It rarely serves to spend excessive energy or time looking at the past (“cowards and losers” notwithstanding). But sometimes the past indeed holds foreshadowings of what’s to come.
So it may be with Jay Cutler, whose bosses have changed far more and more often than he has over the past six seasons as a Bear and the three before that in Denver. Improvements have occurred, but almost unfailingly have been followed by regressions to the mean. Meaning: Cutler has returned to his base course of excessive reliance on supposed physical talents, innate aggressiveness and, unfortunately shaking decision-making under pressure.
When Bears coordinator Adam Gase arrived, much background-checking was done to ascertain what made Cutler tick, or stop ticking. The result was a strategy, not of truncating game plans or plays, but what Cutler was going to be needed to do, beyond the obvious No. 1 of making winning plays the way a $126-million quarterback is required to do.
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Against that backdrop came the first game for Cutler under the new scheme – and mindset – for the offense, and for him. With time to assess, the overall reveals some major progress in the development of Cutler, yet at the same time a sign of steps still needed to be taken.
The case study:
Gase stepped forward and took responsibility for the play call made last Sunday that resulted in the interception of Cutler by Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews.
“The interception, that was a bad call into that defense,” Gase said on Thursday. “[Cutler] did what was asked of him and Clay made a good play.”
The only question would be whether the “bad call” was Cutler’s going to the Plan B he’d been given if the original play wasn’t there. But Gase was not ostensibly pointing the finger at his quarterback, who took his own responsibility for not seeing the back-side coverage coming in the person of Matthews.
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Gase did not mention absolving Cutler of that mistake, nor of perhaps not getting the football out of his hands sooner. A Cutler fault-line over his career has a tendency to wait for receivers to be fully open before making throws. If it is Brandon Marshall in the open field against defensive backs, that’s one thing; trying to jam the football through traffic to Martellus Bennett, and not seeing the traffic (Matthews), is something else.
One thought is that Cutler is still thinking through all situations and has not reached the requisite instant-reaction point.
“I would say we're still thinking a little bit,” Cutler acknowledged. “I don't think it would be fair to say that all 11 guys including myself have everything hammered completely home. So we're still thinking a little bit.
“I think Adam does a great job during the week of really going through the plays that we like and going through everything that for the most part we're going to call. There's a few things that we'll talk about on the sideline that he does a good job with, if we do want to mix it up, of talking on the sideline and making sure everyone is on board.”