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Jay Cutler lacks consistency needed to be an elite QB

PITTSBURGH PA - SEPTEMBER 22: Jay Cutler #6 Chicago Bears throws second quarter pass while playing Pittsburgh Steelers Heinz Field

PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 22: Jay Cutler #6 of the Chicago Bears throws a second quarter pass while playing the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on September 22, 2013 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

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Updated: November 5, 2013 6:36AM

Imagine a consistent Jay Cutler, as steady as a metronome, as reliable as a crossing guard. Imagine him throwing for 300-plus yards in nine consecutive games.

While you’re at it, imagine no greed or hunger.

It’s not easy, even if you try.

Saints quarterback Drew Brees is on that 300-yard-game streak, during which he has thrown 22 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. You can see Tom Brady or Peyton Manning doing something like that, too. But Cutler? You’d have an easier time losing weight in your feet than getting similar consistency from him. He has had one
300-yard game in his last 18 games. That came in the Bears’ brutal loss Sunday to the Lions.

It’s not close to being all his fault, obviously. But it’s not too much to ask that Cutler become more consistent, and there’s certainly no reason why he can’t cut down on wildly bad games, like the one he had in Detroit (three interceptions and a fumble returned for a touchdown).

‘‘It’s going to happen,’’ he said Thursday of poor performances. ‘‘What you don’t want to see is three turnovers, three turnovers, three turnovers consecutive weeks like that. If you can minimize those, you’ll be in a better place, obviously.’’

Cutler isn’t Brees, whom the Bears face Sunday at Soldier Field, and he never will be Manning or Brady. But if coach Marc Trestman is the quarterback guru everyone says he is and if Cutler is a new, more mature quarterback (no, really this time), then there should be improvement in his game and his steadiness this season.

Cutler said the biggest difference between him and Brees is time served in one offensive system. He’s on his fourth offensive coordinator in five seasons with the Bears. Brees has been with Saints coach Sean Payton, who runs the offense, since 2006, not including when Payton was suspended last season for his sleaziness in the Saints’ bounty scandal.

Trestman shares the sentiment that Cutler has been hurt by the Bears’ rootlessness on the offensive side of the ball the last five seasons. But that idea loses some of its power when you consider Cutler was part of the reason offenses and coordinators haven’t succeeded here. He might have been a victim, but he was also a culprit.

‘‘I’m not going to compare Jay to Drew Brees or anybody else,’’ Trestman said. ‘‘I think that what we saw the first three games is the ability to play at a reasonably consistent level. [There are] signs we can get better.

‘‘That’s what we’re working on here. We’re not trying to make long-term, hypothetical observations. . . . At the end of the next 12 weeks, then we can do some kind of assessment on where this thing is and where it can go.’’

The Bears will be looking intently at Cutler’s consistency as they decide whether to give him a big contract after the season. There needs to be signs and wonders. More than anything,
the three-interception, what-was-he-thinking games have to be less frequent.

The problem, of course, is that you risk taking away what makes Cutler good by asking him to be more careful and buttoned-down. If he had gone all Tea Party on us, he probably wouldn’t have attempted that beautiful, game-winning pass to Martellus Bennett against the Vikings, a ball that needed to fit into a space the size of an ATM-card slot to succeed. Remember, to that point in the game, Cutler hadn’t been very good, with two interceptions and a fumble returned for a touchdown.

If you’re having a hard time remembering the bad stuff, it’s because you put so much effort into celebrating the greatness of that pass.

‘‘You’ve got to take calculated risks out there,’’ Cutler said Thursday. ‘‘There’s going to be times where we definitely want to push the ball up the field, and you’re going to have to make some tight throws.’’

So where are we with Cutler? Back to square one? I don’t think so. He has had two good games, one decent game and one very bad game in the Bears’ 3-1 start. Now he has to follow the very bad game with a very good one to beat the 4-0 Saints. He needs to have a game that makes you think, ‘‘You know, this Cutler fellow is pretty good.’’ The kind of game that has teased us too often in the past. And then another one the next week.

You may say I’m a dreamer.
Feel free.

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