CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 16: Quarterback Jay Cutler #6 of the Chicago Bears smiles late in the second half against the Seattle Seahawks in the 2011 NFC divisional playoff game at Soldier Field on January 16, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Jay Cutler
In his second season in Chicago, Jay Cutler has shown both flashes of brilliance and astoundingly bad choices. He led the league in sacks in 2010, one season after leading the league in interceptions, but he also became the Bears' all-time single-season passing yards leader. His adoption of the offensive scheme cooked up by Mike Martz led to higher productivity but more mistakes. So which Cutler is the one we should expect?
What he does well: Cutler has a cannon of an arm, and he can use it to create magic. The moment when Cutler unleashes a long pass is a moment filled with trepidation and hope. Can Knox haul it in? Did Cutler hit the right spot? That success, or failure, had a huge impact on every game. Considering he threw for 3,274 yards in 14.5 games, it worked more often than it didn't. He also gelled with his receivers after the bye, especially Earl Bennett. He also added a running component to his game, rushing for 232 yards and a touchdown.
He did that despite being sacked 52 times in the regular season. Cutler's toughness was questioned after he was pulled for a knee injury from the Bears playoff game against Green Bay, but one of the man's best attributes was how he continued to stand up.
What he needs to work on: All of Cutler's issues come down to one area -- judgment. Whether it's forcing a questionable pass after already giving up three interceptions, dropping five steps for a pass when under pressure or taking a shopping trip with his girlfriend to a paparazzi-infested mall just days after injuring his knee in the Bears playoff game, Cutler's judgment is what has to improve. This bad decision making affects every part of his game and is the root of his inconsistency problems.
Good judgment should come with age and experience, but if Cutler stubbornly refuses to take lessons from this season, then he will stay the inconsistent, groan-inducing quarterback. If he learns from the problems of this season, the Bears may finally get a quarterback to be proud of, something fans have been waiting decades for.