This is You Heard It Here First – where thinking outside the box and predicting the future is a social pastime.
We’ve all heard it before that Jay Cutler could be a great player if only he could put it all together. We all remember that one great year in Denver when he set the NFL on fire and became considered a “franchise quarterback in waiting”. Fast-track to 2012 and no-one is really saying that anymore. When people talk about Jay Cutler now, they talk about either his unwillingness to play through injury, his lack of leadership skills or his inability to make plays when it counts.
In recent times, the Chicago Bears have begun to look like a playoff team again. In particular, their defense has been keeping them going and have been given much of the credit for the Bears success. Many have accredited the failure for Chicago to capitalise on these good times to Cutler. I want to suggest to all of you that Cutler was not the culprit. Instead, I am pointing the finger right at his former offensive coordinator Mike Martz.
When Mike Martz became the Bears offensive coordinator back in 2010, everyone believed this was going to be the move that helps Cutler get to the top. We all looked back at The Greatest Show On Turf and thought that the way Martz elevated Kurt Warner from grocery store stockman to NFL superstar would do wonders for Cutler.
The hope of Chicago Bears fans died pretty quickly as the offense struggled to adapt to Martz’s complicated offensive gameplan. The Martz system was known for it’s complex nature and a lot of the blame for it’s failure has been placed on Jay Cutler for being unable to run the scheme effectively. I’d like to suggest that the reason that the Bears offense couldn’t function properly with Martz’s playbook was twofold – firstly because their personnel wasn’t really suited to it but secondly because Martz refused to allow any flexibility to the way he did things to the point where Cutler reported said “Tell him I said fuck him!” in a game against the Minnesota Vikings in 2011.
There’s another NFL coach known for stubbornly sticking to his offensive system – Washington Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan. When the Redskins drafted Robert Griffin III this year, many pundits proclaimed that Washington wouldn’t improve very quickly because of Shanahan’s unwillingness to change his scheme. Shanahan has since responded by saying he will be making changes because he recognises that RG3 is a franchise quarterback and “when you’ve got one of them you have to adapt the way you do things to suit their skills”. Had Martz done this with Cutler then we may well have seen better success from the Chicago offense.
This year, Mike Martz is out and the combination of Mike Tice and Jeremy Bates is in. Tice may be the offensive coordinator but his expertise is with the offensive line and from recent comments made by Cutler it sounds like it is Bates coming up with the offensive plays. Cutler had some very complimentary things to say about the change:
“I think Jeremy has a really good feel for what I like to do and what I don’t like to do. There were plays out here today (where) I told them, ‘I don’t like them. Let’s think about getting rid of them.’ (Bates is) fine with that and Tice is fine with that. So it’s a give and take, and that’s a breath of fresh air around here (since Martz left); being able to give ideas.”
I have a great deal of confidence that Jay Cutler has what it takes to became the franchise quarterback the Bears traded for in 2009. It’s obvious he’s now a lot more relaxed than he was under Martz and his history with Jeremy Bates helps matters a lot – Bates was on the Broncos coaching staff and calling offensive plays when Cutler had his Pro Bowl year in 2008. There’s also the point that Cutler has now been reunited with former teammate wide receiver Brandon Marshall especially given that Bates was not only a quarterbacks coach in Denver but also coached wide receivers including Marshall. The Cutler-Marshall combo was deadly in 2008 and I firmly believe that chemistry can be reignited this season.
There may be a lot of competition for Pro Bowl spots at QB in the NFC but there’s hope for Chicago fans. When Jay Cutler makes the Pro Bowl I won’t be surprised and now neither will you because You Heard It Here First.