Since as long as many of us can remember, Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler has been the subject of much criticism from all over the place – recently by former Bears offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer in December of last year.
At the time of the comments, Cutler was averaging almost two turnovers per game and threw more interceptions than Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles, which is not something you’d like to see in a starting quarterback. Even more so if that quarterback just got seven-year $126 million contract in the previous offseason.
Looking at the stat sheet, Cutler’s season wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t great either. He threw for 28 touchdowns and 18 interceptions – the first time he threw for 10 more touchdown passes than interceptions – but also had six lost fumbles en route to a league-leading 24 turnovers.
Adam Gase can change that.
The Bears new offensive coordinator – who arrived from Denver along with head coach John Fox -is coming off two years of coaching perhaps the greatest quarterback of the era in Peyton Manning. While Cutler is not even close to being in the same atmosphere with Manning, the challenge of coaching an NFL quarterback remains the same.
Though only a few practices have taken place this offseason, Gase has already expressed his approval of Cutler and knows that he can be a great quarterback in this league.
While a few different offensive coordinators have entered Chicago with a struggling Cutler and left the Windy City the same way, there is a high possibility that Gase can step away from the trend.
The two have known each other since Cutler was drafted by Denver, when Gase was an offensive assistant for the Detroit Lions, sent to drive Cutler to the team’s headquarters for an interview. They also reunited when Gase was hired as the Broncos’ wide receivers coach in 2009, but Cutler was traded to Chicago not long after his hiring.
Now Gase has Cutler in his grasp for good. In an interview with Bob LeGere of the Daily Herald, Gase talks about the growing process in terms of the quarterback both on and off the field. “He’s so mature now compared to what he probably was then,” said Gase. “When you get married and you’ve got two kids right now, you change over time and between the good and bad things that happen over your career. A lot of ups and downs. I think he’s ready for a fresh start.”
This doesn’t mean that Cutler will be leading the Bears to the top of the conference with an MVP-like season right away, as Gase said that the offensive turnover is at “Step 1 of 1,000.” But it does mean that there is hope that Cutler could be an effective and efficient quarterback in the near future.
Dec 28, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (6) answers questions from the media after the game with the Minnesota Vikings at TCF Bank Stadium. The Vikings win 13-9. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports
Manning went from throwing for 4,659 yards, 37 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 2012, when Gase was the quaretrbacks coach, to a recording-breaking 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns in 2013 under Gase. So the proof of Gase’s influence on quarterbacks, even the best ones, is in the pudding.
General manager Ryan Pace showed his support for Gase’s offense and Cutler by getting veteran receiver Eddie Royal in the offseason, as well as four offensive players in the 2015 NFL Draft – with dynamic receiver Kevin White as the first pick.
If Gase’s process of reshaping the new offense works the way he wants it to, then the critics could have very different opinion about Jay Cutler’s ability to be a reliable quarterback in the near future, but in order for it to work, the Windy City faithful must be patient.
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