I liked ESPN's Trent Dilfer's comments on Jay Cutler Thursday night. I thought it was the kind of well-balanced and insightful analysis that only an astute former quarterback could provide:
“I feel like I’ve been a Jay Cutler hater the last couple of days and I’m really not,” Dilfer said. “I think he’s a remarkable talent. I think he has a wonderful upside. I’m just not ready to call him a great quarterback yet. I’m ready to call him a great talent and a good quarterback. He’s been through some battles and he’s proven that he can play the position at a high level. What he hasn’t proven is the third element of the skill set that I look for. First being your overall talent level, that includes arm talent and he’s exceptional there. Then you look at the intuitive skill set, he’s got good intuitive skills. He extends plays, has good pocket awareness. He does things like that.
“But the big thing I put a weight on is the intangible skill set. Some of the stuff that’s a little more subjectively evaluated. How you play on critical downs, critical moments. Your leadership qualities. How you respond to adversity. Do you get the most out of your teammates? Are you a pro? Do you have a presence about you in the locker room or on the football field that brings out the best, that brings out this energy in your team? I think he’s very lacking in that. So the problem I have is the mentalities [between the Bears and Cutler]. I don’t know if they marry each other real well. What you’re trying to become as the Chicago Bears is a little old school. A little black and blue. Now you just [obtained] one of the more glamorous quarterbacks in the league. That puts a great burden on the offensive coaching staff to try to put boundaries around Jay Cutler and teach him how to play the position a little bit differently.
“I hope he can learn how to play it that way because that’s the most succesful way to play. Tom Brady has proven that, Peyton Manning won a Super Bowl when he was given some boundaries to play the position a little bit differently. It pretty much works for everybody with great talent. If they can pull it off in Chicago they are going to be a better football team. I’m just not positive this makes them a better football team right away because they gave up so much and they can’t plug some of the holes that they have.”
In addition to quarterback Kyle Orton, the Bears traded first- (18th overall) and third-round picks in this month’s draft and a first-round selection in 2010. Chicago did receive a 2009 fifth-round pick from the Broncos.
“I think it’s a little too much,” Dilfer said. “But I understand why the Bears did it. I understand [Bears GM] Jerry Angelo’s under a great deal of pressure. They’ve never invested greatly into a quarterback, let alone marquee offensive players. It has great sticker value but it also creates great expectations, which are hard to manage in professional sports, and it puts a great deal of pressure on Jay Cutler. Because Jay Cutler in Denver, they found every excuse for him. They always made excuses for him. He was very coddled, both in the media and by the organization. It’s not his fault, that’s just how it was. As we know, that isn’t going to be the deal in Chicago now. Nobody is going to make excuses for him, he’s going to get scrutinized, probably criticized unfairly at times.
“And the expectations for him will be to come in there and immediately produce huge numbers. So he can play good football, throw for 205 yards and a touchdown, they win the game and people are going to go, ‘Wait a second,’ because people are so enamored with numbers they’ll go, ‘Wait a second here. Why isn’t he throwing for 350 yards?’ How does he handle that? Is he able to look himself in the mirror and say, ‘You know what. That 205 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions was a heck of a lot better than that 410-yard game last year with two touchdowns and two picks and we lose 37-31.’”