Do you believe in Jay Cutler?
Did you believe in Rex Grossman?
Is there much of a difference?
Think back four years ago. A solid, opportunistic defense carried the team. A brash young QB thrilled us one moment and killed us the next. And here we are again.
In 2006, Rex racked up 3,193 yards, 23 TDs, 20 INTs and 5 lost fumbles. This year, Jay threw for 3,274 yards, 23 TDs and 16 INTs, losing 6 fumbles. Eerily similar.
The problem with Rex was that no one ever believed in the kid. Even at his hottest, everyone doubted him. Remember Lovie stepping to the podium and saying six or seven or four trillion times, "Rex is our quarterback." At least we don't have a QB controversy this time around.
Cutler faced a different burden - expectations. When this kid came into the league, many thought he was the best QB of his class. Denver brought him in to make everyone forget about John Elway. He seemed to have the goods. Then he didn't. Then he got traded.
At the beginning of the season, I remember sitting in a fantasy football draft while Cutler fell... and fell... and fell. I looked around the room and most of the guys were wearing Bears jerseys. If Bears fans didn't believe in Cutler, why should anyone else?
This season, he made the plays. He's gotten better. He's assimilated Martz's complex schemes. Sure, he threw some boneheaded interceptions. Sure he got sacked way too often. But if you watched that Seahawks game, you saw something previously unheard of at Soldier Field - Jay Cutler threw the ball away.
Rex Grossman never met a pass he didn't think he could make. He was like Brett Favre with half the talent and no camera phone. If Rex ever tossed a ball out of bounds to save field position, no one remembers it. Grossman fired balls like a cockeyed sprinkler, lobbing passes indiscriminately to friend and foe alike. Sure he had an arm. Did you see how far he threw those wobbly, awful interceptions? Truly a sight to behold.
As we head into Sunday's game, we don't yet know if Jay can manage what Rex did four years ago: letting the defense carry him to the Super Bowl. You wonder if the whispers in Jay's ear will make him think he can be the hero. Worse, Mike Martz might tell Jay to be the hero.
"Do it, Jay. Be the man. Rifle that ball into triple coverage. You can do it! Think of the highlight reel! Think of all the babes. Do it. He's open. It doesn't look like he's open, but if you throw hard enough, he will be. Pull the trigger, Jay. Pull the trigger."
The ghosts of a million terrible quarterbacks crowd the sidelines at Soldier Field. Time will tell whether Cutler will join them or break away to become that thing NFL teams covet most of all - a championship-caliber quarterback.