Originally written on Midway Illustrated  |  Last updated 7/20/13

CHICAGO - AUGUST 21: Jay Cutler of the Chicago Bears warms-up before a preseason game against the Oakland Raiders at Soldier Field on August 21, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Raiders defeated the Bears 32-17. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
So it comes down to this, the direction of the Chicago Bears franchise for the next five years comes down to Jay Cutler's contract year.   If Cutler falters the Bears can completely blow up the roster and go 180-degrees in a different direction and the team will look completely different a year from now.  If he finally lives up to the expectations of a franchise quarterback then the Bears are going to be very busy this next off-season trying to retain players who can support Cutler during a championship window that will be open only because of Cutler's success. That's the expectations and where they exist now, the window on a Chicago Bears championship has been open because of the defense, if the window is to remain it will be on the right arm of number-6.  The defense can no longer be expected to carry this franchise, Brian Urlacher's retirement was the turning point away from that era.  It's now or never for Jay Cutler and if finally achieves what he was supposed to when he came here in 2009, then the Bears can retain players accordingly.  If at the end of the season the young players on defense step up, and Julius Peppers, Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman still play at Pro Bowl levels then you can keep Peppers and Briggs and resign Tillman for a couple more years.  If Cutler falters then the Bears enter rebuilding mode and find a franchise QB to build around rather than trying to rebuild around a QB who is 30 years-old.  It won't make sense to continue to draft players who need three years to develop because in three years Cutler's talent may be wasted and so would a lot of money.  The Bears can't rebuild the defense entirely by letting Peppers, Briggs and Tillman walk because there is no youth in place behind Tillman and you're not likely to see elite production from either McClellin or Greene or Bostic.  There has to remain a relative level of stability within the organization if you plan on extending Jay Cutler because developing a new defense, developing a new scheme will take time, time Cutler's age does not afford Phil Emery.  So what will we get from Jay Cutler?  The short answer should be, we should get the best season out of Cutler we have ever seen in a Chicago Bears uniform and likely the best season of his career.  No, he likely won't approach 4,500 yards passing, but there should be a level of efficiency in his game we have never seen before.  The head coach is a quarterback driven coach, with an offensive system that is going to get the best out of Jay Cutler.  Cutler will have to be disciplined and when he's been asked to he's put together the best seasons of his career.  Now he'll have a combination of discipline, protection and weapons that should maximize his production.  Everyone including Cutler knows there are no more excuses, no more limitations within this offense.  Now they pyramid has been built and there isn't a brick missing so it's time to reach up into the heavens and pull down a Lombardi trophy before the window to that dimension closes.
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