I never paid much attention to Jay Cutler when he was guiding the Broncos, in fact for the bulk of his first season with Chicago I paid very little attention.
And then I decided I might as well become a Bears fan. There were several causes for this lapse in reasoning, and I don't so much mean following the Bears, as simply becoming a fan of any team. For, like love, a sports team will break your heart a lot more frequently than it will reward you with the pleasure of a title.
But during the four-plus years Diane and I were traipsing back and forth between my house in El Cerrito and her home in Algonquin, I found it a lot of fun to watch football in the Midwest, preferably at a sports bar. And, similarly, it was fun to root for a team, and since the Bears were fairly hapless still in 2009, I had low expectations, and as a result little fear of my heart being broken, for the team was clearly nowhere near being anything like a bridesmaid.
And then something weird happened last year, when the Bears hired Mike Martz as their offensive coordinator. Of course, the Bears had a pretty good defense going into last year, but lo and behold, the week the Bears faced the Cowboys was a watershed event.
Surely for the first quarter, the Dallas team put the screws to Cutler and his mates, but somehow in the second half, Martz sent in plays that allowed Cutler a short drop and release of the ball and that caught the Cowboys defense off guard, such that the Bears did adjust while Dallas couldn't, and the Bears walked away with a win.
That was largely the beginning of the maturation of Cutler, who, the more he bought into Martz' schemes, performed so much better than ever before. Not that there were not stumbles, like the terrible pasting the Bears took at the hands of the Giants, and also that of the Patriots. But, even in the playoffs, the team can within a TD of knocking off the future champs, the Packers.
Still there, however, Cutler seems to have borne the brunt of the team's failures, even though he required off-season surgery.
But, I had a hard time during the off-season hearing Cutler criticisms, and a lot of that carried into this year's drafts, where the Bears QB was relegated to second string on lots of fantasy teams and deemed a wuss.
Well, I have been a staunch--and I believe objective--defender of Cutler's since, and I think I have a pretty good filter in that I never followed him as a Bronco, nor did I care that he was the Bears signal caller when I decided to be a Bears fan.
But, I clearly could see him change from a guy who was trying to win the game with every pass into a player who began to trust his coach and offensive calls, and who realized he had some pretty good weapons with Matt Forte, Johnny Knox, and Devon Hester. And, with success, he started to relax and not force the ball or a play that was nearly impossible.
Furthermore, I think I read statistically that Cutler had been knocked down or sacked more times over the past two seasons, yet he is still suiting up and hanging in the pocket, meaning those wuss accusations are a bit on the unfair side. For, it has been pretty clear that as fine as the Bears defensive line is, their offensive line is where there was trouble.
It has seemed, though, that the more I try to lobby on his behalf, the more dismissive my fantasy football mates have been.
Well, I hope Sunday's trouncing of the Falcons--who are both a very good team, and the one with my favorite NFL player in Matt Ryan--that maybe the world will drop all those preconceived notions about Cutler and even those that said the Bears 2010 was largely luck.,
They may not win the Super Bowl, and in a division with the Vikings and Packers, things will be tough. But, Jay and Martz and his team are indeed here to stay.