. Cutler got off to a hot start with impressive games against the Lions, Cowboys, and Packers, but that hot streak came to a screeching halt in the week 4 game against the Giants defensive front. The Giants D-Line sacked Cutler 9 times in the first half, resulting in Cutler leaving the game with a concussion (although I believe he was playing with a concussion most of that 1st half).
When Cutler followed that game up with two bad performances against the Seahawks and Redskins, HC Lovie Smith, Martz, and OL coach Tice went back to the drawing board in the bye week. The offensive adjustment seemed to work for Jay which saw him lead the Bears offense to an impressive 2nd half of the season. The most impressive highlights after the bye week was his performance against the Eagles and Jets; two primetime games that the Bears wasn't really favored in by media experts. Jay would follow up his strong 2nd half performance with a solid Playoff debut against the Seahawks scoring 4 touchdowns (2 passing and 2 Rushing) leading the Bears to a NFC Championship match-up against hated rival Green Bay Packers. To make a long story short, Cutler suffered a MCL Tear in his knee some point early in the 2nd quarter, media and NFL players decided it would be cool to question Jay toughness on twitter, and despite the truth coming out about his injury media stayed on the attack.
The NFL lockout might have benefitted Jay as it took most of the attention off of him. Salmon Wilcox pointed out a couple weeks ago on NFL Total Access that in year 3 in Chicago this could be a make or break year for Jay Cutler. Hard to believe that a guy that had you one game away from a Super Bowl appearance is in a make or break year, but to some extent I agree. I think if Cutler doesn't have a solid season this year, he won't be exiled by the front office, but some doubt would start to creep into the mind of Jerry Angelo and also minds of Bears fans. Jay most likely understands this which is why you see him stepping up as a leader and conducting player only work outs during this lockout. What I would like to see from Jay in his 2nd year in OC Mike Martz system is continued improve decision making and mechanics. Yes he had a solid season last year, but he also left a lot of yards and points on the field because he wasn't stepping into his throws and opting to throw off his back foot. With much pressure on him Jay has a lot to prove, and with the way his 2010-11 season ended I have no doubt he's anxious to prove to the skeptics that he's still one of the most talented QB's in the NFL.