Jay Cutler, we hardly knew ye.
(Wait that’s not right. Hold on.)
Jay Cutler, we knew ye all too well.
Now that Jay Cutler’s 2016 season is over, Bears fans are wondering if his Bears career is over too. The WCG staff teamed up to examine that question, and five others, about #6.
1. Should Jay be back next year?
5 votes: No
Jeff Berckes: No. This has nothing to do with football. If it were just football, I'd say yes. Selfishly, I'm sick and tired of defending Jay as a decent quarterback to the rank-and-file football fans. I'm sick and tired of having random people tell me "All we need to do is get ridda Cutler" at the grocery store or gas station. I'm sick and tired of it all. You win, Universe. I give up.
Sam Householder, @samhouseholder: I've been back and forth on this, but no. It's time for a clean break. I think Jay will still want to be a starter somewhere and I'm not sure how he would potentially do with a high draft pick breathing down his neck. I think it would be better for a fractured fan base and the franchise to all just move on.
Lester Wiltfong, @WiltfongJr: Nope. I'm a fan of his and I think he's probably the most talented QB they could possibly start 2017 with, but I just think it's time to move on. There's been a cloud hanging over the Bears for a while now and until they make the decision to start fresh with their own QB, the franchise will continue to be strained.
That being said, I'd be OK if they decide to bring him back. The bottom line is, I want to cheer a winner and I really don't care who lines up under center if the Bears can win.
Ed Snyder: No. It's over. In sum total it has just not worked, and it's not likely to work going forward. When a team hits that point, they have to get started in another direction they think will get them to the ultimate goal — a championship.
Robert Zeglinski, @robertzeglinski: No. This roller coaster has taken it's toll. I think this endless debate surrounding Cutler and the general energy has worn on everyone associated with Chicago. His failures with the Bears aren’t all his fault, but he's played a part with everyone. Guaranteed money not withstanding, both sides would benefit from change and a fresh start, regardless of risk.
2 votes: Yes
Josh Sunderbruch: Yes. He's a solid quarterback who is under contract. Assuming the Bears draft someone, there's no reason not to have Jay hold the reins. Assuming they don't draft someone, Jay still gives the team the best chance to win compared to almost any other free agent who will be available.
Cutting a guy just to say you made a move is the kind of thing bad organizations do instead of actually improving. I get why people are tired of the circus, but I want wins.
Steven Schweickert, @SJS_Illini: Yes. Though the arguments to get away from Jay are legit, the main arguments and sentiment for actively removing him from the roster seems to be "Because they can." That really isn't a good reason to do anything.
2 votes: Well.... that depends
Jack M Silverstein, @readjack: Drafting our quarterback of the future and retaining Jay in 2017 are not mutually exclusive options. If Ryan Pace thinks cutting him loose is the best plan, fine. But let's have a plan, whatever we do. "SCREW CUTLER! HE SUCKS!" is not a plan.
Ken Mitchell, @WCGBearsDenDude: Jay should be a Chicago Bear until we have a legitimate replacement program in place. Going into next season with Matt Barkley, Connor Shaw and no promising draft pick is not a plan.
It's past time to start the process of moving on from Jay, but dumping him with no replacement is a bad idea. If we get a promising draft pick and can find "a guy" who can manage games until the kid is ready, then yes.
2. What is the single biggest factor that has prevented the Bears from winning the Super Bowl in the Cutler era?
6 votes: Personnel decisions
Mitchell: Overall offensive talent back when our defense was still young enough to dominate, when Urlacher and Briggs were still in their prime, and when our special teams ruled the NFL.
We had Cutty, who could have been league average. We had Matt Forte, one of the best running backs in the NFL. We had Greg Olsen, a promising young tight end who would eventually be a star (just not for us). We had ONE offensive lineman who was decent (Olin). And that was it.
Had we prioritized getting two solid wideouts and a league-average o-line, we would have been legit contenders. Then the defense got old, and off the rails we went.
Householder: Making the wrong moves — whether it was firing offensive coordinators and replacing them with progressively more incompetent choices, bad head coaching hires, poor drafting, or never building a cohesive offensive line. These are all factors but it's just been about making the wrong decisions at the wrong times.
Maybe it was time to move on from Lovie Smith — he had no shot at getting a good coordinator to come to Chicago — but hiring Marc Trestman was wrong. It's been those moves: One good one followed by a bad one.
Schweickert: Single biggest? I'll go with Phil Emery. With Lovie and a solid defense, the Bears had plateaued, and Emery decided to roll with an offensive mind to develop his quarterback. Of course, with that offensive mind came Aaron Kromer, Mel Fifty-Burger Tucker, three drafts resulting in Kyle Long, Kyle Fuller, Ka'Deem Carey, Marquess Wilson and Alshon Jeffery, and a dismantling of a team without a proper reloading.
Snyder: I think it's been a multitude of factors, but if I had to pick only one I'd say the inability to assemble or effectively use offensive talent. At first the offensive line was in shambles and Jay got pummeled. The ability to gather and properly use enough complimentary skill players has been a consistent problem until very recently.
Zeglinski: The biggest reason the Bears haven't won a Super Bowl with Cutler is simple: poor planning and mismatched talent.
When Jay was still young and malleable, they completely overestimated his abilities to carry a team by himself. The Bears had a talented defense, but an offensive line and horrid cast of receivers to start his career doomed him. It was remarkable he even helped them stay afloat long enough. That and inconsistency with offensive systems, all eventually turned Cutler into the average player he is now.
Chicago never put him in a proper position to succeed. Luck with some injuries would've helped too.
3 votes: Cutler himself, one way or another
Silverstein: I want to say offensive line performance in 2010 and 2011. I really do. Jay was sacked 51 times in 37 games in Denver. He was sacked 106 times in his first 37 regular season games in Chicago.
Aaron Rodgers was sacked 50 times in 2009; he won the Super Bowl the next year. Tom Brady was sacked 41 times in 2001; he won his first Super Bowl that year. He was sacked 40 times in 2013; he won his fourth Super Bowl the following year. Joe Flacco was sacked 40 times in 2010 and won a Super Bowl two years later. Ben Roethlisberger was sacked 50 times in 2009 and has topped 40 sacks six times.
It's Jay. He's the biggest factor. Not him personally per se, but the decision the team made to build around him and make all decisions based on him. I’m a huge Cutler supporter and always will be, but he’s the one constant from 2009 to now.
Berckes: Bad luck, plus injuries to Jay. I think Cutler's injuries in 2011 and 2012 knocked the Bears out of the playoff picture in years lacking dominant teams.
Wiltfong: There's no one thing. When the Bears acquired Cutler, they thought they were getting a legit franchise-altering player in the mold of Brett Favre, Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers. They've now learned that Jay isn't that. He needs to be more game manager than gunslinger and in the years where the Bears were good, the team simply played good complimentary football.
1 vote: Sharing a division with Aaron Rodgers
Sunderbruch: Aaron Rodgers. If you put the Cutler-led Bears of 2010, 2011, or 2012 in the AFC South or the NFC South (or even the 2010/2011 NFC West), this team has a lot more wins. Cutler has suffered from playing twice a year against one of the best in the league.
After that, though, Jeff is absolutely right about the injuries and the bad luck.
3. Of Jay's 8 seasons in Chicago, which is the biggest missed opportunity for a Super Bowl championship?
6 votes: 2011
Sunderbruch: 2011. If Johnny Knox doesn't slip, that team makes the playoffs. If Jay's impact with Cason had been at a slightly different angle, then that team makes the playoffs. More than that, if Jay finishes that year healthy, then 2012 looks different, as well.
Householder: This is easy: setting aside the 2010 NFC Championship game, the real missed opportunity was 2011. If Jay doesn't chase down that tackle it's tough to imagine the team going 1-5 down the stretch. Who knows what happens in the playoffs that year?
Schweickert: 2011. Jay was on a different level that year as a playmaker until he got hurt.
Wiltfong: It was 2011, the second year of the Mike Martz offense. Cutler had the lowest interception percentage of his career and the sack percentage was down to 6.8% from 10.7% the year prior. The Bears were settling into a groove running the ball, they were more balanced, and they had just won five in a row before Cutler injured himself trying to make a tackle.
Snyder: 2011. Despite the consistent beatings Jay endured, the offense was rolling and the team was 7-3. Jay breaks his thumb and the next week the wheels fell off. The losing streak started and basically didn't stop as they ended up 8-8.
Zeglinski: Many will no doubt say 2010, but 2011 will always hurt the most. The Bears were finally rolling. They had consistency from Cutler and the Urlacher-Tillman-Peppers defense. They looked like the "hot team" to make a run through the NFC.
But Johnny Knox slipping on the less-than-ideal Soldier Field turf ended all of those dreams. In my opinion, that was the most complete team of Cutler's entire time in Chicago. The Bears losing five of their last six games after with Caleb Hanie was just a final crushing blow. A shame.
1 vote: 2010
Mitchell: 2010, but did we really feel like we were the team to beat for the Ship even then? No. There were a lot of smoke and mirrors going on.
2 votes: 2012
Berckes: I replay 2012 in my head a lot. That team was 7-1 in the first half of the year and finished 3-5 to miss the playoffs with one of those rare 10-win or no-playoffs years.
2012 felt like it would be the last hurrah at the time for the defense and with Urlacher's departure it started the chain reaction to today's Dumpster fire. 2011 is the best year to defend Cutler as a good QB as that was a very good 7-3 team that folded in his absence.
Silverstein: You can make a great case for 2010 or 2011, but I'll take 2012. We were 7-1 and finished 3-5. The 2012 season came down to the Flacco-led Ravens and the Kaepernick-led 49ers; neither team was an all-timer. We needed to make it happen in the back half of 2012 and we didn't.
That’s the end of Part 1.
CLICK HERE for Part 2, and our final three questions:
- When it's all said and done, what will you remember FIRST about Cutler's time in Chicago?
- What is your favorite memory of Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears Quarterback?
- Knowing what you know now, if you could go back to April 2, 2009, would you still trade for Cutler?