Over his doubts, Jay Cutler ready to play for keeps
BY ADAM L. JAHNS Staff Reporter September 4, 2014 9:45PM
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Updated: September 5, 2014 11:34PM
If every NFL quarterback truly has his own journey, as coach Marc Trestman maintains, then there was a time when Jay Cutler believed the Chicago portion of his journey would end, that he would have to move on.
There were just too many offensive changes, missing pieces, jarring sacks and frustrating moments.
“I didn’t know if it was going to be here,” Cutler told the Sun-Times in an interview Thursday at Halas Hall. “I didn’t know how long I was going to be here after the first couple of years.
“But [chairman] George [McCaskey] brought in [general manager] Phil Emery and then got [Trestman] here. It seemed like all of the pieces had fallen together.”
Signing Cutler to a seven-year, $126.7 million extension, including $54 million guaranteed in the first three years, undoubtedly makes him the most important piece of the Bears’ puzzle.
The narrative used to be that Cutler had yet to play up to his elite natural talents. Ineffective coaching, a lack of weapons and his own injuries had kept him back.
At 31 and in his sixth season with the Bears, Cutler now has to play up to a massive contract. And he embraces it. He wants to reward those who have rewarded him. He wants to give the McCaskeys their money’s worth.
“You obviously want to make good on the money you’re being paid and make sure that they’re getting the best value for their dollar,” Cutler said. “It’s still about the guys in the locker room. That’s what it boils down to. And George understands that.
“Obviously, I appreciate everything they’ve done for me and my family. But the guys in the locker room, I’m doing everything possible for them, too.”
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Jimmy Clausen received a text message from Cutler almost immediately after signing with the Bears. There was much to learn if he was going to be Cutler’s right-hand man.
“He was great,” Clausen said. “He picked me up the next morning and brought me in, and we studied for a few hours. He helped me.”
Cutler, who posted a career-best 89.2 passer rating in his first year under Trestman, seemingly has invested in the Bears’ quarterbacks just like the team has invested in him. He doesn’t peer over his shoulder. He turns around and provides his cell number and every tip he can about what Trestman wants.
“We go to eat a couple of times a week and before games,” rookie David Fales said. “We spend a lot of time together.”
Clausen and Fales are new in town, but they’ve heard the talking heads take shots at Cutler on national platforms. They’ve heard the criticism about his body language and demeanor.
“It’s just hearsay,” Clausen said.
“It’s just stories,” Fales added.
“A lot of people do that with me,” Clausen went on. “They make prejudgments. I’ve obviously heard different things about him.
“I want to get to know him before I make a judgment on somebody. Not just Jay, but everybody and see what kind of person they are.
“Jay is a great person, a great husband, a great father. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg of getting to know him.”
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Taking a break from the NFL owners meetings in March, McCaskey went into detail about his experiences with Cutler, telling the Sun-Times he has watched him closely.
In McCaskey’s words, Cutler is a good person with a good heart and is a good football player. Signing him to a massive contract extension was an easy decision, he said.
“I’m a big fan,” McCaskey said.
Cutler just happens to keep an eye on McCaskey, too.
“When I got here, obviously Mike [McCaskey] was in charge and George stepped in,” Cutler said. “The first thing you notice is how hands-on he is and how passionate he is and how much he loves the team.
“It’s not just a moneymaker for him. It’s something he’s grown up with. He cares about not only the players, but everyone in the building. He’s always around. He’s always energetic.”
All of it trickles down, Cutler said, and it’s all part of the better situation that the enigmatic quarterback finds himself in, which includes Trestman, offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer, a quality offensive line and his array of big weapons.
“You feel fortunate,” Cutler said. “But when I was in Denver, that’s kind of how it was. You had offensive pieces around you. You had people that were really good at football.
“You look across the league, there’s plenty of guys at my position that have been in my position for years, and those are the guys each and every year that get it done. If you want to win in this league, that’s how you have to do it.”
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When it comes to Chicago itself, Cutler said his view of the city hasn’t changed over his career. But he has grown more comfortable with his place in it.
He’s the quarterback of its beloved football team — the face of a storied franchise.
And a highly paid one.
“As I’ve gotten more settled here, you’re going to have more opportunities, and we’re going to try to give back,” Cutler said.
“It’s more just that I’ve been here longer, and I’m more comfortable with where I’m at.”
It’s his comfort with Trestman’s offense, which led the NFC in scoring in 2013, that has raised expectations for him in 2014.
“We’re still trying to figure things out offensively,” Cutler said, “but we’re definitely on the right path.”