Good luck, City of Broad Shoulders, with Jay Cutler, the Quarterback with the Curled Lip. Cutler’s occasional tantrums and more than occasional interceptions should really appeal to Da Bears’ working-class fans. Question for Chicago GM Jerry Angelo: Does Jay get to choose the offensive coordinator, or does he have to make do with the one who’s there?
Perhaps this is when Dan Snyder learns that oh-so-valuable lesson: Some of the best deals are the ones you don’t make. Cutler has put up some nice numbers for a going-on-four-year quarterback, sure, but his recent hissy fit at Broncos management - along with a few meltdowns he’s had on the field - should give any potential employer pause.
I mean, since when is a QB who finished second in the league in INTs and 16th in passer rating an untouchable, a guy you simply can’t trade? Jay, it’s clear, has an ego bigger than the inflatable Popeye in Chicago’s Thanksgiving Day parade.
Here’s what would have happened, by the way, if Cutler had come to Washington: Jim Zorn would have been on a one-year clock to make it work. If he didn’t succeed, he would have been given some lovely parting gifts and Snyder would have done a belly dance to get Mike Shanahan, Cutler’s creator, to coach the Redskins. That’s my prediction. (And the best thing about it is we’ll never know if I’m wrong.)
Any quarterback can handle winning. The true measure of a quarterback is how he functions under duress. When the Broncos nose-dived at the end of last season, losing their last three to miss the playoffs, Cutler nose-dived along with them. And when, last month, new Denver coach Josh McDaniels looked into trading him for the QB he had in New England, Matt Cassel, Jay didn’t handle that well either.
Now let’s look at how the Redskins’ incumbent, Jason Campbell, reacted to a similar situation. Did he pout and put a “For Sale” sign on his front lawn when word filtered out that the club might (a.) draft a quarterback this year or (b.) arrange a swap for Cutler? Not at all. He simply went about his offseason business and kept whatever frustration he might have been feeling stored away in his locker.
Campbell might not have the pure “tools” the nimble, laser-throwing Cutler does, but he could teach him a lot about grace under pressure and being a team leader. Which doesn’t mean Snyder isn’t completely within his rights to at least explore the possibility of upgrading at quarterback. Jason was an average QB last year, and clubs with average QBs don’t often go far. He needs to play better - and, frankly, he should play better now that he’s had more time to digest Zorn’s offense.
It’ll be fascinating to see where Campbell’s and Cutler’s careers go from here. Chicago, after all, has hardly been a Cradle of Quarterbacks. Remember when Jim Schwartz took over the Lions a while back and cracked, “It’s probably time to find a replacement for Bobby Layne”? Well, the Bears have been looking even longer for a replacement for the legendary Sid Luckman - 59 years and counting.
That helps explain their willingness to hand over two first-round picks and a No. 3 (with a fifth-rounder from Denver as change) - plus quarterback Kyle Orton - for the new Next Sid. The lack of a quality QB probably cost the Bears the Super Bowl two years ago. It may also have kept them from winning more than one title during the Ditka era, when they had that carnivorous defense devised by the diabolical Buddy Ryan.
The current Chicago “D” is still pretty good, though not nearly up to ‘80s standards. Angelo, no doubt, sees Cutler as the Final Piece - the question, of course, being: piece of what? Still, the bar hasn’t been set very high for Jay, coming as he is on the heels of Orton, “Oedipus” Rex Grossman and the rest. It wouldn’t take much for the Bears (9-7 last season) to overtake the Vikings (10-6) in the North Division, which would keep the Soldier Field mob at bay for a spell.
But that still might not justify giving up two No. 1s. The Falcons, you may recall, gave up two No. 1s for Jeff George - the Cutler of the ‘90s - and lived to regret it. One of them, alas, turned out to be Marvin Harrison, who has caught only 128 touchdown passes since the Colts drafted him in 1996… the same season (wouldn’t you know?) George took his first steps toward oblivion.