On April 3, 2009 the Bears sent two first round draft picks, a third round draft pick, and quarterback Kyle Orton to the Denver Broncos in exchange for quarterback Jay Cutler. This afternoon, the Bears released the veteran quarterback after eight seasons in Chicago, marking the end of an era.
For the most part, Jay Cutler‘s career in Chicago will be marked mostly by under-achievement and missed opportunities, as the dreams of a Super Bowl Championship instilled by the acquisition of Cutler way back in 2008 never came to fruition in the windy city.
Cutler came to the Bears following a Pro Bowl season with the Broncos in 2008 when the former first round pick threw for 4,526 yards, 25 touchdowns, and 19 interceptions. Those numbers actually perfectly sum up Cutler’s nearly decade long tenure with the Bears – A quarterback who can throw for a lot of yards, and score a lot of touchdowns, but has a tendency to turn the ball over. We knew in April of 2009, exactly what we were getting from the Broncos, yet for some reason, some of us ignored the 19 interceptions, the tendency to force throws and trust his strong arm too often.
The ignorance to the fact that Cutler was a high-risk, high-reward type quarterback, who possessed a rocket arm that would produce a healthy amount of scores, at the risk of it also producing its fair share of turnovers, is the main underlying cause for the often strong disapproval for Cutler from the Chicago fans.
The fact that the Bears displayed a constant inability to provide any sort of stability in the front office or the coaching staff is often unfairly overlooked as well. During his tenure in Chicago, the Bears implemented three head coaches and six offensive coordinators. That breaks down to a new head coach every two years, and a new offensive coordinator nearly every season since Cutler has been in town.
Regardless of the ignorance to the player that he was, the rampart inconsistency in the coaching staff, and even the fact that the Bears never really put a complete team around him that was good enough to win a Super Bowl, Jay Cutler will walk away as one of the best quarterbacks in Bears history, and statistically the best there ever was.
In his eight seasons with the Bears, Cutler started 102 games and amassed a franchise best 23,443 passing yards. Cutler completed 2,782 passes on 3,271 attempts, good for a 61 percent completion percentage, to go along with 154 passing touchdowns, 109 interceptions, and six rushing touchdowns for good measure.
Cutler was at the helm for 18 game winning drives during his tenure with the Bears, a number that ranks inside of the top five for NFL quarterbacks during that span, and will finish his career in Chicago with a 85.2 quarterback rating.
Cutler leaves as the franchise leader in a myriad of offensive categories including wins (51), completions (2,782), yards (23,443), touchdowns (154), completion percentage (61%), quarterback rating (85.2) and one of the most telling statistics of the Bears offensive line play during his tenure, sacks (251).
That’s right, he was sacked a franchise record 251 times during his eight seasons with the Bears, and just kept on coming. He didn’t always have a smile on his face, and he often never had the right thing to say during times of adversity, but if anyone believes that he wasn’t as tough as they come, or committed to the team, I’d say that they should probably evaluate their fandom. Broken bones, torn ligaments, and concussions were something that Jay Cutler battled through for eight seasons.
Former Bears wide receiver Tom Waddle would agree with my defense of Cutler’s toughness, and so would Kyle Long and many other teammates, even ones who didn’t see eye-to-eye with Cutler, such as Brian Urlacher.
Here’s what Bears offensive lineman Kyle Long had to say about his longtime quarterback Jay Cutler this morning on his Instagram account,
“Name another guy making 100 million who calls their rookie right guard every morning at 6AM to make sure that he’s on time for work. Name another Quarterback that shows up at your house on an off day just to make sure you’re behaving. Name a quarterback that will grab you by the collar and pull you out of a brawl in your first game in the NFL. Name a friend honest enough to tell you what you need to hear and not what you want to hear. I have that friend in Jay and I will never forget the things he did for me. I learned a lot from you dude. You have a pretty kick ass family too!!”
So much for the “Jay doesn’t care about the Bears”, or “Jay isn’t a good teammate” claims that fans have slung his way repeatedly for most of the last decade.
The people that knew him the best, the people that worked with him, seem to have shared a very different opinion of Jay Cutler, and that’s all that really matters.
Whether you loved Jay Cutler, or you hated Jay Cutler, he was what he was, and he never tried to pretend he wasn’t. He was a very talented quarterback, with a excellent physical skills, surrounded by a turbulent environment created by poor management of the team, that lead to a healthy amount of unwarranted blame and criticism. But hey, that’s the nature of the beats right? One thing you never heard him say, was that the Bears losing was someone’s fault but his own.
This afternoon, Cutler penned a heartfelt letter to the Bears and the fans of the Chicago Bears,
No matter your feelings on “Smoking Jay” it’s going to be strange watching someone else under center in 2017 for the Bears.