Nobody is more critical to the success of the Chicago Bears in 2014 than Jay Cutler. Here are some reasons why he will take a big step forward.
Second year in the same offense under Marc Trestman
Continuity is a word coaches always strive for, as do the players. Cutler himself has said it takes three years for players to master an offensive scheme. While he has a point, he also could’ve said that marked progress is almost always shown in the second year compared to the first, specifically at the quarterback position. Are the stats there to back such an idea up? Below is a list of top level quarterback and a comparison of their first years in a new offense versus their second.
2008 – 4,038 yards, 28 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions
2009 – 4,434 yards, 30 touchdowns, and 7 interceptions
2001 – 2,843 yards, 18 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions
2002 – 3,764 yards, 28 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions
1998 – 3,736 yards, 26 touchdowns, and 28 interceptions
1999 – 4,135 yards, 26 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions
As one can see there is clear evidence of improvement across the board for quarterbacks who stay in the same system beyond one year. Aaron Rodgers increased in both yards and touchdowns while cutting his interceptions in half. Tom Brady almost threw 1,000 more yards, 10 more touchdowns and just two more interceptions. Peyton Manning topped his yardage mark, stayed consistent with his touchdowns and tossed 13 fewer interceptions. Progress is the only word to use in those situations.
Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery are locked up and locked in
Obviously another part of the equation is weaponry. A quarterback is only as good as the talent around him and the Chicago Bears have made sure to get only the best for Jay Cutler. At the head of the pack are Pro Bowl receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, who tormented the league in 2013 for over 2,700 yards and 19 touchdowns. That doesn’t even include Pro Bowl running back Matt Forte and above average tight end Martellus Bennett. Cutler no longer has to feel he should do everything himself like in the past. He finally has players around him he can lean on.
Kyle Long headlines emerging offensive line
The same goes for the pass protection. Last year it was a critical point that the offensive line improve in order to unlock the full potential of the offense. Thanks to additions like Jermon Bushrod and Kyle Long, the Bears ranked in the top ten in almost every category including fewest sacks allowed. With all five starters coming back, there is every reason to think that should continue. Jay, like any other quarterback, functions at his best when he remains on his feet.
It might sound like a reach, but given the nature of football, the offense is only as good as the defense they play against in practice. The Chicago Bears had the second-worst defense in the league in 2013 and were dead last in sacks and stopping the run. Thanks to a series of free agent and draft additions, expectations are that those issues should be minimized. By getting off the field more often, forcing more punts or turnovers, it will create more opportunities for Cutler to get his hands on the ball. That in turn should lead to improvements on his stat line.
Most of the responsibility falls to Jay Cutler himself, however. At age 31 his talent and experience should be in perfect harmony, giving him the chance to fulfill the potential many have seen in him for years.