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Jay Cutler is not our baby anymore

Updated: June 18, 2014 9:02AM



Think about it: Jay Cutler has been in Chicago nearly six years.

Whether he bops off to Beverly Hills or Kenya at times is irrelevant. The Bears employ him. Chicago owns him.

He is the biggest star in this city at the most scrutinized of positions in the sport we love most.

Who else is close?

Derrick Rose is a wounded duck. The Cubs are ‘‘rebuilding.’’ White Sox slugger Jose Abreu doesn’t speak English. Chris Sale plays every fifth game. The Bulls’ Joakim Noah is rising, but he needs help.

Then there are the Blackhawks twins, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. But they’re an attached pair, aren’t they?

Cutler stands alone.

It is a tough, lonely place to be, and we all should remember that — this scribe, included — when we rip him to shreds for some failure afield, a mistake or an injury or a throw of arrogance that we ascribe to his personality and not his human fallibility.

‘‘I love Chicago,’’ Cutler said Tuesday afternoon at Halas Hall. ‘‘We love being in Chicago.’’

The ‘‘we’’ would be him and his celebrity wife Kristin Cavallari and perhaps, in a lesser voting role, their two infant children.

The latest child, Jaxon Wyatt, was born a little more than a month ago, and as Cutler said, ‘‘Kristin was ready to get that one out and kind of get the summer going.’’

Party!

Reality shows and Hollywood are never far from this unlikely couple (Cutler hardly does any TV commercials because he’s not comfortable with that stuff), but there is seemingly something more and more authentic about Cutler as a real, dedicated athlete and not a spoiled brat.

This change lingered in the air at Halas, as Cutler sat in front of the mics, dressed in workout shorts, sandals, a gray hooded Bears sweatshirt and a blue Bears cap with a bright orange ‘‘C’’ in the middle. Indeed, it was a hooded sweatshirt that Cutler had insolently pulled over his head before laying his head on a table and mumbling answers while doing a TV interview way back in his Denver Broncos days.

Since then, Cutler has changed. At the start he didn’t know he had Type 1 diabetes. He was single. He was . . . young.

Now he’s 31, and what he can bring Chicago is the repeat Super Bowl victory the city has been talking about since January 1986.

So everything he does or says — or simply is — matters. Bears fans who say, ‘‘I don’t care if he’s a jerk or doesn’t communicate or anything else, as long as he wins’’ don’t get it.

Cutler has the physical skills. It’s those intangibles that mean everything. If Cutler doesn’t have his teammates, he’s got nothing. If he’s an immature smart ass, he’s got nothing.

And there’s a chance now that he’s got everything. The offensive line is there. ‘‘For awhile, it was a hit parade,’’ he said of the 87 sacks he took in his first two seasons with the Bears. The receivers, the tight end, the running back, the coach, the defensive line. As much as any NFL leader could reasonably want.

But maybe most of all, Cutler himself is where he needs to be — mentally and emotionally and physically. Right here, a dad, a husband, a bright helmsman, with a mentor of Gandalf-like calmness and insight — Marc Trestman — and, above all, a sense that the clock will not tick forever.

This is funny, the need for self-awareness and mental growth, in a game that is as stupid at times as pig-wrestling. But it’s needed. And you hope those things come before injuries and old age make enlightenment irrelevant, because you’re crippled.

‘‘Looking back at my younger days in Denver and even when I first got here, you do some things that are foolish and you regret, and I think anyone does that,’’ Cutler said. ‘‘Me and Kristin getting married, having kids, being involved with [GM] Phil Emery and Trest and just kind of the way everyone operates kind of forces you to grow up. If you don’t want to grow up, you’re probably not going to last. They’re going to find somebody else.’’

They are. A new crop of ball players comes up annually. Even quarterbacks.

It’s getting late for Cutler, but not too late. He’s matured, and he even seems to be nearing some kind of peace.

‘‘It’s problem solving,’’ he said of his position on the field. ‘‘After you do it a few years, you know what the answers are already.’’

When you know the answers, and you stay upright, and you move the chains, and you don’t get sent off in a wheelchair, you can own Chicago. It takes time to figure that out.

Email: rtelander@suntimes.com

Twitter: @ricktelander



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