Jay Cutler has garnered the reputation of a surly, petulant man-child. Whether he is yelling and swearing at Mike Martz, bumping J’Marcus Webb or simply disinterested at various press conferences, Cutler does no favors for his public image. It is unfortunate that he does not care about his public image, but is ultimately irrelevant.
All that matters is how Cutler performs on the gridiron, and this season, at best, he has been an inconsistent disappointment.
Cutler only has two games this season during which he recorded a passer rating of 90.0 or higher – 98.9 in the week one victory over the Indianapolis Colts and 140.1 against the Dallas Cowboys.
In three games this year against the Packers, Rams and Lions, Cutler posted ratings of 28.2, 58.9, and 76.0 respectively. He has only refrained from throwing an interception in two games all year.
To a certain extent, one can ignore it because the Bears’ record is an NFC North leading 6-1 – second in the NFC. However, one could point to the Bears’ opponents’ combined record of 20-31.
The Bears must make their way through a difficult second half. In the Bears’ next nine games, they play five teams above .500 including Houston and San Francisco, and the combined record of their opponents is 41-29.
What should frustrate fans most is Cutler’s immense potential. He could be a franchise quarterback, and occasionally he plays like it, but rarely does it consistently.
It is never one player’s fault on a football team and many of Cutler’s issues stem from inconsistent offensive line play. When coupled with Webb and others’ frequent false start calls, it is obvious that the blame would not lie solely on Cutler’s shoulders.
Presently though, the Bears are winning and on their way to the playoffs. Aside from Cutler’s inconsistency and offensive line woes, the Bears have been a consistent rushing team, and an incredibly efficient machine of a defensive unit that has lead the NFL in rushing defense, yielding less than 78 yards per game.
Perhaps their only defensive weakness, which they have made up for it with countless interceptions and defensive touchdowns from the likes of Tim Jennings, Charles Tillman and Lance Briggs, is the pass defense that ranks a mediocre 18th in the NFL.
It could be argued that J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans, Briggs and Jennings are the three leading candidates for NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Briggs has had an All-Pro caliber year compiling 44 tackles, one sack, two interceptions – both for touchdowns – and two forced fumbles through seven games. Jennings is having by far the best season of his career. He has already tripled his previous career high interception mark with six of which he returned one for a touchdown.
Chicago can succeed, win their division, and maybe even win a playoff game or two the way that they have played. They own one of the most dangerous defenses in the NFL. The running game has been consistent and Matt Forte is a vital part of the team as always, but when it comes to being a Super Bowl team, it will come down to how high of a level Cutler plays.
If Cutler gets his game together, the Bears could be close to unstoppable. If he continues to put up sub 30.0 passer ratings against the best teams Chicago faces, he and his teammates will never be able to reach the Super Bowl.
David Israel is a senior sports communication major from Skokie. He is the Scout sports reporter.
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