Three games is a small sample size to come to definitive conclusions about the transformation of any player. Especially Jay Cutler. However, it’s just enough time to shout a rash overreaction fro the mountaintops.
Cutler is the best quarterback in the NFC North. OK maybe not yet. That was what the Bears believed they had acquired from Denver in April of 2009. His reunion with Brandon Marshall in 2011 was a windfall for Cutler, but he remains fickle.
At the very least, this is the best Cutler we've ever seen. Despite Marshall's shrinking offensive role, Cutler's a more complete quarterback than he's ever been.
Every year that they’ve been together, Marshall has been top five in the league in targets and receptions. No longer is Cutler locking onto Marshall. This year, Marshall is 18th in targets and 36th in receptions.
Cutler is seeing the entire field these days. Instead of having his eyes stalk Marshall’s movements across the field, he’s also looking to Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett more often.
Thankfully, he’s also learned to stop gawking and using his peripherals—on and off the field.
Jay from 40 Year Old Virgin is proud of Jay Cutler 4 finally using his peripherals & not starin down Brandon Marshall pic.twitter.com/rCXnDDEEMD— DJ Meta Dunson (@CerebralSportex) September 23, 2014
Marc Trestman's prestidigitation with quarterbacks is the equivalent of Hakeem Olajuwon's hands-on coaching of big men with primitive post moves. Like Jim Caldwell in Detroit, Trestman wasn’t just hired to lift the Bears offense into a higher stratosphere, he was tasked with being the Sherpa for Cutler’s ascension into the upper echelon of NFL quarterbacks.
While we ponder whether Cutler is now a top-ten quarterback, it’s time to begin considering Trestman’s place as one of the NFL’s elite quarterback whisperers.
Andy Reid’s been hiding quarterback deficiencies and highlighting their strengths for over a decade. It only took four games for Chip Kelly to shine Mark Sanchez’s turd into a tradable asset. Three games in, Jim Caldwell’s earned praise for his reinvention of Matt Stafford--before his shoddy performance against Green Bay on Sunday.
The mind boggles at what type of magic, Trestman could have worked with Andrew Luck, if he’d been hired over Chuck Pagano to hold down their head coaching vacancy when they held the No. 1 overall pick two years ago.
What's visibly changed is that instead of threading the needle, Check down Cutler's began looking at his tight end Bennett more often. Cutler’s 6.2 yards per attempt average is the lowest of his entire career while he’s posting the highest completion percentage of his entire career.
That was never more apparent than on Monday night when Cutler divided up his targets between Matt Forte in the screen game as well as Jeffery, Bennett and Marshall.
On a night when Marshall only caught one pass for six yards and had what would have been his fifth touchdown reception of the season reversed by a penalty, Cutler targeted Jeffery eight times for 105 yards, but Bennett caught five passes for 54 yards and dominated in the redzone, catching two touchdowns.
The challenge will be remaining on this trajectory. Cutler’s hot streaks are like unstable nitroglycerine. He could explode on an opposing defense or implode inwards at any moment. He's essentially a more dynamic Rex Grossman. The difference between Good Rex/Bad Rex is that the expectations and financial investments were lower, allowing Lovie Smith to divert resources to his defense.
Following Cutler's 3-0 start to the 2013 season, he lost four of his next five starts while Josh McCown nearly led the Bears to a playoff berth.
However, Cutler once again screwed the pooch in Chicago’s regular season finale/de facto playoff qualifier against Green Bay, fans called for Cutler’s head. Chicago inked their 31-year-old quarterback to a seven-year, $126 million deal.
It’s going take a lot more than a Week 3 win over Geno and the Jets for Chi-town’s denizens to believe anything’s changed with Cutler.