Imagine a baseball player stepping to the plate without a bat, or at least one that is too short, too heavy and possibly cracked. Picture a jockey mounting a mule and lining up next to thoroughbreds at the Kentucky Derby. Think about a NASCAR driver getting behind the wheel of a 4-cylinder car, a boxer fighting with one arm, a golfer playing an 18-hole course with just a putter in his bag, or a basketball player stepping on the court in a pickup game against three players at once.
Now you know what it’s like for Jay Cutler to quarterback the Chicago Bears.
I’ve been stunned by the number of Bears fans — and some members of the media — recently calling for the head of Cutler. I’ve heard some callers on sports talk radio, and other fans leaving the Bears game Sunday, claiming the Bears’ acquisition of Cutler last off-season is “the worst trade ever made.” Many Bears fans are regretting the trade and are longing for Kyle Orton, wishing he was still the quarterback.
My question to them is simple: Why?
If you’re making the argument that the Bears could have used those two first-round draft picks and the third-round choice that they gave to Denver in the trade on offensive line help, I’ll understand your point. I won’t agree with it, because serviceable linemen are easier to find than a young quarterback with Cutler’s skills. But because the line is so putrid, I understand the argument.
But if you’re arguing that Orton is a better quarterback — why?
Is it because Orton is second in the league right now with 2,140 passing yards compared with Cutler’s 1,483? Unless you’re trying to win a fantasy football league, who cares?
Is it because Orton is more careful with the ball and Cutler takes too many risks? Well, Orton threw a pick-six on Sunday, too, just like Cutler.
Is it because “Orton knows how to win games,” the same argument so many Orton fans use when defending their quarterback? The Broncos are 2-5 and lost, 59-14, to the Raiders on Sunday. Now there’s a winning quarterback.
Football is a team game and you can’t compare quarterbacks — or any players — by statistics. You have to compare talent and Cutler is oozing out the pores with it. Meanwhile, Orton is getting by while making the most of what God has given him. In fact, Broncos fans are ready to tar and feather Orton for his performance on Sunday. The Denver Post on Monday had multiple articles questioning whether Orton has anything left in the tank.
Don’t give me a caretaker quarterback, give me a player who can make a play to win a game. Could Orton have helped the Bears beat the Redskins on Sunday? Possibly, because one less interception from Cutler might have done the job.
But I’ll wager dollars to doughnuts that Orton wouldn’t have completed that touchdown pass to Johnny Knox in the back corner of the end zone between two defenders. Or the touch pass to Devin Hester in the Dallas game that Hester pulled down with one hand for a touchdown. Or the 59-yard bomb in that same game to Knox on third-and-15.
Hell, I’ll go as far as saying that Orton would be on IR right now if he were playing behind this Bears’ offensive line. And that’s really what this is all about. How does anybody expect Cutler to succeed behind the worst offensive line in football and one of the worst in recent Bears history? How can you expect him to succeed without a single bona fide No. 1 receiver? As a group, the Bears’ receiving corps has some speed and talent but none would be a No. 1 option on any other team in the league. Few teams would use any of them as No. 2 receivers.
The sheer ignorance of Bears fans who are throwing in the towel on Cutler before he even steps into the ring is downright maddening. You can’t expect him to paint a masterpiece without paint, brushes or a canvas.
Patience is a virtue that Bears fans seem to not have. But if you’re going to be impatient, how about you direct it at Lovie Smith and Jerry Angelo, who have been around here much longer than Cutler. Smith brought the team to a Super Bowl, and while I’ve been patient with him, three straight seasons without a playoff appearance is frustrating and four is unacceptable. Meanwhile, Angelo is the man most responsible for the mess that is the offensive line, the unit that allowed the New York Giants to make a mess of Cutler’s brain.
It’s understandable to be upset about Cutler’s four interceptions against the Redskins. Or his five interceptions last year against the 49ers. Or four against the Packers in the season opener a year ago. You just can’t turn the ball over that much. But here’s a question for Cutler-bashers to ponder: are the Bears good enough to win the Super Bowl if, say, Peyton Manning were the quarterback of this team and all other pieces remained the same? For that matter, would any other quarterback in the league make the Bears a Super Bowl contender?
I’m not asking if they’d be a better team. I’m asking if they’d be a Super Bowl team. And the answer is no.
Not that you could even acquire a Manning or Tom Brady or Drew Brees in a trade. None of those teams would even be willing to give up those players because franchise quarterbacks are hard to find. If you want to boo Cutler for turning over the ball, feel free to do so. But somewhere in the back of your mind, ask yourself: “What better options do the Bears have?”
None. Quarterbacks don’t grow on trees.
Until Angelo — or whoever the general manager is throughout Cutler’s stint with the Bears — surrounds Cutler with enough talent to win the Super Bowl, it’s best to reserve judgement on Cutler. And until you can name a quarterback in the league that would win the Super Bowl for the Bears with the other 52 players currently on the roster, Cutler is the right man for the job.
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