Bears Banking on Cutler

By Brown, Scott | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, September 2, 2009 | Go to article overview
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Bears Banking on Cutler

Brown, Scott, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

For a guy who is either the solution to a problem as chronic in Chicago as political cronyism or is the most villainous gunslinger in the Windy City since Al Capone, Jay Cutler couldn't have picked a worse time to set a dubious personal record.

It came last Sunday night when the new Chicago quarterback threw a career-high four interceptions in the Bears' 21-15 loss to the Green Bay Packers.

Cutler's performance triggered criticism -- two former NFL head coaches ripped him for not taking more of the blame following the loss -- and it may have made Bears fans nostalgic for the Vince Evans and Mike Phipps years.

But as the Steelers watched film of Cutler's first game for the Bears last week, they weren't exactly salivating at the prospect of facing him.

"He had an off game," said Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison, whose team visits Chicago today for a 4:15 p.m. game. "I don't expect him to go out there and throw four picks to us. No way in hell."

Indeed, that Cutler was so uncharacteristically bad against the Packers shows in some way why the Bears were widely hailed for pulling off a coup last April when they traded for the player who is only 26 and is already considered a franchise quarterback.

The rejoicing that took place in Chicago is also a reflection of the kind of quarterback play Bears fans have endured over the years.

A franchise that has produced immortal names such as Sayers, Butkus, Ditka, Singletary and Payton has come up woefully short when it comes to the most important position on the field. The Bears have had Sid Luckman and Jim McMahon but not much else in the way of star quarterbacks. Their career leader in quarterback passer rating is Erik Kramer (80.7), and they have had a string of forgettable signal callers.

Some of Chicago's problems in the quarterback department have been self-inflicted. This is, after all, a team that traded a first- round pick in 1997 for Rick Mirer after he had washed out in Seattle. Two years later, the Bears used a first-round pick on Cade McNown, a colossal bust who lasted just two seasons in Chicago.

The Bears finally appeared to get it right when they dealt for Cutler, who got to 50 touchdown passes faster than any player in Broncos history.

They gave up starting quarterback Kyle Orton as well as two first- round draft picks and as a third-round selection to land Cutler. Yet, the deal came off to many as one-sided.

"I think it was a great move for Chicago," NFL Network analyst Rod Woodson said. "I don't know if it was a good move for Denver. I just don't think you get rid of a Pro Bowl quarterback that is that young. It's hard to find a guy like that."

A falling out in Denver

Cutler's career in Denver ended as sourly as it did abruptly - in part because he didn't give the Broncos much of a choice.

Incensed that new Denver coach Josh McDaniels inquired about trading for quarterback Matt Cassel during the offseason - the two had been together in New England - Cutler all but forced his way out of Denver.

Cutler cited a breach of trust but others saw the petulant side that had surfaced even as the 6-3, 233-pound flamethrower played his way to the Pro Bowl in 2008.

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