Cutler, Raiders P.S., What do you want to believe?

Cutler, Raiders P.S., What do you want to believe?
August 24, 2013, 10:30 pm
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A P.S. on Jay Cutler’s night in Oakland, because what some of what was happening has the potential to be franchise- and career-altering:

Cutler’s performance through the Bears’ 27-3 first half “win” over the Raiders was remarkable in part because it was actually so unremarkable.

Using some what-if math:

He completed 12 of 21 passes. He had six balls dropped. Give him 18 of 21. One of the drops was a difficult chance for tight end Martellus Bennett that was notable because Cutler saw immediately the coverage matchup that Bennett had and lofted a ball that either Bennett or no one was going to catch.

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So there is Cutler at 18-for-21. Now excuse two of the incompletions as very smart throwaways. One was lofted out of bounds and the other, more notable, was in the direction of Alshon Jeffery but was thrown about 10 yards short of the intended receiver.

Another Cutler, knowing that Jeffery is “on” and catching everything thrown in his area code, calls on the arm power that has been his blessing and curse, and launches a ball into coverage, relying on his arm and Jeffery’s hands. Had the ball been thrown that way, then either the pass is intercepted, incomplete or Jeffery is being administered to, because the pattern had him on course for being annihilated by a Raiders safety.

Cutler’s passer rating for the evening was 93.8. That’s just a statistic and those can be jury-rigged to suit arguments.

But consider:

Cutler is 25-1 in his career when he posts a passer rating of 100-plus. The reason is simple: The way you get 100-ratings is to not throw interceptions. The biggest weight in the rating formula is given to interceptions, as it should be since turnovers are in fact the most meaningful stat in football.

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Meaning:

When Cutler avoids mistakes, he is a winning quarterback. He does not have the arm or leg talent to overcome them, as his career to this point has too amply revealed ... Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, name whoever – they win because their decision-making consistently culls out the stupid throws, leaving the good stuff and letting their talent rise to the top naturally, without being forced into double-coverage.

And if the Oakland game is to be believed, Cutler may finally be getting that. Insiders told CSNChicago.com that this is THE No. 1 point the triumvirate of Marc Trestman, Aaron Kromer and Matt Cavanaugh are pounding into Cutler, more than footwork, release or anything else.

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Cutler’s talent has never been the question; his decision-making on using that talent has been. Friday was a hint of what can happen when he cleans that up.

“It’s only preseason,” but...

The problem with this particular preseason is that it provides arguably less perspective into what and where the Bears are than most. The 2012 season is why.

The four preseason Bears opponents – Carolina, San Diego, Oakland, Cleveland – all had losing records in 2012. The Chargers and Browns fired coaches after the season; the Panthers and Raiders could after this one unless fortunes change.

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So what the Bears have been facing has been the first half of their 2012 schedule, the kind of order of battle that produces 7-1 records against Tennessees, Jacksonvilles and Detroits but doesn’t necessarily reveal how they will do when the schedule brings up Houston, San Francisco and Minnesota. In three weeks the schedule will bring up Cincinnati, a Super Bowl pick by some analysts, and Minnesota, a Packers challenger by some.

Doubters didn’t trust the 7-1 start last season because of the quality of opponent. Trusting the positives this preseason might be viewed through the same prism.