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Trestman is getting Jay Cutler back to Pro Bowl level

IRVING TX - AUGUST 18:  Denver Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan shares laugh with quarterback Jay Cutler #6 prior

IRVING, TX - AUGUST 18: Denver Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan shares a laugh with quarterback Jay Cutler #6 prior to a preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys at Texas Stadium August 18, 2007 in Irving, Texas. (Photo by Dave Einsel/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Jay Cutler;Mike Shanahan

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Updated: October 17, 2013 12:16PM

The Broncos had reached the AFC Championship Game with Jake Plummer at quarterback in the 2005 season. But getting there wasn’t good enough, and coach Mike Shanahan couldn’t see that changing.

It was 2006, and it was time to hand over the reins to Jay Cutler.

“I really felt at that time that was as far as Jake was going to take us,” said Shanahan, now the coach of the Redskins. “I thought Jay Cutler had the intangibles and the skills to possibly take us to the next level.”

Of course, the Broncos didn’t go any further. And in a short time, Shanahan and Cutler would be changing addresses after major changes in Denver.

But Shanahan helped mold Cutler into a Pro Bowl quarterback in his third season in 2008. So from Shanahan’s vantage point — with the Bears and Redskins playing Sunday at FedEx Field — there’s something that concerns him about the 2013 version of Cutler under coach Marc Trestman.

“Well, that’s the way he played for me,” Shanahan said. “He had well over 600 throws [in 2008], and I think he had like 11, 12 sacks in all those throws. So he got rid of the ball very quickly and distributed the ball well, and I really liked what I saw.”

During his only Pro Bowl season, Cutler completed 384 of 616 passes for 4,526 yards, 25 touchdowns, 18 interceptions and an 86.0 passer rating.

Six games in and with 1,630 passing yards, 12 touchdowns, six interceptions and a 95.2 passer rating (eighth-best in the NFL), Cutler is on pace for his best season since then.

So what took so long?

“That’s part of building a team around a quarterback,” Shanahan said. “It doesn’t happen overnight.”

In the Bears’ case, it took three offensive coordinators, a coach and a general manager to go for things to click. That might seem like a lot for one player, but like Shanahan said, “One of the reasons why you go after a quarterback is you have to have one to give yourself a chance to win.”

“And you try to put a supporting cast around him so he has a chance to be successful,” he said.

If Cutler continues on the same course, it’ll be a further indictment of what took place under former coach Lovie Smith and ex-general manager Jerry Angelo: failing to build an offensive line or develop receivers, having ineffective offensive schemes and even trading tight end Greg Olsen.

Trestman said he and quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh delved deep into Cutler’s success in Denver.

“Matt and I looked at just about everything in ’07 and ’08 and where he was at that time,” Trestman said. “They had done a great job and had elevated his game early in his career. He was playing at a high level there with a supporting cast. He had three very good receivers, a good line. They were protecting him, giving him a chance to make some plays.”

It sounds exactly like what the Bears have going on after all of GM Phil Emery’s changes. Trestman also went to Shanahan for advice.

“Mike said you’re really going to enjoy working with Jay [and that] he’s a smart guy, he wants to work, he wants to learn [and] he’s coachable,” Trestman said. “It was reassuring to hear it from him.”

And it’s all turning out to be accurate this season.

Receiver Brandon Marshall was a big part of Cutler’s Pro Bowl season in Denver, but he said something better is happening this year.

“It’s more from a mental aspect,” Marshall said. “He’s locked in. Jay’s doing an amazing job of not only doing the things he needs to do, but he’s getting everyone lined up. He’s walking us through routes, showing us how he would like it. The trickle-down effect has been good from his leadership.”


Twitter: @adamjahns

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