Jay Cutler blossoming from Trestman’s tutelage
BY RICK TELANDER firstname.lastname@example.org | @ricktelander October 11, 2013 12:42AM
It’s hard to imagine quarterback Jay Cutler signing a new deal for anything less than $100 million, with $45 million to $50 million guaranteed. | Getty Images
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- GRADING THE BEARS: Week 6 vs. Giants
- Where was the Bears’ D-line?
- From stop to go: Offense comes alive in first half
- Brandon Marshall too much for Giants’ ‘D’
- Tim Jennings provides early, late pick-me-ups
- Jonathan Bostic sees his first action on defense
- Snap counts from Bears’ win over Giants
Updated: October 11, 2013 1:26PM
It would be nice to have an opponent like the Giants every week — at least for the Bears’ Jay Cutler.
His first-half numbers Thursday night at Soldier Field were positively Manning-like. Peyton Manning, that is. (Whatever has happened to two-time Super Bowl-winning Giants quarterback Eli Manning is another story.)
In the first two quarters, Cutler completed 13 of 18 passes for 179 yards with two touchdowns, no interceptions and a glitzy 140.7 rating. It brought to mind the cautious but precisely effective play of All-World New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees against the Bears on Sunday.
But the aforementioned Eli Manning did as much to lose this game as Cutler did to win it. Sort of. Because the key thing for a conservative quarterback is not throwing interceptions or giving up fumbles or sacks while still being able to create scores. And Manning dished up three picks, one particularly horrendous one that was returned for a touchdown by Bears cornerback Tim Jennings.
Cutler had good touch all night, lofting the ball nicely over charging defenders, zipping it on out patterns and square-ups. There were at least two drops, including one by lime-green-footed diva Brandon Marshall. So it goes.
But there were no egregious mistakes by Cutler, no brain-locks, as there were four days earlier in the loss to the Saints, in which he was part of two fumbles — one lost — in the first two offensive series. Say this, the guy can learn. And, apparently, Marc Trestman can coach.
It was interesting what Giants coach Tom Coughlin said afterward about his possible Hall of Fame quarterback from the legendary Manning family and what Eli needs with his god-awful 0-6 team: “You can coach him. You can coach him the way you coach anybody.”
The way Cutler obviously was coached by Trestman since the Saints loss, when Cutler actually had better stats than in this win. But stats, need we remind anyone, are deceptive.
“Offensively, we played a very clean game,” said Trestman, now 4-2 in his NFL head-coaching career. “Jay took care of the football.”
He did. He threw it out of bounds when needed. He took an intentional-grounding call rather than fling the ball up for grabs or hang on to it and get creamed. All learned skills.
“We tried to stick to things we felt comfortable with,” Cutler said.
His final stats — 24-for-36 for 262 yards, two touchdowns and a 106.5 rating — were conservative, particularly in this 300-yards-passing-is-nothing era, but he never was sacked and he didn’t get hurt on his three scrambles and he didn’t turn the ball over. By the end, he was able to handoff off to running backs Matt Forte and Michael Bush, simply to protect the 27-21 lead the Bears had piled up.
You see, throwing for huge numbers — needing to throw for huge numbers — is not the way to win most games. One supposes that Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo’s 506 yards in the air last week, to go with a Cowboys loss, pretty much says it all.
“We feel good about the win,” Cutler said. “A lot of positives.”
This was true, even if Manning’s interceptions — he has an astounding 15 already — made it virtually impossible for the Bears to lose. That is, if Cutler didn’t match Manning screw-up for screw-up. Which he did not.
Nor did he let Marshall’s early drop or the wide receiver’s neediness or desire to be center stage (those non-regulation shoes, by the way, will cost Marshall more than five grand) get in the way of what needed to be done to win. (We’ll suppose that young, record-setting wideout Alshon Jeffery is OK with Marshall getting more passes than he.)
Cutler’s short first-down completion to tight end Martellus Bennett against an all-out Giants blitz with under two minutes to go sealed the win and was, in microcosm, a look at how the Bears likely will need to win most games this year.
Sometimes a wild horse can be trained by being broken. Other times, and in the best of times, it happens by having the horse and rider work together to overcome problems, to visualize the world through the other one’s talent and know that each can do best when pleasing the other.
The Bears have had three wins this season by a combined 10 points (not including their rout of the Steelers). Cutler and Trestman are horse and rider. And right now they’re galloping along.