Could Trestman be the key to unlocking Jay Cutler’s full potential?
BY MARK POTASH firstname.lastname@example.org July 31, 2013 8:36PM
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Updated: August 1, 2013 8:51PM
BOURBONNAIS — Marc Trestman and his offensive assistants not only have Jay Cutler’s attention, they have his respect — a factor that can’t be underestimated with the enigmatic Bears quarterback.
‘‘Very smart offensive guys,’’ Cutler said of Trestman, offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer and quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh. ‘‘They’re quarterback-friendly and they want to make it as easy as possible on myself and the other quarterbacks.
‘‘It’s fun to work with these guys. They understand offense, they understand what we’re going through and they want to put us in a position to be successful.’’
That dynamic is more complicated that it appears. It’s not enough for the Bears to have quarterback-friendly coaches. They better be Jay Cutler-friendly as well. And there is a difference. Just ask Ron Turner. Or Mike Martz. Or Mike Tice. Those guys understood offense, too. But perhaps they didn’t understand Jay Cutler — a fatal mistake for an offensive football team.
Cutler’s relationships with his coaches means everything to his success. Breakdowns in the past have taken a toll. Is this marriage any better than before? ‘‘I really hope so,’’ said Josh McCown, the Bears’ backup quarterback and a close friend of Cutler’s.
With a head coach in Trestman and an offensive coordinator in Kromer who understand personalities as well as quarterbacks, McCown acknowledged Cutler’s relationship with his coaches has the potential for more staying power than the others.
‘‘If you’ve been around Marc at all you know he’s intent on building relationships and that it starts there and the football will take care of itself,’’ McCown said. ‘‘I think that’s genuine and it’s reciprocated by Jay. You’ve got to be on the same page as men, because you spend so much time together.’’
It remains to be seen if it will last, but in theory the difference with Trestman is that he’s building a relationship with a foundation deep enough to withstand the rigors of a six-month NFL season.
‘‘Exactly,’’ McCown said. ‘‘It has the feel of a regular door, not a revolving door. It has the feel of ‘this is something that’s solid — not something that’s going to be gone next year.’ And for Jay, especially at this point of his career, there’s hopefully a peace that can come with that: ‘They’re investing in me. They care. And they want to see me be the best player I can be.’ I think that’s huge.’’
For what it’s worth a week into training camp, Cutler appears to be getting the hang of Trestman’s offense. He zipped impressive touchdown passes to wide receivers Earl Bennett, Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall and tight end Martellus Bennett in practice on Wednesday — the big news being that he has four targets he trusts.
‘‘He’s doing an excellent job,’’ said Trestman, who is by design prone to underselling any aspect of his team. ‘‘I’ve mentioned a couple of times to Matt [Cavanaugh], we’ve had some long calls today in the huddle. I gave it to him once and he spit it right back out. He’s on top of it. It’s very difficult to hear it, repeat it in the huddle and then go out and execute it. I think we’re seeing a lot of good things.’’
A contented Cutler void of distractions could have an immeasurable impact on the Bears in 2013.
‘‘I think he’s just super,’’ said guard Matt Slauson, who played the previous four seasons with the New York Jets. ‘‘His professionalism and work ethic — he’s an incredibly talented quarteraback. As an o-line, if we can just keep him clean, he’s going to be incredible.’’
And it could even change public perception of a player who for one reason or another has always come up short of being as good as everyone things he should be.
‘‘I think the media reputation of him is different from player reputation,’’ Slauson said. ‘‘Because I had a couple of friends who had been here — Ricky Henry ... Zack Bowman and they all said he’s an incredible guy. And Nick Mangold of the Jets, he played with Jay in the college all-star game and he just raved about him all the time. He said, ‘I’m so jealous that you are going there, because he is just awesome.’ And he was right. He’s a great, great, great guy.’’
Cutler is on his fifth offensive coordinator in six seasons, but this transition might end up being the best. At 30, newly married with an 11-month-old-son he’s growing up. He’s also on the final year of his contract and will be a free agent after this season. But it’s his relationship with his coaches that could make the biggest difference. He told Martz to ‘‘(bleep) off’’ in a game in 2011. He walked away from Tice on the sidelines in 2012. Maybe those were just fits of competitiveness that are part of football. But it’s doubtful we’ll see anything close to those episodes with Trestman, Kromer and Cavanaugh. Just a hunch.
‘‘I have great respect for all the coaches,’’ McCown said, ‘‘from Mike Martz or Mike Tice or Ron Turner — those guys did the best they could do. They extended themselves. [But] all I know is right now it seems like it’s working better. We’re trying to build it today and you hope when you hit the fire you can withstand it. I feel like that’s happening. I don’t know if that happened in the past or no. But I feel like it’s happening now.’’