Jay Cutler has complete support from Bears GM Phil Emery
BY MARK POTASH firstname.lastname@example.org October 10, 2012 10:38PM
Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (6) runs from the pocket as he is pressured by Jacksonville Jaguars defensive tackle D'Anthony Smith (95) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 7, 2012, in Jacksonville, Fla. The Bears won 41-3. (AP Photo/Stephen Morton)
Updated: November 12, 2012 12:03PM
With a 4-1 team and a two-game lead over the Packers just five weeks into his first regular season as the Bears’ general manager, Phil Emery probably should run for mayor while he still has the chance.
Success is that fleeting around here. But even if the Bears sustain their pace when they negotiate a second-half schedule frought with danger, Emery’s job is only going to get more complicated.
The future of coach Lovie Smith and quarterback Jay Cutler with the Bears will be at the top of the list. Smith was the bigger issue Wednesday, with Emery quashing a radio report that he is negotiating a contract extension for his coach. But the Cutler situation could be much more dicey, a bigger test of Emery’s ability to excel in his self-acknowledged role ‘‘as an evaluator and manager of people.’’
The decision will come down to this: With Cutler’s great arm and ability to make throws that even Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers can’t make, does he have what it takes to lead a team to a championship — or even just win one?
More to the point: Are Cutler’s fits of petulance involving Mike Martz last season and J’Marcus Webb and Mike Tice this season just ‘‘family squabbles’’ or a pattern of insolent behavior that ultimately is detrimental to the team? Are they isolated incidents or an indication that Cutler, for all his talent, never will be able to command the respect that inspires his teammates to play at a championship level?
Emery unequivocally and resolutely supported Cutler on Wednesday, describing the Cutler-Webb and Cutler-Tice incidents as part of the normal workings of a very big and sometimes dysfunctional family.
‘‘The important thing when I consider my own family and when I look at the team is, are we all going in the same direction in a positive way?,’’ Emery said. ‘‘Do we have a passion for one another? Are we allowing each other to move towards excellence? Are we there to help one another? True love and understanding for each other? And do we have a commitment towards moving forward?
‘‘In each one of those ways, when I look at Jay Cutler, the answer is, ‘Yes.’ He’s a passionate player. He has great drive and energy. He’s moving towards excellence. He does care [for] and love his teammates. And he’s a big part of what we’re doing and the positive things that we’re doing.’’
That the criticism of Cutler has come not just from fans, columnists, sports-radio shows and other NFL experts, but also Hall of Fame quarterbacks such as Terry Bradshaw and Dan Marino and Super Bowl-winning coaches such as Bill Cowher is not deemed a red flag by Emery.
“I can’t speak for Terry Bradshaw. I can just speak about us,’’ Emery said. ‘‘I’m a Jay Cutler fan. I believe in what he’s doing as a quarterback, and when you look at the simple things: the 9-1 [record] in the last 10 games, the 22-10 over the last three years. Those stats say something, that we have a winner at a key position for our franchise — a franchise-level quarterback.’’
That probably settles it. But, as Cutler himself said Tuesday, ‘‘It’s a long season.’’ Let’s see what happens in the final 11 games, when Cutler has completed his fourth season with the Bears and his seventh in the NFL.
Because based on the numbers, Jay Cutler will be here forever. But with all due respect to Emery’s ability to evaluate and manage people, you can’t judge Cutler by just the numbers.
Cutler is the Bears’ all-time leader in career passer rating, but does not have a single season among the top eight. He’s 22-10 over the last three seasons, but has yet to be standing at the finish of any of them.
Numbers can be as blinding as they are revealing. Cutler is second in the NFL in fourth-quarter passer rating this season (118.4), which indicates that he’s at his best when it counts. But Cutler also has a perfect 158.3 passer rating when the Bears are ahead by 10 points or more and a 58.4 rating when they’re not. That indicates he is at his best when the wind is at his back.
That doesn’t mean Cutler can’t win a Super Bowl, but that he’ll likely need more help than most quarterbacks of his repute to do it. Whether that’s worthy of a ‘‘franchise-level’’ quarterback could be the biggest decision Emery makes. Lovie’s cap number is $0. Cutler’s will be much higher than that.