Bear’s fans will always remember the scene that unfolded in front of the Soldier Field faithful last January. An injured Jay Cutler tried to give it one more shot on the field before he was pulled and replaced by Todd Collins (who was then replaced by Caleb Hanie). Bear’s fans were mad and showed their anger by burning Cutler jerseys after the Bears lost the game. Fellow football players criticized also Cutler for his lack of toughness.
Some even questioned if he gave up and quit. It was a mess.
As it turned out, Cutler did indeed have a diagnosed injury and needed some time to recover. Now, he’s ready to come out and prove to everyone that he’s not a quitter and that he’s ready to bring the Bears back strong again and quite possibly get them to the Super Bowl.
Depending on which side of the fence you sit on you may feel that the criticism that Cutler received was well warranted while there are others that felt that he was unfairly targeted with that criticism. But that was in the past and we as Bears fans should leave that behind us and concentrate on what he has to do this coming season.
So let’s leave the past in the past.
The lockout has clearly left a cloud over the upcoming season and it’s made it difficult to tell whether or not Cutler is poised for a big season. We know that his NFC Championship game injury is fully healed and he’s been keeping himself sharp by organizing and participating in workouts with his fellow offensive players. Hopefully that means he’s keeping some of that “lockout rust” off during this offseason.
But Cutler, along with the rest of the offense has to prove something this coming season. First and foremost, they have to prove that the better parts of last season were not a fluke and that Chicago’s offense is for real. Cutler would be a big part of that but the coaching staff has some things to do in order to allow him to have success.
The first thing that they have to do is protect Cutler. Some of the problems that he suffered from last season (including the injury that he ended up with in the NFC Championship game) are a direct result of the lack of protection that he had. The team did just one thing to improve his protection during the limited offseason and that was drafting Wisconsin offensive tackle Gabe Carimi.
Carimi promises to be a solid player at either the left or right tackle position (although his development will be stunted thanks to the NFL lockout) and will give the line some improvement. But the Bears, so far, haven’t done anything else to improve their offensive line and aside from the acquisition of Carimi, will walk into the new season with essentially the same group of players on the offensive line.
Can Cutler survive with that group protecting him? His success, along with the success of the team as a whole will depend on just how well that group does in 2011.
Another issue that the Bears and Cutler have heading into the new season is the lack of a true number one wide receiver. Fans and experts agree that having a true number one wide receiver would go a long ways towards making the Bear’s offense a success. But will they be able to find that number one wide receiver?
There is going to be some kind of free agency period coming but just how good the talent at the wide receiver position will be depends on whether or not four or six year free agents are allowed into the free agent pool. Of course it also depends on just how aggressive the Bears are in free agency.
If they want to have success they need to be very aggressive because their offense isn’t going to work well without a number one wide receiver.Finally, Cutler will only do as well as those players around him and in particular those players that have to catch his passes and take his handoffs. Last year, Cutler struggled with some of his receivers because they would run the wrong routes, cut them off too soon or not be in the right place at the right time. Hopefully, after being in the offense a full season, the receivers will have a better idea of how to play in that offense and be much more productive next season.
All of these things are important in order for Cutler to have a good season next year. Remember that he can’t do it alone but he certainly has a huge part in it and needs to be on top of his game in order for the Bears to have success. You would think that after all of the criticism that he has received over the past few months he would be ready to go out and show everyone that they were wrong about him.
But he can’t use that as his only motivation next season. He needs to prove he’s a winning quarterback and wants to bring his team into the Super Bowl next year.