Is it Jay Cutler's Turn To Be An Elite Quarterback?

CHICAGO - OCTOBER 24: Jay Cutler #6 of the Chicago Bears drops back to pass against the Washington Redskins at Soldier Field on October 24 2010 in Chicago Illinois. The Redskins defeated the Bears 17-14. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

So, apparently all you have to do to become an elite quarterback is say that you are an elite quarterback. This worked well for Eli Manning last year, and to be fair he kind of backed it up by leading his team to the a Super Bowl victory. Joe Flacco's name was also bandied around as someone who might be taking the next step up, but I for one remain a little unconvinced of that.

So what of Jay Cutler? Is it time for the Bear's QB to rise to the next level and stake his claim as one of the NFL's elite passers?

Just exactly who are the best quarterbacks in the league. You would have to be looking at names like Rodgers, Brady, Brees and Eli Manning, to name a few. I suppose everyone's definition of elite is a different one. But I take it to mean someone who consistently puts up big numbers, is a leader on the field and can play well under pressure. You have to be the type of player who can rally late in the game and lead a game winning drive with only seconds to go in the fourth quarter. That's what separates the great from the good.

It also helps to play on a team that is blessed with good receivers, and a competent offensive line.

And this is what has stopped Cutler from being seen as one of the best in the league.

There is no doubting his arm strength or both his mental and physical toughness. But he just hasn't had the receivers in Chicago to help him take that next step. To put it bluntly, he has been let down too many times. And it has often been his offensive line that has reneged on their part of the deal.

Will this year be any different? There is no question that this current crop of receivers looks to be the best the Bears have had for a long time. Everyone is expecting great things from Brandon Marshall, and rookie wide out Alshon Jeffery will be looking to fulfill his potential. Earl Bennett will be looking to be as reliable as ever and Devin Hester looks to figure again in the passing game.

So Cutler will have the players he needs. But can the offensive line offer him the protection he needs?

With time in the pocket, Cutler is one of the league's best. Like I said, he has the arm strength to make any throw, and is very accurate. But all too often over the last couple of seasons, time in the pocket has been a luxury seldom afforded to the Bears QB.

And while the Bears did little in the way of adding to the offensive line, Lovie Smith is as confident as ever in the current group of players he has. And at least we will finally get a proper look at what Gabe Carimi can do.

The closest Cutler has ever been to passing for 5000 yards in a season was back in 2008, when he was still with the Denver Broncos. Last season saw three quarterbacks throw for over 500 yards. Not that this is the only thing that makes an elite QB, but Cutler has got to start putting up the type of numbers that makes other teams stand up and take notice.

Last year also saw Drew Brees throw 46 touchdown passes. The most that Cutler has ever thrown is 27, with the Bears in 2009. This isn't meant to be too critical of Cutler; it just goes to show that it would be naive to view him as an elite quarterback. Yet.

But I think this year really could be a breakout type of season for him. He has been reunited with his QB coach Jeremy Bates from their time in Denver. Mike Tice is the new offensive coordinator, and Cutler finally has the weapons around him that can help elevate him to the next level.

So what do we think? Is this the year that Cutler establishes himself as one of the best in the NFL? Let us know.

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