Patience is a virtue. Jay Cutler is still working at being virtuous.
Signs suggest that he’s getting there.
Cutler said that it would take three seasons to learn an offense like the one brought in by coach Marc Trestman and his staff. In one major area, Cutler is far ahead of his own curve in the single most important area of the offense:
Not intelligence. Cutler’s mind has never been a problem, just his mindset. His mindset has been a gunslinger that was more than ready to clear (or fling) leather but too often didn’t always hit what he was aiming at.
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Now he is, and he is choosing is targets with a different thought filter. Of his 10 incompletions against the Pittsburgh Steelers, several were clear throwaways rather than forced throws into dicey situations and coverages.
The reason is a degree of patience that is still even slightly alien to Cutler and even a little difficult.
“Yeah it is,” Cutler acknowledged. “It’s not something I’m used to. We have been preaching ball security a lot. It was just that type of game to get up that quickly like that…. We didn’t want to force the ball. We didn’t want to give them positioning in our territory. We just wanted to be patient.”
The patience was rewarded when he found the Steelers in man-to-man coverage on Earl Bennett. Then Cutler threw precisely the kind of perfect touch pass that talent evaluators have seen in him since his time at Vanderbilt. Again, the arm was never the problem; the patience to work toward that situation was, and Cutler’s has visibly grown.
Cutler has thrown three interceptions in 102 pass attempts.
As significant as the passer rating (which is weighted in a way that penalizes interceptions heavily) is the fact that his INT percentage has now dropped below three. No team reached the 2012 playoffs with a starting quarterback’s interception percentage higher than 3.0.
Also, he has strung together games with completion percentages of (rounded) 64-72-67. He has not strung together three straight 60-plus games since 2010, when he quarterbacked the Bears to within a half of a Super Bowl.
Not coincidentally, Cutler accomplished something in the Pittsburgh that has happened just twice in his NFL career and only once since coming to Chicago: three consecutive games with passer ratings of 90 or better. For comparison purposes, Aaron Rodgers accomplished the three-90’s trick three times – in 2012 alone, four times in 2011, and so on.
Indeed, the entire offense was feeding off Cutler’s patience.
“I thought Jay and our backs and receivers did a very good job of protecting the football,” Trestman said. “We did everything we could to avoid pre-snap penalties and we did that on both sides of the ball in this game -- very difficult to do on the road.”