Cutler MVP might be a reach, but Marshall correct to set bar high

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On Wednesday, Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall made headlines when he said that his friend and quarterback, Jay Cutler, could “absolutely” win the Most Valuable Player award this upcoming season.

It’s a lofty goal, for sure, and I don’t expect him to beat out the likes of Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, but it’s certainly attainable if last year’s offense is any indication of what’s to come. After all, Cutler already is in the MVP race from a Las Vegas odds standpoint.

I can’t blame Marshall for setting such a lofty standard. When some people set goals, they choose to make small, incremental goals that culminate in the highest achievement. You all remember Lovie Smith’s three goals, right? First was beating the rival Packers. Second was winning the division. Third was winning the Super Bowl. Incremental goals.

Others choose to set lofty — often unrealistic — goals and reach for the stars. An example of this is, oh, say, the Cleveland Browns having the goal of winning the Super Bowl.

But Cutler has a better shot at winning the MVP award than the Browns do of winning the Super Bowl. The kind of success that he and backup Josh McCown had for the Bears last year was off the charts. They combined for 4,450 passing yards, 32 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. That would have put Cutler in the Top 5 quarterbacks from a statistical standpoint.

For Cutler to have any chance whatsoever to win the MVP award, a few things must happen. First, he needs to stay healthy and play all 16 games, something he hasn’t done since 2009, his first season in Chicago. With the quality of offensive line the Bears have and the innovative offense of Marc Trestman, Cutler has a good chance to achieve this goal. Last year’s groin injury was more a freak occurrence than anything.

The second thing Cutler would have to do is improve his touchdown-to-interception ratio. This includes knowing when not to force a ball into a tight window. Given that he has so many weapons all over the field in Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Martellus Bennett, Matt Forte and second-year pro Marquess Wilson, Cutler needs only to scan the field and look for the single coverage. Somebody will always be open.

By virtue of having a better touchdown-to-interception ratio, Cutler’s passer rating would then greatly improve, which is the third item he’d need to improve in order to be considered in the MVP race. Completion percentage is also factored into passer efficiency rating.

Finally, and most importantly, the fourth aspect to Cutler’s MVP chances is the Bears’ record. Last year, despite having one of the top offenses in the NFL, the Bears’ league-worst defense dropped the team to .500 and out of the playoffs. With the changes they’ve made to the defensive side of the ball, plus the continuity on offense, the Bears should be in the running for not only the divisional crown but perhaps a playoff run. That weighs heavily on the minds of voters of the MVP award.

Is Cutler likely to win the MVP award? Probably not. There are just so many gifted players out there. But it’s not an impossible goal, especially if the Bears are as good as we all hope they’ll be.

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