Originally posted on Midway Illustrated  |  Last updated 6/7/13
The Chicago Bears have done just about everything humanly possible to help Jay Cutler succeed over the last two off seasons by giving him the players around him to succeed.  They've done this by improving the offensive line and adding two of the best receivers on the roster perhaps in the history of the franchise.  Adding a veteran pass receiver in Brandon Marshall, Cutler's all-time favorite target, and drafting Alshon Jeffery gives Cutler two legitimate wide receivers, both with the talent to be number one receivers on any NFL roster.  Signing Matt Slauson to be an anchor in pass protection along the interior while drafting Kyle Long to develop in pass protection at right guard will clear Cutler's line of sight so he can scan the field.  Now the most important player in the history of the franchise must take the next step on his own.  Jay Cutler is without question the most talented quarterback in the history of the franchise, and arguably the most talented QB in the NFL drafted over the last 10 to 20 years.  From a physical standpoint no player possesses a better combination of arm strength, overall athleticism, competitive fire and toughness.  Cutler has it all, and enough between the ears to be an elite NFL quarterback capable of carrying his team on his back into the playoffs on an annual basis.  Every year we have seen flashes of greatness from Cutler, but every year we've been left wanting more from him.  He has yet to put together a complete season that fully encompasses precisely how great he can be as a QB in the NFL. Now there is a system in place for Cutler to succeed and to play at a level he's fully capable of playing at.  According to metrics from ProFootball Focus and Football Outsiders Jay Cutler's 2008 season in a Denver Broncos uniform rated as the fourth best season in the NFL that year.  That was Cutler's best season in a system similar to what he'll be running under Marc Trestman in Chicago during the 2013 season.  Trestman developed a West Coast passing offensive system in San Francisco the same place where Mike Shannahan developed his system, where Jon Gruden developed his system.  Why do I add Jon Gruden into the equation?  Aaron Kromer was the offensive line coach with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during Gruden's tenure as coach.  Kromer's protection schemes plus offensive scheme designs should easily mesh with Trestman's offense given their from the same blueprint. What's left is for Jay Cutler to perform at a level he's fully capable of playing at, developing his ability to read defenses, keep his feet set throughout his progressions and deliver the football on time.  Perhaps Cutler's biggest flaw has been his footwork and fundamentals when going through his progressions.  So often Cutler throws off his back foot, doesn't follow through correctly or doesn't keep his delivery compact when delivering the football.  Other times he simply air mails his throw because he hasn't developed a sense of touch to coincide with his elite arm strength.  This is where Trestman comes in and has already been working hard with Cutler on improving.  Cutler's mechanics and his speed at going through his progressions has to improve.  If these aspects of his game improve then Cutler will improve.  When Cutler is asked to be a disciplined QB and play within a system he has had his best success.  Despite Mike Martz's antiquated offensive system that often saw Cutler getting killed with five man protections and seven step drops he enjoyed his two best season in a Bears uniform in that system.  When Cutler is forced to be a disciplined QB his play usually is at a higher level.  According to a recent article on ESPN.com from a Football Outsiders analyst Cutler has had comparable seasons to some of the games best QBs.  From the article about statistical metric similarity scores: "Football Outsiders' similarity scores can help answer that question. Originally developed by baseball expert Bill James, and since used by countless analysts in many sports, similarity scores take each player's stat line and search a database for players with similar careers. We most often use our model to predict future performance, so we include not just on-field numbers but other factors such as height, weight and age." The player Cutler most relates to is Jason Campbell, but that's due to injuries that both Cutler and Campbell suffered; so in order to gather a more accurate picture of Cutler's success under Martz FootballOutsiders projected slightly different:  "To try to find a more accurate match, let's take Cutler's 2011 numbers, project them over 16 games and put them into the system. With this method, the most similar quarterback to Cutler is Aaron Brooks (2002-04). Then we get a string of New England quarterbacks: Tom Brady (2002-04 and 2003-05) and Drew Bledsode (1996-98 and 1997-99). The match with Brady may seem odd, but remember, in those days Brady was considered a good quarterback who benefited from his team's dominant defense, not the automatic Hall of Famer he turned into over the last half of the decade. Rounding out the 10 best matches for Cutler are Joe Flacco (2009-11), Kyle Orton (2008-10),  Jim Kelly (1985-88),  Eli Manning (2007-09) and Ben Roethlisberger (2006-08)." In that group of quarterbacks that Cutler had similar numbers to exist two hall of famers in Tom Brady and Jim Kelly, and a combined eight Super Bowl titles.  What now has to happen is Jay Cutler has to improve as a QB rather than regress as Brooks, Bledsoe and Orton did in their careers.  Cutler's work with Trestman will determine not only Cutler's future, but the future of the franchise in Chicago.  The journey will not be easy and a lot has to be accomplished in a very short period of time.  Cutler's mechanics have to improve, not to an extremely high level but he has to eliminate the regression in mechanics he had in 2012.  The journey that Cutler is on to improve and become the complete QB he's capable of being is happening right now in OTA workouts, in veteran mini-camp next week and then in training camp.  Each rep Cutler receives from now until the start of the season has to correlate with direct improvement by the QB.  In football the term is always be better today than you were yesterday.  Each practice each rep, each throw make it better than the last one.  Working in Cutler's favor is his veteran experience, he knows what it takes to succeed, he's succeeded before and can do it again.  He can play at a high level he just needs to do it consistently in the final year of his contract.  Trestman is a QB coach and will make Cutler his primary focus, together they can improve each and every to get Cutler and the Bears back to the playoffs. The combination of refined mechanics, plus a better offense, plus better personnel should equate to the best season of Jay Cutler's career.  The time for Cutler to step forward and be the quarterback he's capable of being is now, he should be among the best QBs in the NFL in 2013 and as such the Bears success on the season will be determined by Cutler's play.
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