Wanna Fight About It? A Tale of Two Jays

Cover image credit: Original Artwork by Adam Bedore (https://www.instagram.com/artistic_amnesia/)

Welcome to the first of hopefully many editions of, Wanna Fight About It? My good friend Jack Wright (a former college running back, football coach and current colleague) and I are going to argue A LOT. In this first edition, we’re going to argue about something we’ve argued about since 2012 when we started working together. I am certain that this argument is going to be very similar to the one you’ve had with your coworkers, friends and maybe even some random person on Twitter. At one point, it got so bad that our boss brought it up in a department meeting. She said, (and I quote) “&@$& you Joe Cutler!” We knew what she meant. 

Before we begin, we have to tell you where our heads are at. Jack HATES Jay Cutler. I don’t mean that as hyperbole, I mean that every time I say that name Jack makes a very specific face; one of utter disdain. I, on the other hand, think of Jay as the best quarterback Chicago ever had and wish he had hung around for a few more years. (Jay plus Nagy’s offense…just think about it.)

I think it’s really important that any of you reading understand that we couldn’t be coming from more opposite ends. I still have a Jay Cutler bobble-head on my desk and Jack took some convincing to have this conversation until I told him that he didn’t have to hold back.

We decided to do this as an almost-formal debate. I will argue that Jay Cutler was the best thing we had here in Chicago and Jack will argue that Jay should have released or traded away long before the start of the 2017 season.

Afterwards, each of us gets to respond to the other’s opening argument.

Alright Jack, let’s fight. 

Jay Cutler: The One That Got Away (RD)

You still think about them from time to time. You know the one I’m talking about. Maybe you didn’t appreciate them at the time because it was college and you had so much time to meet that special someone. Maybe you didn’t appreciate them because you didn’t know you had the one right in front of you. Maybe you hadn’t been on enough bad Bumble dates (sometimes you get what you pay for). Maybe rewatching Tiger King for the fourth time has really put things into perspective (Carole definitely killed her husband). Whatever the case, you definitely remember all the good things you had when they’re gone. Did Jay throw a LOT of interceptions? Yes. Did he leave everyone with warm fuzzies? No. Was he the best quarterback Chicago has ever had? 100%, Yes (stop talking about Jim McMahon and Sid Luckman).

Let’s look at some of his records for the Bears:

Passing completion percentage: 61.8% (first in Bears History)

Passing yards: 23,443 (first in Bears History)

Touchdown passes: 154 (first in Bears History)

Passer Rating: 85.2 (first in Bears History)

Game-Winning Drives: 18 (first in Bears History)

Wins: 51 (first in Bears History)

Hair: We all know it’s not close. 

The highlights speak for themselves:

My very good friend Jack wanted Jay to be Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees or maybe even that quarterback up North, but so did 28 other NFL franchises. Great quarterbacks aren’t everywhere. Franchises overpay for decent ones all the time. Jay was definitely a decent quarterback and the Bears let him go. Cutler wasn’t the supermodel Jack wanted, but Jay was OURS and he was good.

A Lack of Talent

Throughout his entire career, Jay played with an absolute and utter lack of talent. For the first three years of his career in Chicago, Jay’s best targets: Earl Bennett, Johnny Knox and Devin Hester. Please don’t get me wrong, I really loved these dudes. My wife and I named our first dog Hester; but Hester wasn’t a No. 1 wide receiver and neither were the other two (Earl Bennett was incredible on 3rd down…). In Jay’s first season with the Bears (2009) he threw 27 TDs, and his No. 1 target? Devin Hester with 757 yards and 3 TDs; imagine if Jay had Allen Robinson.

The offensive lines? Jay still wakes up next to Kristin some nights in a cold sweat thinking about 2010 vs. the Giants. J’Marcus Webb and Frank Omiyale. Need I say more?

Offensive Coordinators”

It’s okay guys, the Bears brass brought in Mike Martz to be the offensive coordinator from 2010-2011. Mike Martz traded away one of Jay’s most trusted targets in Greg Olsen (really good move Martz, seriously, that Greg Olsen guy didn’t amount to much of anything, except 8,444 yards and 59 touchdowns…) and implemented lots of seven-step drops. Jay Cutler was sacked 52 times in 2010. FIFTY TWO! How did Jay respond that year? He led the Bears to the NFC Championship game where he was injured and couldn’t come back, only to watch Caleb Hanie Caleb Hanie all over that team up North. 

Mike Martz never coached again in the NFL, and before you start talking about Jay being a “coach-killer,” Jack, Mike Martz’s last job before coaching with the Bears was two years before as the offensive coordinator of the 2008, 7-9 San Francisco 49ers. He was fired after one year. He was working for the NFL Network as an analyst when he got the call from the Bears. While we’re on the topic, let’s talk about some other offensive gurus that Jay worked with. 

  • Ron Turner (2009): fired from the University of Illinois (not exactly a football powerhouse). FIRED.
  • Mike Martz (2010-2011): I still remember asking myself, “can we trade Martz instead of Greg Olsen?” FIRED.
  • Mike Tice (2012): Tice was a decent offensive line coach. FIRED.
  • Marc Trestman/Aaron Kromer (2013-2014): Did anyone else watch Trestman’s halftime speech when he was coaching the XFL’s Tampa Bay Vipers? Wow. I’m so juiced up right now to read Little Women (the book is really quite delightful). I’ve said this before: How did any person with a functioning brain have Bruce Arians in the facility and say, “NOPE, Marc Trestman is our guy.” FIRED (thankfully).
  • Adam Gase (2015): Cutler had his best quarterback rating that year (92.3), so Gase got hired as the head coach of the Miami Dolphins. PROMOTED.
  • Dowell Loggains (2016): Let’s get the offensive genius behind the Cleveland Browns. FIRED. 

Jay Cutler was not perfect. He threw WAY too many interceptions and was never the locker-room leader that many wanted him to be. However, he was tough as nails, stacked tons of Bears records, threw an amazing deep ball, won a lot of games for Chicago and NEVER had any off-the-field issues. 

I really wonder if Mitchell Trubisky would have benefited greatly from sitting behind Jay Cutler for a year or two instead of being thrust into the starting spot after Mike Glennon wasn’t a bona-fide starter…*gasp*.

Cutty, come back…

Jay Cutler has a Cannon (JW)

Once upon a time, there was a quarterback who played for the Chicago Bears. He had a CANNON for an arm.

The end. 

Wait, what? That’s the whole story? Worst story ever, you say? Perhaps. However, as an avid Bears fan, I lived the excruciating, much longer story. Perhaps a nightmare is a better term (think Cats, the movie.). (Ryan, turn off Very Cavallari. Jay is allegedly funny and likable. Great. That’s cute.)

I was so hopeful, so EXCITED when the Bears traded for Jay Cutler. You see, all my life I have hoped for a blue-chip quarterback that would lead my beloved Bears to another Super Bowl (1985? Really, Bears?). On April 9, 2009 the Bears made a BIG move. A move that was wholly uncharacteristic for ownership. They made a deal with the Denver Broncos for Jay Cutler.

Big-name. Big arm.

The season before the trade, Cutler had thrown for a franchise-record 4,526 yards, 25 touchdowns and 18 interceptions (if that seems like a lot of interceptions — just you wait). In his 37 game career in Denver, he completed 62.5 percent of his passes for 9,024 yards, 54 touchdowns and 37 interceptions (is that a pick per game? Not TOO bad). 

I wanted him to succeed. My kids would wear his jersey and watch games with me on Sundays. They would have a QUARTERBACK; THEIR quarterback. It’s the stuff father’s dreams are made of and kids never forget (stop talking about Jim McMahon and Sid Luckman).

So it began…Jay Cutler would spend eight seasons in a Bears uniform. Over that time, (2009 – 2017) the Chicago Bears had two winning seasons and made the playoffs…wait for it…ONCE. In that time, the guy with a cannon for an arm managed to win as many games as he lost (51) and throw SLIGHTLY more TDs than INTs (154 and 109, respectively — spoiler: that doesn’t put Jay very high on the NFL’s All-Time TD/INT ratio list). In that time, (deep breaths…breathe, Jack, breathe) he managed to kill coaches’ careers, break Bears’ fans hearts and gut the franchise.

I know, you liked the first, much shorter story. Hang tight. I’ll sell you the whole seat but you’ll only need the edge! Except you Ryan. There are no seats for you. Maybe ask Jay for one. 

 The Leader Who Didn’t Want to Lead

We have learned that Jay is Jay. His nonchalant, DGAF demeanor doesn’t make him a bad guy. I’ll buy that. It DOES make up a big part of the reason for why he was a bad quarterback. Cutty’s individual statistics are impressive. In fact, he has set franchise records in a number of categories. Isolated, you’d think those numbers paint a picture of rampant success; winning seasons, playoff victories, Pro Bowl appearances, Super Bowls and MVPs. However, there was little-to-no team accomplishments. How can that be possible?

If you have competed in team sports at any level you begin to understand the importance of intangibles. Without question, a franchise quarterback is a cornerstone of an elite organization. Aside from physical attributes, leadership is the most important element in the quarterback position. Again, leadership is not easy to gauge because leadership is not tangible.

Here is the deal. When a quarterback steps into the huddle at a critical moment in the game, he has to possess elite leadership qualities along with the play to back it up. If you have been in an offensive huddle and looked into a quarterback’s eyes, you know the vibe. The deer caught in the headlights quarterback low-key rattles the confidence of the entire offensive unit. The steely-eyed missile man oozes confidence. That confidence permeates not only the offensive unit but the entire team. 

Imagine, the quarterback steps into the huddle to begin a game-winning drive. He looks his teammates straight in the eyes and says (with a confident swagger and a shitty grin on his face), “We are going to win this game, boys. We are going to march this ball down the field and we are going to win this game. Am I clear?” 

Alternatively, the quarterback who does not exude confidence, does not take responsibility, and does not seem to really care very much creates a toxic domino effect. For example, the defense gets PISSED. The D busted their asses to get a three-and-out or they held the opponent scoreless after an extended drive. Awesome. The D is pumped. Excited. The team has momentum. Then, out strolls Smokin’ Jay. He drops back and throws an ill-advised pass that drops into the other team’s hands. UGH. Now, that same defense is asking, “what the actual f#@!” 

The momentum has shifted dramatically for the worse.   

Jay abdicated his role as a leader. He openly admitted he was not interested in being THE leader on the field. It’s difficult to fully describe how a lack of leadership at THAT position negatively impacts the entire team. Take a look at quotes from HoFer Brian Urlacher. If your quarterback is not going to lead, who is? 

The Quarterback Who Lacked Fundamentals

The higher you rise in professional sports, the faster the game. NFL players are freaks of nature. They are huge, fast and insanely athletic. Legendary coach Don Shula was once asked why he spent so much time on the small details. His answer? There is no such thing as a small detail. My point? If a player is fundamentally unsound, he makes mistakes. 

Cutler did not pay attention to the small details. For instance, watch some game footage of Culter. Where is he holding the ball on his dropbacks? Does he hold it high? Chest or chin level? Is he prepared to throw? Nah. The ball is always at his hip. That means when he goes to throw he is slower on the delivery. Those nanoseconds make a difference. The difference between a completion and a pick:

Now, go watch the greats. That is one example of a litany of poor fundamentals displayed by Jay.

When he threw those picks he took the blame, right? I mean, he did not blame it on other people? Right? Wait…he would openly chastise the wide receivers? He would make some type of gesture that made it clear the wide receiver had run the wrong route? No? Hmm. 

Perhaps the wide receiver did run the wrong route. First, how does showing him up in public help the team? (See poor leadership) Second, fundamentals. Did you ever see clips of Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison running routes pregame? Hours before kickoff, Manning and Harrison were on the field preparing. Manning would call a play and a coverage. Harrison would run the proper route given the coverage. Line back up. Do it again. In the NFL the coverage determines the route. Safety playing over the top with ample coverage? Run a dig. Corner in press coverage with no help over the top? Run a fly. Fundamentals and preparation. Cutty did not take the time to own his errors, nor did he make the time to ensure they would not happen in the future. 

The Jerk With Jerkface Like No Other

A jerk to the staff. A jerk on the field. A jerk to coaches. A jerk to teammates. A jerk to the media. Cutty’s attitude? Dooon’t caaare. 

I am not sure I have ever witnessed a player with more toxic facial expressions and a crap demeanor. Rumor has it he was unkind to staff at Halas Hall. We saw countless examples of him screaming at OCs and pushing teammates on the sidelines. Body language DOES matter. The way you carry yourself on the field and in life sends a message. Jay’s message? Dooon’t caaare. 

Rebuttal RD:

I’ll say this about my friend Jack, he knows football (which is why I asked him to do this), but sometimes I think we’re on totally different planets. 

Let’s start with the first point, leadership. Jack and I don’t actually disagree a whole lot here (shocking, we argue constantly: I like the Cubs, Jack is a White Sox fanatic) Jay was NOT the leader of the Chicago Bears during his eight-year career. This isn’t in contention, I was hoping Jay was going to be that guy, but it just wasn’t in his personality. However, in the video that JW posted (Urlacher has hair?! That’s sarcasm, I’ve seen every billboard), the HOFer states that Jay didn’t need to be that guy, they had those guys in the locker room.

Jay threw a lot of interceptions. Everyone knows this, including the day he broke the Bears TD record:

I will admit this was the bad part of Jay as the Bears quarterback, but I never argued that Jay was elite, only that he was the best the Bears ever had. Jay had a cannon for an arm and tried to fit the ball into too tight of windows often. Sometimes it made for amazing plays, and other times it made you want to pull your hair out. However, more often than not, a would-be 4th string wide receiver (but was the Bears No. 1 WR) who was just learning a new offense, again, running the wrong route. Jay could have taken more ownership here. Point made, JW. 

Jack said Jay didn’t have confidence in the huddle, or at least didn’t inspire confidence. 18 game-winning drives (most all-time by a Bears quarterback) would beg to differ. Need examples? How about games against the Vikings or Chiefs? Man, those were fun. 

The last point is the toughest one. Why didn’t the Bears win more games with Cutler? Did they lose a few because of interceptions? Definitely. Did they lose all of them because of Jay? Absolutely not. Am I going to answer all of my questions? Possibly. 

I truly believe a lot of that falls on the Bears’ brass; the lack of talent on the offensive side of the ball really hurt Jay’s career in Chicago. Lovie Smith (who I still have so much appreciation for) brought in too many of his friends to be coaches (Mike Martz, Bob Babich as DC) who weren’t the right guys for the job. There were a lot of reasons why the Bears didn’t win more games with Jay as quarterback, but to say it was just Cutty isn’t telling the whole picture. 

Counter? Rebuttal? (JW)

Aside from being a Cubs fan and Jay Cutler apologist, I really like you Ryan. I do. 

Matt Forte, Alshon Jeffery, Brandon Marshall, and, in 2012, a wicked good defense (the Bears finished 10-6 and 3rd in the NFC in 2012). Yet, the Bears struggled mightily despite making every effort to bolster the offense. The more the Bears invested in Jay (they signed him to a 127 million dollar contract – SMH), the worse the team performed. The Bears certainly paid him elite quarterback money. The defense was gutted for lack of funds and Jay’s performance continued to be mediocre at best. Oh, and the offense, despite efforts to spend it into greatness, was in the bottom-half of the league every year but one (with an All-Pro RB). 

Urlacher was trying to be as gentle (that’s funny – MONSTER) and PC as possible. Ryan, you said it. Urlacher said it (wait, he does have hair…). Jay was not a leader (great hair though, agreed). There were other people in the locker room to pick up that responsibility? Ooookkkkayyyy. You have a 127 million dollar quarterback that isn’t your leader. Done. 

No doubt, the franchise made some questionable decisions drafting and hiring. The thing is, great quarterbacks make everyone around them better. How many times have we seen Brady, Brees, Manning, Rodgers turn mid-level players into beasts? An ineffective quarterback brings out the flaws in the entire franchise. Great players make great coaches, they don’t criticize them and get them fired. Don’t you think there is something staggering about the list of coaches you rattled off Ryan? What is the common denominator? Jay Cutler. Makes you wonder, to what extent did he play well in the sandbox? Was he part of the problem or part of the solution? Could all of those coaches be THAT bad? I highly doubt it. (Ok, you have to watch this:

The Bears should probably retire Cutty’s jersey. He holds so many franchise records. I don’t think they will though. The Bears have nothing to show for all his “success.” Honestly, I am not sure what else needs to be highlighted.

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