Finally, a winner
Quarterbacks are given too much credit when they win. They get too much blame when they lose. It's a team game, and Cutler was saddled with ridiculously terrible defenses in his two years as a starter in Denver.
Numbers were never the problem. Cutler ranked in the top ten in yards-per-attempt in his first two full seasons as a starter. He finished third in the NFL in passing yards in 2008 and has thrown 106 scores to 79 interceptions in his career.
Cutler's reputation took a beating when he was traded from Denver after the '08 season. He came off like a diva in Denver, than couldn't deliver in his first season in Chicago. He was 24-29 in his first four seasons of starts.
Given a competent running game and quality defense, the 2010 Bears helped Cutler experience his first winning season since high school in Santa Claus, Indiana. Really.
The Bears offense improved in the second half of the season for many reasons, starting with the offensive line. During the team's bye week, coach Lovie Smith shuffled the team's guys up front and the team focused on the running game. Cutler has thrown 18 touchdowns to only nine interceptions in eight games since.
Cutler trusts his protection more, and he's more judicious breaking out of the pocket and making plays outside Martz's rigid system. Still, it's tough to take out the freestyle out of Cutler's arsenal.
"We don't coach the impromptu at all," Martz said. "We would just as soon he not do that to be honest with you. If he doesn't run that means things are going great, everything is coming out clean - boom - you complete the ball. We don't talk about it a whole lot. We don't discourage him but we don't encourage him either. It's just kind of a fine line there. I would just stay away from it. He's very smart about it."
Cutler walked that fine line this season without tripping as often. He threw the ball 123 times less in last season, but proved far more efficient. Only five quarterbacks threw for more yards-per-attempt.
Martz's precision offense mixed with Cutler's creative, physical skills is a dangerous mix. Chicago balances a conservative run-first approach with a quarterback that can make any throw. That potent combination is why no one should take the home underdog Bears lightly this week. Aaron Rodgers
certainly won't after Chicago's defense held him to 10 points the last time they met.
Rodgers and Cutler are friends, a bond strengthened because Rodgers' younger brother Jordan now attends Vanderbilt. It's a friendship that has reached a fork in the road, with conventional wisdom saying Rodgers has taken his next step this week.
"If [Rodgers] is very successful, I am probably not going to be quite as successful and vice versa," Cutler said Wednesday. "It's a tough situation and I wish him the best except whenever we have to play them."
Sometime Sunday afternoon, Cutler will be on the move with a Packers defender bearing down on him. Cutler will have a choice to make, and he's not going to take the safe option. He'll try for the impossible throw.
That is the scenario which keeps Martz and all Bears fans up at night. It should scare the hell out of Packers fans too.