I’ll start this column with a disclaimer: I’ve been defending Jay Cutler against attacks from friends and Bears fans big and small for the past two seasons. That means I’m probably less likely to convince you because, let’s face it, I’ve never been much of a critic. Nonetheless, it’s moments like these where I feel compelled to speak up. Bears fans are never happy with anything, so I don’t expect everyone to come away with a change of heart. But let’s take a spin through the usual objections, shall we?
Starting with what’s inevitable, I’ll give you one thing if anything: Cutler has been prone to injury. After caving to a knee injury in the NFC championship game (when the Packers nearly handed him their upcoming Super Bowl win on a silver platter), fans have been critical of this. Now that he’s sitting out for a month with a groin injury, the usual suspects are at it again. Granted, now is not the most ideal time for him to be out, but this is something every team has to deal with. Doesn’t it speak for itself that even the most naysaying fans are not cheering that he’s warming the bench?
It’s time to stop acting like Jay Cutler is a terrible quarterback. He is the Bears’ all-time leader in passer rating (83.4), and has the most completions (1,777) and passing yards per game (224.5). Cutler has the second most yards in franchise history (13,922), and also has the second most touchdowns (94). At 60.3 percent, he’s also completed the second most passes in Bears’ history, following only Shane Matthews (61.1 percent) in 1999-2001. If Cutler signs a contract extension in the offseason, he will eclipse every Bear’s passing record. Needless to say, he is the farthest thing from the worst quarterback the Bears have ever had. His numbers thus far this season are better all around than they have been in the last four seasons.
Another fairly common criticism of Cutler is that he hasn’t exactly been the nicest player to work with in the NFL these past few seasons. Fair enough, but don’t assume that it’s just because he’s an a-hole. Almost the entire offense has been — shall we say — less than ideal (at least) since 2009. Most of the blame for that falls on the shoulders of not Cutler, but Lovie Smith. Smith’s inability to build a cohesive offense hurt the entire team, especially the quarterback, who hasn’t had a decent quarterback coach or offensive coordinator to help him lead the team for years, nor has he had anything other than a stupendously bad offensive line between him and the dirt. That would get on anybody’s nerves. So far this year, at least as far as I can tell, he’s been in much better spirits.
Even if he were absolutely no good, the Bears don’t exactly have a grocery list of alternatives. Any of the free agents up for grabs next year are laughable by comparison. Any draft pick who would even be worthy of first-year starter is going to be way out of the realm of possibility.
If you think we’re getting Johnny Football you’re kidding yourself (and that might be like drafting Cade McNown all over again, anyway).
At this point, anybody except for Cutler deserves being criticized for the Bears losing three of their last four games. It’s time for everyone else to step up in his absence and prove that we aren’t (such) a bad team without him. We’ll do that, of this I’m sure, but I’ll still be more than happy to franchise him come 2014.