Just as an aside here: Not that it’s worth spending too much time pondering at this point, but as I’ve noted once before, this is quite possibly the only Chicago season that Jay Cutler will have to work with offensive coordinator Adam Gase.
If Cutler does poorly, he is unlikely to see another season as a Bear. If Cutler and the offense do well, Gase is unlikely to be passed over for head-coaching opportunities. Something in between good and bad could play out, but Gase was interviewed for top jobs last offseason and his appeal isn’t apt to decline with a year making over Cutler and an offense.
But that’s off in the future. The present is considerably more interesting at this point, particularly the zero-interception game Cutler just played. Here’s why:
One of the prime directives guiding Gase when he took the Bears job was eliminating or at least substantially reducing the turnovers that have defined Cutler’s career. After weeks of due diligence in the form of calls to Cutler former (fired) offensive coaches to gain insight into Cutler, Gase’s plan became to truncate, not the playbook, but rather Cutler’s flexibility options within it.
The result has been a more controlled Cutler, still capable of cataclysmic turnovers, but one with limited audible latitude (somewhere Aaron Kromer is smiling) and greater clarity of purpose, which typically translates into cleaner execution.
With an interception-less game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Cutler’s interception rate dropped to 2.3 percent, nearly to the career-low (2.2 percent) that he was logging in 2011 when he had the Bears at 7-3 before breaking his thumb. Not coincidentally, that was under Mike Martz, who similarly gave Cutler a very short leash on decision-making and who was one of those on Gase’s call list earlier this year.
One or two epic games do not a turnaround make. More than one or two “new” Jay Cutlers have materialized over the years. And Cutler has yet to post a turnover-free 2015 game, a four-game record that continued with his losing the football for a sack-fumble Kansas City touchdown.
But what Cutler has done is dial up his playmaking at crucial points when he does keep footballs in his team’s hands. If the interception arrow continues to trend downward as his leadership one is pointing upward.
[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]
“We're here to get players better and we expect our players to be receptive and do the things we ask,” said coach John Fox. “And from the very beginning as far as learning the offensive system, some of the accountability it takes at the quarterback position, [Cutler] has been all in and worked real hard with the offensive staff learning the system, putting in the time it takes to execute it and I think he's grown and he'll continue to grow.
“We’re six months into it from just a learning aspect, not even practicing aspect, but I like what I've seen and I expect him to get better moving forward.”