The Chicago Bears' history is littered with quarterbacks, many of whom have been forgettable. There have been exceptions like Sid Luckman, Jim McMahon and Erik Kramer, but for the most part, players come and go through the Windy City like managers for the Chicago Cubs.
So how to explain signal-caller Jay Cutler. Thursday marks the six-year anniversary of the trade that brought Cutler to the Monsters of the Midway, and that timespan has been filled with statistical achievement and alternating periods of love and disgust from the fans of the team.
Cutler currently sits as the Bears’ all-time leader in pass completions, completion percentage, quarterback rating, and game-winning drives, but his frequent interceptions and dismissive demeanor with the media have driven people in this town crazy for years.
The question that inevitably comes up when trying to reconcile these disparate factors is this: is Jay Cutler the greatest quarterback in Chicago Bears history?
Looking back at the Broncos trade, our price was steep. Not only did the Bears give up quarterback Kyle Orton in the swap, but they also gave up their first round draft picks in the 2009 and 2010 NFL Drafts, as well as their third round pick in 2009. Those first round picks turned out to be the 18th overall selection in 2009 (the Broncos drafted Robert Ayers) and the 12th overall pick in 2010 (the Broncos sent the pick to the San Francisco 49’ers, and they used it to take offensive tackle Anthony Davis).
In exchange for that price tag, the Bears got what they paid for: a quarterback who has all the talent in the world, but whose decision-making ultimately holds him back from being truly great.
Coach after coach has tried to fix him, and everyone from Mike Tice to Mike Martz to Ron Turner to Marc Trestman to Matt Cavanaugh has failed and been fired. This track record has led to Cutler being unofficially voted Chicago’s second least favorite thing, trailing only corrupt politicians and leading contenders like the Green Bay Packers and winter.
Even with that being the case, Cutler’s time in Chicago will go down in history as one of the best careers a quarterback has put together in a Bears uniform, and if he isn’t the best quarterback the team has ever had, he’s at least in the conversation.
Skills and stats both suggest that to be the case, and even though he doesn’t have the Lombardi Trophy that McMahon helped put in the Halas Hall trophy case (or more accurately, made sure that Buddy Ryan’s defense was able to put into that case), he has a bundle of team records to his credit and has been one of the most compelling sports stories this town has seen in quite a while.