'Cutler watch' begins in earnest for Bears, Chicago

'Cutler watch' begins in earnest for Bears, Chicago
December 30, 2013, 1:45 pm
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Jay Cutler will be Chicago Sports Topic No. 1 until he re-signs as Bears quarterback, which could be announced sometime this week and which has been expected here since not long after the draft, when the positive Cutler assessments began flowing from the coaching staff and front office.

Indeed, one of the questionable moves of Marc Trestman’s rookie NFL head-coaching season might have been leaving an injured Cutler in too long during the second Detroit game. But right or wrong, what wasn’t questionable was that Trestman clearly believed very deeply in his No. 1 quarterback, which became even more amply evident in returning Cutler as the starter when the high-ankle sprain was sufficiently healed.

That sense of impending return intensified when Cutler earlier this month referenced general manager Phil Emery: “I think Phil has a plan,” Cutler said. “Actually, I know Phil has a plan. You guys might not know Phil’s plan, but he has a plan.”

The casual conclusion is that if Cutler knows about Emery’s plan, it’s because Emery shared it with him, and that’s because Cutler is part of it.

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So when Cutler said after Sunday’s loss to Green Bay regarding his contract situation: “I think we’ll deal with that matter later in the week,” the operative word seemed to be “we,” as in he and the Bears getting around to that “plan” Cutler mentioned unsolicited not long ago.

The only questions are how long and how much, but that is in the hands of Emery and finance head Cliff Stein as to total dollars, guaranteed dollars, incentives, escalators, the blizzard of detail that goes into franchise-grade decisions.

And while it won’t figure quantitatively into the organization’s or Cutler’s deliberations, the chemistry within the team and offense is 180 degrees from where it was when Cutler arrived in 2009. Cutler and then-center Olin Kreutz, for instance, did not particularly get along, the more so after Kreutz told Cutler to stop railing at one of his offensive linemen and Cutler told Kreutz to just worry about his own position.

That compared to Cutler wanting to have Roberto Garza remain as his center after Garza filled in when Kreutz and the Bears were arguing contract before the 2011 season. Kreutz left and Garza has remained in place, and he is expected to be re-signed for another season at Cutler’s urging.

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“It’s unbelievable,” Garza said of Cutler’s development. “To put up the numbers that we did with the offense that we had and the playmakers that we had, week in and week out, it was a great thing to be a part of.

“To see Jay go out there and play like we know he can was good to see. It’s definitely something they are going to build on for the future.”

It was Cutler who lobbied for the Bears to acquire wide receiver Brandon Marshall. So it was only fitting that after Sunday’s 33-28 loss to the Green Bay Packers and again during Monday’s season post-mortem that Marshall turned up the volume of his calls for Cutler to be re-signed and for Chicago to want nothing less.

“One thing I know about Chicago,” Marshall began on Monday. “It’s been a long time since we had a quarterback like Jay Cutler. So all your stories this offseason, I think that should be the headline, or that should be the story written this year: ‘Oh, how we love Jay Cutler, because it’s been so long.’

“His first few years here he hadn’t gotten it done, and I think that’s not all on him. There’s some on him but then you look around and he’s one of the most beat-up quarterbacks around; didn’t have adequate coaching on the offensive side of the ball. Every year I think we had a different offensive coordinator. Now that you have continuity, not only upstairs, but also in the locker room, or the room with the wide receivers, offensive line, running back position, it’s set up for him to be successful. The steps that he’s taken this year in leadership and even growing as a quarterback, mentally and physically, we saw those things but it was kind of cut short with injury.

“Next year, if we pick up where we left off, we’ll be OK. I think last year we were in the bottom of the barrel, as far as statistically on offense, and this year we’re in the top 10. I think we finished eighth in yardage and that’s big. That’s huge.”