Potential is a word that has followed Jay Cutler around since he was the 11th overall selection in the 2006 NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos. He was starting to live up to that potential, when in 2008 he was voted to play in the Pro Bowl. After that season he was traded to the Chicago Bears, and he hasn't been able to recapture his 2008 form.
Was that more due to his supporting cast, to his coaching, the offensive scheme, or did Jay simply regress as a player?
Honestly, I think it may be a combination of all four. Until last season he was missing the security blanket of a legitimate #1 receiver. When he was in Denver he not only had Brandon Marshall, but a competent tight end, a good #2 wide out, and a solid slot receiver. Not to mention a very good offensive line that only allowed Cutler to be sacked 11 times in 2008. Remember Cutler was dropped 10 times in one game in 2010 with the Bears.
Cutler has been pressured a lot during his time in Chicago, and that has led to some sloppier fundamentals. When you start quarterbacking gun shy, your footwork starts to slip, as does your follow through. He spent so much time being hit, that he started anticipating pressure that wasn't always there.
Jay Cutler also spent the first three years of his career being coached by an offensive minded coach in, who utilizes a version of the West Coast Offense. The WCO was also what he ran during his first year as a Bear, before giving way to the Martzfense for a couple years, and then last year to what ever you want to call the Mike Tice O.
Which catches us up to 2013 and the current scheme being implemented by Marc Trestman. While we don't know the specifics of his offense, we do know it's rooted in the WCO. An style of offense that Jay had his season bests in yards, touchdowns, completion percentage, and QB rating. You can check out his entire seven year totals by clicking here, and this table represents his four years in the WCO.
If you take his four year WCO totals, then do a little math, you come up with a per game average of 21 completions, 33 attempts, and 239 yards per game. You then extrapolate that out to a 16 game season, and you have 336 completions, 528 attempts, 3824 yards, and to take it even further the TD to Interceptions would be 24 to 19. During his WCO years, the percentage of times he was sacked per attempt was 4.6%.
While those extrapolated numbers aren't world beating, that would be a solid stat line.
For comparisons sake here are his per game averages during his last three years, 17 comp., 30 att., and 216 yards. Do a little fancy math extrapolation and we have a 16 game season stat line of 272 of 480, for 3456 yards, with 22 TD, and 14 Ints. His sack percentage per attempt in the Mike Martz and Mike Tice years was 8.7%.
The big difference between the two eras is obviously the sack percentage. So it begs the question, is his success in the WCO more due to his actually having time to throw those few years, or to his skill set translating more to the scheme?
The 2013 Chicago Bears offensive line has the potential to be the best one he's played with since his Denver days. The '13 Chicago receiving combination of Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Martellus Bennett, Earl Bennett, and Matt Forte is potentially better than the Marshall, Eddie Royal, Tony Scheffler, Brandon Stokley, and Peyton HiIlis that Cutler worked with in his Pro Bowl 2008 season.
There's no question Jay Cutler has the potential to pop off 4,000 yards passing, complete over 60% of his passes, and throw 25 TDs, but will he do it this season? Will Jay best be able to reach his full potential in Trestman's WCO? Is an offensive minded head coach what he needs to reach his potential? Time will tell, but there's no question he has had his most statistical success in those scenarios.