BC Sports Editor Matt Sussman summed it up with the line: “Huh? Didn’t see that one coming.”
Truth is, no one can honestly say they did, but that does not really matter. Bottom line, the deal makes sense, even at the price they had to pay, for the short-term and long-term of the Chicago Bears.
Google “great Chicago Bears quarterbacks” sometime for fun. There are two on that list: Sid Luckman and Jim McMahon (who paved the way for headcase quarterbacks of the future). You will learn the last time the Bears had a Pro Bowl quarterback was 23 years ago. It is no coincidence, the franchise played in one Super Bowl during that span and subsequently lost.
It is not like the Bears have not tried to find a franchise quarterback. The closest was Rex Grossman who ultimately imploded and now walks the free agent unemployment line, looking for an opportunity to reinvent himself as a backup on a team. Clearly, he was not the answer as was another one of Steve Spurrier’s flameouts in the NFL at that position. Did any of you really believe all the talk a few weeks ago about how Kyle Orton was “the guy” to lead that team? Orton was not the answer either. There was also Shane Matthews, Cade McNown (famously chosen instead of Donovon McNabb), Kordell Stewart, and that is just a portion of the list. (Ron Taylor over at BearsHistory.com has a solid list of these with synopsis of the “highlights” of their careers.)
Now, Chicago Bears fans (and more importantly, coaches and teammates) have the franchise quarterback to build around for the future. Clearly, Lovie Smith knows he has to win and win soon. Even if Smith is not part of the future, Cutler will be and adds interest and skills sorely lacking from the Bears offense.
Cutler’s big arm and crisp throws are a great addition to the running game and physical play the Bears are known for. Cutler is considered a tough guy as a QB; he takes hits and gets right back up to play again. He is cocky, fiery, and is a smart player. He pushes his teammates, wants to win, and is not satisfied with anything less.
The Bears still have needs. The defense needs to get younger at some spots, but with Smith taking a more active role in that side of the ball, I expect it to improve. The running game is solid with a strong line and a solid back in Matt Forte. Many experts point to the receiving corps as a place that needs an upgrade or two. The tight ends are solid with Desmond White and Greg Olsen in those roles. It is worth noting that Cutler’s former teammate (and the Vandy’s all-time best player at that position) Earl Bennett was drafted last year by the Bears in the third round. He did not catch a pass last year, but is expected to be a part of the offense this year even before the Cutler acquisition. Throw in an explosive and developing talents like Devin Hester and the Bears have some weapons for Cutler to work with.
The price was high to get Cutler, but as is often the case, fortune smiles on those willing to take risks. Jay Cutler is a smart risk for the Chicago Bears and they are the odds on team to challenge Minnesota in the division next year. That is the measuring stick. The Bears will need to start making consistent playoff runs as they build for the big one down the road.