Mike Shanahan certainly didn’t mean to slight coaches Marc Trestman, Aaron Kromer and Matt Cavanaugh nor quarterback Jay Cutler. But he did. Just a wee bit.
The Washington Redskins coach is a fan of the quarterback’s from their time together in Denver. And he and Trestman hold each other in enough regard that Trestman sought out Shanahan’s feelings about Cutler earlier this year when the new Bears coach was beginning his odyssey in Chicago and taking his first steps in the relationship with Cutler.
Commenting Wednesday on the biggest difference in Cutler this year from the past couple of seasons, Shanahan was clear:
“Supporting cast. I think you have to have a system that you believe in, and Jay picks up any system very quickly, and a better supporting cast is you’re trying to get the best supporting cast to give you quarterback a chance to be successful, and that’s what I see that they’ve done to give him a chance to utilize his talents.”
But citing the “supporting cast” understates. Giving Cutler Martellus Bennett, Alshon Jeffery, Brandon Marshall and an offensive line for playmates indeed gave the quarterback a chance to be successful.
But an arsenal of “weapons” mean nothing without the good sense and willingness to use them as prescribed.
And to those around Cutler, the trigger is one thing; the finger now on the trigger is something else entirely, and that is where the biggest change has been.
“Both sides had a hand in this because there are people who bring change and those who adapt to change,” said fellow quarterback Josh McCown, a teammate who has seen Cutler navigate the systems and personalities of Mike Martz, Mike Tice and now Trestman/Kromer/Cavanaugh. “He’s comfortable. He’s got his mind made up that we have what’s needed.
“I see that difference in him.”
Cutler has become more of a quarterback, not simply a passer. Where he once felt a need to force throws to get down the field, now he has come to trust what he hears in his helmet communicator.
“A big part of it,” McCown said, “is trusting in the playcaller: ‘If I do what I’m supposed to do, the shots will come, the ball will get pushed down the field at the appropriate time.
“All of those things are part of Jay trusting the system.”