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TELANDER: Jay Cutler is nothing special

Updated: August 14, 2013 12:25PM



Say what you will, watch what you want, but this Bears season is about Jay Cutler.

And for reasons I’ll explain that make me — and, I’m guessing, you — very nervous.

There are the stories about the Bears’ O-line, the aging defense, the demise of ‘‘receiver’’ Devin Hester (please read my colleague Mark Potash’s insightful piece) and the new coaches, rookies and free agents.

But the NFL is driven by the man at the wheel, the quarterback. Think of it: Nobody else can turn the ball over to the other team on every play. That’s just hypothetical, of course.

But I’m not feeling Jay.

Nor am I speaking of that first-play interception Friday against the Panthers, though it’s hard to think of a worse Hello-to-the-Trestman-Era statement.

No, what I’m thinking of is Cutler. Plain and simple. Jay.

This guy is not a kid. He’s not ‘‘developing’’ anymore. He’s 30. He can tweak things, but that’s it. He might not be the immature jerk he was with the Broncos and when he first came to Chicago, but, to rearrange jargon from the athlete world, he is what he is.

And that’s nothing special.

I wish it weren’t so.

But Cutler actually has been fairly consistent in his career, which includes being a dud if he ever reaches the playoffs.

Everybody knows he’s dwarfed in stature by star quarterbacks Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Joe Flacco, the Manning brothers, even Matt Ryan and Colin Kaepernick. Maybe most of all, he’s loomed over by the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers in the NFC North.

According to the stat Total Quarterback Rating, Cutler ranked 20th in the NFL last season, behind everybody from No. 1 Peyton Manning to No. 19 Ryan Tannehill.

And if you don’t think such kids as Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson, who both finished ahead of Cutler, are going to get better, then good luck.

The thing is, No. 20 feels about right for Cutler. And No. 20s don’t suddenly become Super Bowl champs. And isn’t that the goal for the Bears?

‘‘It’s just quarterback-friendly,’’ Cutler said Tuesday of coach Mark Trestman’s new offense.

It’s sad that Cutler is on his fourth offensive coordinator and system in his last six years, but — using jock-ese — it is what it is.

And it is what it was.

Since starting all 16 games for the Broncos in 2007, Cutler has been consistent. His quarterback rating began at 88.1 that season, dipped to 76.8 in 2009, came back to 85.7 in 2011, went down to 81.3 last year and averages out to an 84.0 career rating.

About average for a starting NFL QB.

Compare that to Rodgers’ career average of 104.9, and you get the point.

Cutler’s career seems to be filled with maybes and if-onlys.

He wanted a great receiver, and he got Brandon Marshall last year. He wanted his old quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates, and he got him.

Yes, he wants — and maybe deserves — a great offensive line, but nobody gets everything in life.

The Colts’ Andrew Luck didn’t get much when he came to Indianapolis, but he has filled Colts fans with hope. Sam Bradford has the Rams, as pitiful as they are, at least poised for success.

But can you see Cutler leading the Bears to the Super Bowl?

I can’t.

Why even Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford seems to have more magic inside him than Cutler. Stafford has thrown for more than 10,000 yards in the last two seasons combined.

No, yardage, quarterback rating, touchdowns and all that don’t count for everything. But they count for something. And if this Trestman offense is so friendly to the quarterback, then why do we not have a sense that it’s any better than what any other coach puts out there in the league?

And why does Cutler look — even so early in the rebuilding stage — just like the old Cutler?

It’s not just cynicism on the observer’s part. Some of this is reaching the conclusion — premature though it may be — that the Cutler era is a doomed one.

It’s not a pure disaster, mind you. But if it were named after a rock band, it would be the Plain White T’s.

They say when a quarterback fails, it costs a team five years of development. That’s rough.

‘‘We’re definitely getting better,’’ Cutler said of the offense.

Even if true, just getting better isn’t going to cut it. Terrific is what the Bears need.

And nobody has seen that in town.

Email: rtelander@suntimes.com

Twitter: @ricktelander



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