Nov. 02, 2016
Can We Just Appreciate Jay Cutler?
The Bears beat the Vikings on Monday Night Football in Jay Cutler’s first start since week two when he suffered a thumb injury. The win made me one of the happiest people on the planet, because I am probably one of the few remaining Cutler supporters left. More importantly it got me thinking. Yes Jay gets greedy, and makes boneheaded throws, or he overestimates his arm talent. That’s just it though, he and Matthew Stafford are two of the greatest arm talents in this generation, but when Stafford gets greedy with his arm talent we brush it off, but when Jay does it, he gets ridiculed. It just makes me wonder. Why can’t we just appreciate Cutler for who he is?
Cutler was the 11th pick of the 2006 draft by the Denver Broncos out of Vanderbilt where he still currently holds six school records, and was regarded as the third best quarterback of his draft class behind Matt Leinart and Vince Young. Yet he’s easily been the best QB in that class, which is probably one of the worst in the last two decades. Brandon Marshall holds two of the three highest reception totals in a single game in NFL history, including the record with 21 against the Colts in 2009. Guess who his quarterback was, Jay Cutler. Cutler and Marshall were quietly one of the best combinations of our time, just as long as Brandon Marshall was actually on the field.
On March 31st, 2009 Cutler was traded to the Bears after Mike Shanahan was fired, and Cutler wanted out. There he was partnered up with Mike Martz as his offensive coordinator, and let’s just say Martz had not been Cutler’s biggest fan. They made it work though. If you don’t remember the Bears had an awful offensive line from the time Cutler got there until pretty much now even though they’ve steadily improved. Jay suffered a concussion in week four of the 2009 season after being sacked NINE times in the first half against the Jets. After he returned to the lineup after the bye he lead to Bears to an 11-5 finish, a NFC North title and a NFC title game appearance. Jay Cutler was one win away from the Super Bowl, let that sink in.
That’s where Cutler’s career got really interesting, in the NFC title game against the Packers, Cutler suffered a knee injury, and did not return to the game. Cutler was seen on the riding the stationary bike after sustaining the injury looking dejected, and not interacting with his teammates in a high stakes, emotionally charged game against their bitter rival. It was everyone’s opinion that Jay could have definitely returned to the game, and just chose to be selfish. That’s not what Lovie Smith said though; he didn’t go back in the game, because it wasn’t his choice. An MRI confirmed that Jay had sprained his MCL, and if you’ve ever had the injury then you would know that you can’t play on it, you just can’t, and the recovery time takes anywhere from two to eight weeks depending on the severity.
After that NFC title game the whole world turned on Jay. The narrative on him is that he’s not engaged, he doesn’t care, he doesn’t pay attention to detail, he’s not a leader and just about anything else you can think of. Has anyone ever stopped to think that maybe that’s just his personality? He’s not the most animated person we know that, but that doesn’t mean doesn’t care, because he obviously does. You don’t make a conference title game if you don’t care. Just because you’re not up and jumping about showing a ton of emotion doesn’t mean you’re not engaged. Jay is Jay, and a decade later people still can’t accept that this is who he is.
You want to know who Jay is? He’s a quarterback with tremendous arm talent that’s rarely been seen before. He’s a quarterback who owns just about every record a Bears quarterback could hold. Including, but not limited to, most touchdowns, completions, yards, completion percentage and wins, oh and most game winning drives. As a matter of fact among active quarterbacks he’s tenth in game-winning drives with 25. That means that 25 times Jay Clutchler has led his team down the field to win the game, which is more than Aaron Rodgers who only has 14. Philip Rivers has 26 in his career, and do we remember what happened last year in San Diego, because I sure do! I remember Jay entering clutch mode, and leading the Bears to victory, and adding to the Chargers misery.
Cutler is also tenth among active players with over 32,000 yards passing, and he’s only 2,000 behind Tony Romo who he will probably catch if Romo actually does lose his job this year. It’s been 10 years since Cutler came into the league, and his journey has been nothing short of interesting. Say what you want about Cutler, but this guy has been dragged through the mud, seen the highest of highs and the lowest of lows and everything in between. When he’s on his game you’re jaw drops at the talent, when he’s not you’re pulling your hair out, but you can’t say that he’s a bad quarterback which is all I ever hear. I will defend Jay Cutler until the day he retires, and if you don’t like him that’s fine, but can we all just learn to appreciate the moments he’s given us in those ten years, because you’re going to miss him when he’s gone, I know I am.