Somehow, Jay Cutler has become the forgotten man.
Bourbonnais attention has centered on a revamped defense, first eyeballs on Kevin White and Leonard Floyd and the emergence of a little white fella from Western Michigan. The offensive line has become the source of concern, especially in the aftermath of Hroniss Grasu’s year-ending injury and a few ugly couple drives against the defending champs in the first meaningless game. Alshon Jeffery came to camp unfit physically and unhappy financially. The Bears are still looking for a running back that can catch the ball with regularity. If Zach Miller gets hurt, then what?
There’s no conversation around Cutler. No drama. And he’s never looked more comfortable in his own skin.
I recently did a radio appearance with my friend Trent Condon in Des Moines. It took 17 minutes of the spot until Cutler’s name was mentioned. And that mention came from me. The average time it took for a first Cutler mention over the last five years was about 1.1 minutes.
But make no mistake about it. The 2016 Bears will only go as far as their quarterback takes them. Just because there’s no drama around Cutler doesn’t mean there’s not an intense amount of pressure on him.
- Cutler is going to have a defense, something he hasn’t had the last half decade. The Bears won’t need forty points to win games. They’ll need 20-24.
- Cutler has to bring along young players at pivotal positions. He can’t lose his mind when Leno misses a block or Langford drops a third down conversion or White runs the wrong route. Growing pains are to be expected and Cutler has never been very good at hiding his displeasure/frustration on the field.
- Cutler may not care what is said about him but he’s aware of everything. And he knows full well that a regressive season, falling into the mistakes of yesteryear, will lead folks to two conclusions: (1) he’s unable to string together positive seasons and (2) Adam Gase WAS the reason for his 2015.
- Cutler ain’t young. He’s entering his mid-thirties while only being a few years from his contract ballooning to what the organization may find untenable. The window for him to win, especially with the Bears, opens seriously in September.
Cutler and the Bears don’t have to win it all in 2016. But by the end of this campaign, they have to leave fans thinking they can.