How many people here watch True Blood?
I admit, I’m a little embarrassed to say I watch the show. But it sure was entertaining when it started. And wow, did that show eventually go off the rails. I mean, I can buy that some random old vampire in a made up town called Bon Temps would fancy some girl named Sookie that can read minds. Heck, her name is Sookie. And she can read minds. And she played Rogue in X-Men. What’s not to like? But then EVERYONE wants Sookie. Vampires that have been around for 1000’s of years and have had no reason to have a disagreement on anything (which is a major accomplishment, by the way, as I find it difficult not to have a disagreement with random people within a 10 minute period) suddenly decide to go wipe each other out over a part-fairy waitress in a town where they clearly have no one that’s qualified to do anything remotely close to law enforcement? No, really, she’s actually part-fairy. Yeah, it’s that silly. And for some reason, vampires always find themselves with their clothes off. Are they allergic to clothes? Was the show budget cut and the producer decided that they can just save money by not buying any shirts? And then there’s that time that the vampires get bazooka’s and try to blast their way through a witch’s magic shield that she put up around her craft shop after she gets possessed by some spirit that died in a bonfire while some dude is randomly possessed by a Spanish speaking demon that loves dreams that contain lots of fluorescent lights…ugh, my head hurts just putting that sentence together.
My point is that Jay Cutler is like Sookie. No, he can’t read minds and shirtless vampires are not infatuated with him. But he used to be the quarterback that everyone wanted until his game went off the rails, and now nothing about his game makes sense. But, like the writers of True Blood have ruined Sookie, the Bears’ coaches have done good job trying to ruin Jay Cutler as a quarterback. Cutler has had three offensive coordinators since he’s been in Chicago, and each one has tried to make him something different. I know, you’re saying “tell me something I don’t know”. Alright, how about the fact that regardless of going to the Pro Bowl and putting up 4,526 yards and 25 touchdowns in 2008 for the Broncos, he’s never had a quarterback rating over 88.5 (and that was in his first year where he didn’t even play the whole season)? Now, that’s not terrible, in fact, only 11 quarterbacks in 2012 had a passer rating above 88.5 (although Cutler was 20th in passer rating in 2012 with a 81.3), but it’s certainly not “elite” or “pro bowl” level (whatever that means since almost anyone can get into the Pro Bowl nowadays). How about although he’s never had a quarterback rating in Chicago better than he had in any year in Denver, he’s only had a losing record once in Chicago? Just because he’s the most sacked quarterback in the NFL, does that mean he’s a terrible quarterback? Or does that mean he has a terrible offensive line? Or perhaps he’s just a square peg being squeezed into a round hole by coaches that don’t understand him?
So let’s turn back time. What was Jay Cutler doing in 2008, the best season of his career? Shanahan had a run heavy version of the West Coast Offense every year in Denver including 2008. It didn’t require Cutler to scramble, but it did feature plenty of boots and roll outs. Although many question Cutler’s athleticism now, due to him spending more time on the ground than any other quarterback in the NFL, Shanahan’s system allowed Cutler to get outside the pocket and, truth be told, he was relatively nimble when he had to be. Of course, you’re probably all saying, well that’s nice, but didn’t Ron Turner also run a West Coast offense in 2009 where Cutler threw for almost a 1,000 yards less with eight more interceptions and eventually whined enough that Turner got canned? Yup, that’s all true, but as the season went on, it was clear that getting Cutler outside the pocket and on the move worked better than having him sit behind a crumbling line and force a pass downfield. It’s pretty clear that when Cutler is under duress, he tends to start forcing passes into incredibly tight coverage. He’s a gunslinger at heart, and when everything is going down the tubes, that’s what he’s going to do.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time Marc Trestman has met Jay Cutler. We all read the story of Jay Cutler looking for coaching help from Trestman ten years ago and basically spending two days in a hotel staring at him and doing nothing. Welcome to the personality of Jay Cutler. Like I wrote in the past, for some reason, Jay Cutler can only have personality in 30 second stretches and only during NFL Store commercials.
So what can new coach Marc Trestman do for Jay Cutler now that he couldn’t for him all those years ago? Well, first of all, Trestman can bring a run heavy West Coast offense back. Trestman was successful at calling offensive plays in 20 seconds in Montreal that spread the field and gave his quarterback multiple options on quick timing routes. That’s fast and allows Cutler to be nimble, but gives him enough options that he doesn’t have to force something downfield. And, of course, if he has lots of quick routes to choose from that don’t need 8 to 10 seconds to develop, he’s going to get sacked less. Trestman’s offense isn’t run heavy per se, but it would be difficult to avoid using more Matt Forte with a high tempo spread offense, so it just might work. Second, Trestman can bring consistency to the Bears offense. Look at Shanahan in Denver. Did he ever switch his primary offense? No, he did not. And Cutler benefitted from that with three moderately consistent seasons in Denver, each one roughly better than what he’s done in Chicago. And over five years in Montreal, did Trestman ever change his offense. Nope, not once.
So will Jay Cutler suddenly become Aaron Rodgers? Perhaps not. But if we learned anything from watching the likes of Alex Smith and Joe Flacco, you don’t need to be Aaron Rodgers to win. You need a consistent approach and to be put in a position to win (and apparently, if you play for Jim Harbaugh, you also need to avoid concussions). Will Trestman put Cutler in a position to win? I sure hope so. I don’t think I can take another Sookie.
Ha Kung Wong (Twitter: @Rhihan)