In celebration of their 100th season, the Chicago Bears released a scrapbook ranking the top 100 players in Bears history. One of the more surprising rankings so far has been the ranking of former quarterback Jay Cutler who ranked 85th. It comes as a surprise as Cutler owns the majority of Bears’ quarterback records.
The Bears acquired Cutler in 2009 following an offseason in which almost have the teams in the league were rumored to be interested in trading for his services. He would be Chicago’s starting quarterback for the next eight seasons. Although he failed to live up to expectations both on the field and as a leader, Cutler still provided the Bears rare consistency that had not been seen at the quarterback position.
Some of the Bears quarterback records he owns include passing yards, passing completions, passing attempts, passing touchdowns, quarterback rating, and 300-yard passing games. Cutler passed for over 23,443 yards during his time as a Chicago Bears and it is this reason why the Bears were competitive in more games than with him under center. He also owns the record for most interceptions as he led the league in interceptions in 2009 and 2014.
From 2009 to 2016, The Bears finished with a .500 record or better in four of the eight seasons. From 2010 to 2013 the team had four non-losing seasons for the first time since the mid-80s Super Bowl Bears. Although the Bears made the playoffs just once in that four-year span, They were in playoff contention through late-December in the other three seasons.
In eight seasons as Cutler as their starting quarterback, He passed for 2,300 yards or more in seven of those seasons and started 14 or more games in six of those seasons. Cutler provided the team with a constant at quarterback, something the team had been historically poor at for decades. In 2010, 2012, and 2015 he missed just one game each those seasons due to concussions and a hamstring injury. The quarterback play in those three games demonstrated Cutler’s true value to the Bears offense.
Quarterbacks Todd Collins, Jason Campbell, and Jimmy Clausen started in replace of Cutler in those three games. All three quarterbacks failed to throw for 100 yards in those three starts combining for just one touchdown pass and six interceptions. If not for two long Matt Forte rushing touchdowns, the offense would score just 16 points in those three games.
Quarterbacks listed ahead of Cutler on the list so far include Bill Wade, Johnny Lujack, and Jim McMahon, who is ranked 53rd.
Wade was named to the Pro Bowl in 1963 and helped lead the Bears to the NFL Championship. Lujack was named to two Pro-Bowls in 1950 and 1950 and led the league in passing touchdowns with 23 in 1949. McMahon helped the Bears win the Super Bowl in 1985 and was named to the Pro Bowl that season also.
As great as those quarterbacks were, Cutler was both more talented and productive than them. Wade and Lujack’s played in a league that was still running game reliant and passing was still seen a novelty. Although McMahon played behind one of the best offensive lines of the 1980s, he struggled to stay healthy as he never played a full season in his seven-year career with Bears. Furthermore, McMahon had just one 300 yard passing game during his Bears career compared to Cutler’s 16.
There was a lot of disappointment during Cutler’s time with the Bears, but he deserves more acknowledgment for what he achieved. Although he struggled with turnovers, the Bears had a chance to win any game with him under center no matter who the opponent. Cutler led the Bears to 15 4th quarter come from behind victories in his eight seasons.
With Cutler, The Bears had one of the best physically gifted quarterbacks in the league. No Bears quarterback had a better mix of mobility and arm strength as than he did. He doesn’t need to be high on this list of great Chicago Bears, but he doesn’t need to be the lowest ranked quarterback on this list either.