In the endless local ruminations as to how close to or far from a Super Bowl are the Bears, in one area they at least have one box checked.
Jay Cutler was the 2006 No. 1 draft choice of the Denver Broncos, 11th overall (same as Ben Roethlisberger). Of the eight remaining playoff teams, six are there with quarterbacks who were No. 1 draft choices:
Kansas City Chiefs: Alex Smith (No. 1, 2005)
Green Bay Packers: Aaron Rodgers (No. 24, 2005)
Arizona Cardinals: Carson Palmer (No. 1, 2003)
Carolina Panthers: Cam Newton (No. 1, 2011)
Pittsburgh Steelers: Roethlisberger (No. 11, 2004)
Broncos: Peyton Manning (No. 1, 1998)
The number would be seven of eight had Blair Walsh converted a 27-yard field goal that would have put the Minnesota Vikings and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (No. 32, 2014) into the divisional round instead of Russell Wilson, Seattle’s third-round pick in the 2012 draft.
[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]
That’s strictly an FWIW. Obviously draft position is less than zero guarantee of landing a player capable of getting his team even close to a Super Bowl. And defense is obviously critical; six of the eight divisional teams rank in the top 10 in fewest points allowed. Cutler being a No. 1 simply puts him in the same general trivia question as Terry Baker, Tim Couch, Jeff George, JaMarcus Russell and other 1’s of history.
Is he potentially good enough? is more relevant given his 2015 season jump-starting his skills application.
Quarterback play is the common thread through teams advancing to the divisional-round level. Seven of the eight quarterbacks boast passer ratings better than Cutler’s 92.3 for 2015, with only Manning lower-rated than Cutler in what has been an injury nightmare of a season for Manning. So he’s statistically not really up to where the tall dogs run.
Is Cutler at a level capable of getting a team deep into playoffs? Quarterbacks with considerably less than his talent level have won rings (e.g., Trent Dilfer, Jeff Hostetler, Brad Johnson, Mark Rypien). But for all of the importance on complimentary football and structuring a team and offense that don’t require Cutler to be a superstar, chances of your team playing more than 16 games in a season rise considerably if your quarterback is one.