Bears fans can finally rejoice. Jay Cutler and his vaccine-hating wife are gone. No more forced passes into double coverage. No more quarterback that’s too much of a wimp to re-enter a playoff game after completely destroying his knee. And, no more sideline arguments with offensive coordinators. No more GOAT.
Wait? Did I just say that?
Yes, I did. And make no mistake, it’s 100 percent true. Jay Cutler was a GOAT. No, not the Greatest Of All Time (though he may be the GOAT of Bears QBs, if we’re all being honest here). He’s the scapegoat; always has been. And Jay Cutler has had a shitty time of it. Demonized in Chicago because of his high cost of purchase, an ill-fated and ill-conceived contract extension, and on-the-field body language that outsiders thought looked uninterested, Jay put up with all of it and kept going.
Despite learning a new offense seemingly every year, being booed for not playing injured in the playoffs, and countless baseless accusations that he was a bad leader and had poor work ethic, Cutler showed up. He took sacks, got up, and kept throwing.
Despite having No. 1 receivers such Devin Hester, Johnny Knox, Marquess Wilson, and Cameron Meredith. Despite offensive lines that consistently ranked in the bottom half of the league. Or idiot play-callers that couldn’t get plays in on time (I’m looking at you, Mike Tice—the man who wasted the best team Cutler ever had). Despite the fact that when he finally got something resembling an offense, it was wasted because the defense evaporated.
Cutler was there. Earning the respect of his teammates, and playing his heart out. Diving into the endzone. Throwing a pick here or there, sure, but doing it for the best of reasons. Because Cutler wanted to win.
Let me throw some fancy numbers at you. Jay Cutler’s offensive lines over his career (no just with the Bears) according to Football Outsider’s Pass Protection Ranking:
Not so great, right? I count five top-half of the league protection units. Only three times where it was top 10. And remember, Jay spent most of 2016 injured. So let’s scratch that one. Two top 10 units in 10 years—yikes! Did he at least have some decent receivers?
Okay, there’s a couple years of Brandon Marshall. We’ve got one year of a healthy Alshon. And, well, plenty of garbage. Johnny Knox looked alright before suffering a career-ending neck injury, but that doesn’t say much. Perhaps the better question is: how the hell did Cutler manage to throw 27 TDs in 2009? Earl Bennett and Devin Hester weren’t exactly a stud combination. Man oh man.
Did Cutler even ever have a team around him that was even close to one that COULD have won a championship? Let’s look at two key pieces—pass protection and defense versus that season’s champion.
Alright, let’s see, 2012 looked promising talent-wise. Matt Forte and Brandon Marshall were in their primes. The defense topped the league and the offensive line was decent. Surely that was the year, right? Well let’s think back to who adorned the headset, whose voice was speaking sweet nothings in Cutler’s ear. Oh, right—Mike Tice. The guy he walked away from on the sideline. The guy who seemingly couldn’t decide on a play to run and when he did, seemed to call them at the wrong time. Or, two plays too late.
Look, I’m not trying to entirely bail Cutler out on that one. He didn’t play well at all in 2012, and that was despite his interception numbers going down. But the rest of the Bears offense didn’t play well either. They couldn’t score points. Jay’s play was a symptom, not the cause.
Look, Bears fans, I get it. You’ve needed someone to blame. At first you blamed Lovie, but when things didn’t get better you had to find someone else. Phil Emery had a short shelf life. So did Marc Trestman. But instead of putting the blame where it belonged, you settled for complaining about the thing the media wants you to. You put your blame on the wrong man.
You have one of the most storied franchises in the league, but one that hasn’t had the type of success you’d like in decades. Jay Cutler was there for several of those years. But Jay Cutler wasn’t the problem. Jay Cutler was just the goat.