The Green Bay Packers don’t get chances like this very often.
Heading into Sunday night’s Week 10 game against their arch rival Chicago Bears, the Packers have a golden opportunity to basically end the Bears’ season.
At 3-5, Chicago has been one of the league’s most disappointing teams in 2014. This was supposed to finally be the season the Bears seriously challenged the Packers forNFC North supremacy and they were even talked about as a possible Super Bowl contender.
This was also supposed to be the year Jay Cutler asserted himself as one of the NFL’s elite quarterbacks. With offensive weapons like Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey, Cutler’s second season under Marc Trestman was finally going to be THE year. He had shown flashes before, but Cutler always seemed to blow it with a boneheaded interception.
Instead the Bears find themselves at 3-5 and are reportedly seeing their locker room begin to self-destruct. In a season where he was predicted to possibly be a coach of the year candidate, Trestman suddenly might be fighting to keep his job.
While this might be amusing for Packers fans to watch, I’m going to be a neutral party here and try and help the Bears out a bit.
Trestman might be the one who pays the price with his job for the lackluster Bears season, but he isn’t the main cause of their problems.
Ever since Cutler entered the league in 2006, the word “potential” has always hovered over his head. It was clear early on during his time with the Denver Broncos he had the physical tools to be one of the best quarterbacks in the game. When he came in his rookie season to replace Jake Plummer, he had some struggles but overall the future looked bright with him in Mike Shanahan’s offense.
He developed chemistry with Marshall in Denver (which later carried over to Chicago) and it seemed the Broncos finally had their quarterback eight years after John Elway retired. Sure he had shown a knack for throwing some interceptions, but he was improving each year.
Then came the end of the 2008 season and the first red flag about Cutler appeared. Cutler could not get the Broncos to the playoffs each of his three seasons in Denver and the team’s collapse in the 2008 season cost Shanahan his job.
Enter Josh McDaniels. Soon after he was hired it was reported McDaniels was trying to trade Cutler and get Matt Cassel from the New England Patriots where McDaniels was previously the offensive coordinator.
Cutler didn’t like that. He thought he was above being traded. Despite 55 touchdowns and 37 interceptions and zero playoff appearances, Cutler thought he was the franchise and that he was untouchable.
He was soon traded to the Bears and the rest is history. In 2009 he threw a career high 26 interceptions in his first season in Chicago. The following year he finally got his chance in the playoffs and led the Bears to the NFC Championship game.
During that game Cutler got hurt, and again questions about his mental state and leadership were raised. He didn’t appear interested in coming back into the game and appeared aloof on the sidelines.
Cutler played under Mike Martz in 2010 and 2011 and then under Mike Tice in 2012. Neither one seemed to get Cutler to realize the potential he had shown earlier in his career.
Trestman was hired in 2013 and the Bears brought in Marshall to see if he and Cutler could recapture their magic from their time together with the Broncos. Both the quarterback and receiver appeared to pick up where they left off and along with the emergence of Jeffrey, Cutler finally appeared primed to have that big season on 2014.
Instead it seems the Chicago locker room is falling apart. This is where a good leader would stand up and rally the troops but it doesn’t seem like Cutler is interested in doing that. All he seems capable of doing is throwing boneheaded interceptions and moping around on the sidelines.
Cutler was once considered the heir apparent to Elway but now in his ninth season, it seems Cutler has actually inherited the throne of Jeff George: he has the tools but is such a headcase that he can’t be the quarterback everyone thought he would be.
The Bears don’t need to fire Trestman. They need to fire Cutler, new contract be darned.
Chicago fans are tired of his act. It’s only a matter of time before the team is as well (if they’re interested in winning anyway).——————
Kris Burke is a sports writer covering the Green Bay Packers for AllGreenBayPackers.com and WTMJ in Milwaukee. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) and his work has been linked to by sites such as National Football Post and CBSSports.com. Follow @KrisLBurke