Kadner: Cutler has talent; lacks football brains
By Phil Kadner email@example.com December 12, 2013 11:12PM
Updated: January 14, 2014 1:01PM
Jay Cutler has the talent. Josh McCown has the brains.
Unless Bears head coach Marc Trestman develops Dr. Frankenstein-type surgical skills, that leaves the Bears without a quarterback capable of taking them to the Super Bowl.
Right now, Bears fans aren’t interested in such a lofty goal. They just want their team to beat the Cleveland Browns on Sunday and get to the last game of the season, against Green Bay, with a chance to make the playoffs.
It’s sort of fun watching the Bears this season. Those of us who have longed for a team that could score touchdowns can’t help smiling at the sight of Alshon Jeffrey leaping high into the air and bringing down ball after ball.
But watching this team also makes fans want to retch.
The Bears have been known for their defense forever. This team doesn’t know how to play defense, just as Bears teams in years past had no clue on offense.
But the fact of the matter is that with McCown at quarterback, you no longer worry about sacks, fumbles or interceptions.
All of those things can happen at any time. But you don’t think about them because McCown is smart. Cutler is not.
When opposing defenses break through the Bears’ offensive line, McCown doesn’t panic, he simply throws the ball away.
He understands that rather than drilling the ball to a running back on a screen pass, you can gently loft it over the heads of onrushing defensive linemen and gain some yards.
And instead of standing around in the pocket ... and standing around in the pocket ... and then rolling out of the pocket and getting sacked, he’s aware there’s an advantage to actually passing the ball to a receiver quickly for a short gain.
Cutler, he takes the sack. He forces the pass into traffic. He’s always looking to make the sensational play.
Sometimes, he does. Often, he does not.
McCown finds solutions to problems. Cutler creates problems.
That’s the way it appears to the casual observer anyway, although Trestman obviously loves Cutler.
Anyone who doubts that has forgotten the home game against the Detroit Lions, when Cutler returned from a groin injury that obviously hadn’t healed.
I like Trestman. I admire the offense he runs, which tends to hide the Bears’ many weaknesses on offense and utilize his players’ strengths.
But Trestman cost Chicago that game against Detroit by using Cutler when it was obvious to everyone watching that Cutler was injured. With McCown at quarterback at the start of the second half, the Bears win and the Lions would now be fighting to stay in contention.
Trestman stuck with Cutler, I believe, because he realizes Cutler is the future of the franchise and the coach’s future as well.
The Bears aren’t likely to find a better quarterback than Cutler on the free agent market. And they have too many holes on defense and the offensive line to draft a top quarterback next year.
McCown’s all right, but he’s 34 and not likely to get any better. Cutler is 30, only a year younger than Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger, so he’s no spring chicken, either.
Most great quarterbacks have flashed their brilliance by his age. Cutler remains a work in progress.
Still, he’s got enough power in his throwing arm, creates enough magic on occasion, to give a coach hope that just maybe he can still be taught how to win.
I would like to believe that as well. I would like to think that Cutler, while sitting on the sidelines watching McCown, realized that you don’t have to try to squeeze a football between three defensive players to make a play.
Maybe he even figured out how to hit a wide receiver in stride, a skill that has always seemed elusive to Bears quarterbacks.
Perhaps we will find out on Sunday that Cutler has had a revelation and finally understands that when he makes the people around him better, they will make him better.
McCown gets it. You don’t see him berating players on the sidelines, shouting at coaches, shaking his head when a play goes bad (as if to say, that wasn’t my call).
Great quarterbacks make the players around them better. Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers, New England’s Tom Brady, and Drew Brees in New Orleans don’t look for excuses when their favorite receivers are injured or traded. They make the replacement players look like guys who should have been starting.
Cutler had a rough go of it in his first few years in Chicago, playing behind a horrible offensive line. I don’t think it was fair to judge the guy based on the lack of talent surrounding him.
But now the Bears have as much talent at the skill positions as anyone in football. They have one of the top-ranked offenses. Yet about half the fans in Chicago are thinking, “McCown might be a better starting quarterback.”
That’s a tribute to a backup who has done an outstanding job, but you wouldn’t hear that kind of talk in any of the cities that have a Super Bowl quality quarterback.
The Bears are in deep trouble because Cutler is the future. And I’m beginning to think he’s not good enough.
My guess is that some folks at Halas Hall may be thinking the same thing.
With three games left in the season and Cutler’s contract up for renewal at the end of the year, fans and management had all better hope we haven’t seen the best of Cutler.
Now is the time to find out. The defense isn’t likely to get any better next year. Neither is Matt Forte nor Brandon Marshall.
Some folks still believe a healthy Cutler would be a difference-maker.
I‘m begin to believe he just may be a troublemaker — not in the sense that he’s a bad person but that he finds trouble on the field.
If Cutler doesn’t prove he’s far better than McCown, he’s nowhere good enough to lead the Bears in the future.
May as well find that out starting on Sunday.