Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler had one of his best seasons as a pro in 2015, completing over 64% of his passes and limiting his interceptions to 11. And much of the credit for his season-long performance was attributed to a “comfort zone” that will again be a key in 2016.
A retooled offensive system, quicker passes, better protection and a solid supporting cast all helped elevate the play of Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler a season ago, and head coach John Fox believes they’ll see more of the same in 2016.
“I thought Jay had an outstanding year,” Fox told Sports Illustrated.
It wasn’t all puppy dogs and rainbows for the Bears last season, however. Despite Cutler providing a career-best 92.3 quarterback rating and limiting his aforementioned interceptions, Chicago still finished the year with a dismal 6-10 record (1-7 at home).
But there is a light at the end of the tunnel and Cutler is now leading the charge … provided the team can continue to work on finding him a comfort zone.
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“It wasn’t ideal,” Fox added. “Alshon [Jeffery] wasn’t healthy the whole season. Kevin White did not play. I’m not knocking any of the guys that did play, but a lot is always made of the quarterback, and his supporting cast is critical. I don’t care what it is—defense, offense, wideouts, ability to run the ball … there’s a lot that goes into it besides one guy, although that guy gets a lot of the magnified glass. So if you saw what Jay did last year, I’m expecting good things again.”
Although expectations are high, there will be another inevitable learning curve for Cutler. Tight end Martellus Bennett is now with the New England Patriots, running back Matt Forte, who accounted for 50% of the team’s offensive snaps in 2015, is now with the New York Jets and offensive coordinator Adam Gase has been hired as head coach of the Miami Dolphins.
Of course, Cutler is well-versed in adjusting to new coaches and coordinators, having gone through five different play callers and five different scheme changes since 2009. And while the team’s offensive system will remain in place from a season ago, it will undoubtedly get a few new wrinkles under Dowell Loggains.
“It was critical to keep Jay comfortable,” Fox added. “Everything comes through the quarterback, so keeping Jay in the same system is best for us.”
On the plus side, the luxury for Cutler is that he’ll have both Alshon Jeffery and Kevin White back, while the team focused somewhat heavily on adding talent and depth to their offensive line through both free agency and the NFL Draft.
So long as he and his supporting cast can remain healthy, Cutler now appears destined to salvage his NFL reputation by logging a bit of consistency. In 2015, he received positive grades in 10 of his 16 games per Pro Football Focus, and he and the Bears will look to build upon that this season.
For his part, the 33-year-old Cutler remains motivated. As he had done a year ago, he organized offseason workouts with his teammates this past April and continues to quietly work on perfecting his craft.
It’s a new look, a new approach and a new version of Jay Cutler. And so far, so good.