Who else but Jay Cutler in a quarterback driven league would I have at #1? Anticlimactic, yes. But, teams usually only go as far as their quarterbacks take them, and don't bring that tired Trent Dilfer argument to the table, that Ravens team was the exception. Teams that don't get good QB play don't win consistently in the NFL.
Oh sure, your defense can sometimes get you to the playoffs, and of course a dominant running game will get you far on occasion, but without solid QB play, you ain't winning the big one.
I think even if Ron Turner had been retained as offensive coordinator, Jay Cutler would have had a better season in 2010. The O-Line will be better, and the receiving corps all have another year of experience under their belts. Now the Bears add Mike Martz to the mix, a coach who is as detail orientated as any in the business, and I think Jay Cutler will take his play to a level he's never seen before. He already has a couple Bears passing records on his resume, and I think after the '10 season, he'll add a few more.
The continual fear I'm reading from you guys is all the 7 step drops will likely cause Cutler to get creamed. It's true that quarterbacks in the Martz system tend to get sacked more often, but remember... none of those QBs have had the kind of mobility that Cutler does. He's used to having classic drop back passers running his offense, but with Cutler under center I wouldn't be surprised to see him get outside the pocket a little bit.
I'm sure some of the praise Martz is heaping on Cutler is because he's now his guy, but he has seemed very excited to work with Jay. From chicagobears.com, Martz speaking about Cutler;
We've thrown everything at him and he's handled everything exceptionally well. He's a student of the game, and I think he has an affinity for what we're doing.
I have the utmost confidence in him. I don't blink with him, and he can do things that I've never seen anybody do before. He's got some very special qualities.
He's such a fast learner. He absorbs things so quickly. He gets it immediately. When we put something in new, he understands the concepts immediately. If he makes a mistake, it's a one-time thing. He's such a quick study in everything we do.
Getting back to the 7 step drop thing for a bit, it's not like he'll be dropping back and waiting around for his receivers to get open. With the timing based offense they're running, Cutler will retreat from the defense, plant his foot and sling it. Martz has his pass routes designed so when his QB takes his drops and scans the defense, he reads where to throw the ball and the receivers will break to an area. Seven steps, plant, throw. And the 7 step drop series is just a small part of what they'll do. You'll see plenty of 3 and 5 step drops, some play-action, and of course they'll actually run the ball on occasion.
From a leadership standpoint, he was voted a team captain last year, but I expect him to take on an even bigger role this season. He seemed to mature a bit in 2009. He still was a bit too animated to the referees when he thought a call was missed, but you've got to like his passion and the way he would fight for his receivers to get a call. But, I'd still like him to tone it down a bit. His receivers made some mistakes last year, but Cutler never called them out publicly. In fact he continually would talk up his teammates, and he always took responsibility for his own mistakes. A couple signs of maturing into a leader.
I'll backtrack a bit on my rankings, as I do think the biggest key to the Bears success will be the offensive line, but the o-line as a whole, all gelling and playing well. But considering how they finished up last season, and with guys starting off where they should be starting off, and with Mike Tice coaching them up, I think the line will be fine. If the Bears are to have any success in 2010, it will be on Jay Cutler to get it done.
#10 - Robbie Gould - Kicker
#9 - Matt Forte - Running back
#8 - Olin Kreutz - Center
#7 - Mike Martz - Offensive Coordinator
#6 - Chris Harris - Safety
#5 - Chris Williams - Left Tackle
#4 - Tommie Harris - Defensive Tackle
#3 - Julius Peppers - Defensive End
#2 - Brian Urlacher - Middle Linebacker
#1 - Jay Cutler - Quarterback