Let the Games Begin
I know I’m getting ahead of myself; we have an entire baseball season to get through first, after all. But things in the NFC North certainly got a lot more interesting today with the Chicago Bears acquisition of quarterback Jay Cutler from the Denver Broncos. To acquire Cutler, the Bears gave up their current quarterback, Kyle Orton, plus first and third round picks in this year’s NFL draft in addition to their first round pick in 2010.
Cutler is a talented player coming off a Pro Bowl season. But before anyone goes conceding the division to the Bears, there are a few things to consider. First, while Cutler put up big numbers in Denver, his won-lost record as a starting QB is a pedestrian 17-20. For perspective consider that Orton had a 21-12 record for the Bears. Granted, Denver’s anemic defense had a lot to do with that. But it’s important to remember that Cutler won’t have the same level of talent around him in the Bears offense, particularly in the receiving corps.
There is also the matter of how Cutler will fit into the Bears game plan and locker room. For all his deficiencies, Orton was often an efficient QB who made relatively few mistakes. The Bears have long been a team that’s relied on it’s defense to win, putting a premium on ball security when they’re on offense. Cutler tends to be more of a gunslinger type of quarterback, taking chances on plays that put the ball at risk. The team will have to mesh their offensive philosophy with Cutler’s abilities.
Another concern for the Bears should be Cutler’s perceived lack of maturity. Trading a young and talented pro bowl quarterback isn’t done capriciously. Right or wrong, the Broncos obviously had their reasons for pursuing Matt Cassel of the Patriots and ultimately deciding to trade Cutler. The name I heard often this week in discussing Cutler was ‘retired’ QB Jeff George. George was a player who also put up big numbers but usually wore out his welcome in a short time because he lacked the leadership intangibles that a winning NFL quarterback must possess. For their sake, the Bears had better hope that’s not a valid comparison.
The history of giving up multiple high draft picks for one player in the NFL isn’t exactly sparkling. The trades of Herschel Walker, Ricky Williams, and John Hadl come immediately to mind. If Cutler doesn’t turn out to have the impact that Chicago anticipates, they will likely have consigned themselves to the scrap heap for the foreseeable future.