With Black Monday behind us, the Chicago Bears clearly have a lot of rebuilding to do. GM Phil Emery, head coach Marc Trestman, and others were all laid off, leaving the question: what will the Bears do next?
It is no doubt, to many Bears fans, that Cutler needs to go. Trestman was brought on to the Bears coaching staff to “fix” Cutler’s problems, though clearly failed to do so, according to fans and board members, resulting in him being let go this past Monday. While his credibility was somewhat in question during the early parts of the season, with his constant support of a floundering Cutler, his reputation was shot during the somewhat futile playoff push. By benching Cutler for week 16 for “the good of the team,” yet putting him back in after a dismal performance from rookie Jimmy Clausen for week 17, he proved to be a walking contradiction. Further, after a negative statement regarding Cutler was made by offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer, Trestman failed to fine him for the “buyer’s remorse” comment, suggesting that Kromer was not alone in this thought.
All in all, Trestman drove the nail into his own coffin. But was it all Cutler’s fault? Trestman, before signing on as the Bears head coach in 2013, had a relatively successful career as an NFL assistant, an offensive coordinator, and a head coach for the Canadian Football League. During his time as head coach of the Montreal Alouettes, he led them to two Grey Cups during five seasons. Clearly, he had some experience as a head coach, though no experience as a head coach in the NFL. When the Bears brought on Trestman to wrangle Cutler, it seemed like an odd choice over Bruce Arians, who went on to lead both the Indiana Colts in 2013 and the Arizona Cardinals in 2014 to amazing post season attempts, regardless of internal affairs or injuries. While hindsight is obviously 20/20, we as football fans do have to ask the question: would Arians have been able to fix Cutler?
Cutler has been playing in the NFL since 2006, when he signed on with the Denver Broncos straight out of the draft. While he had a decent season in 2006, his first season as a starting quarterback in 2007 proved to be interesting, to say the least, with most games being won last minute by kicker, Jason Elam. In 2009, Cutler, after feeling betrayed by new Broncos head coach, Josh McDaniels, asked to be traded, and was picked up by the Chicago Bears. After a pretty good 2010 season, and iffy 2011, 2012, and 2013 seasons, filled with concussions, injuries, and some minor attitude problems, Cutler signed a seven-year / $126.7 million contract, including $54 million guaranteed, and an average annual salary of $18.1 million. While that is not the highest annual salary of NFL quarterbacks, it remains one of the most lucrative contracts in the NFL today.
So what went wrong? Cutler is getting paid more than most of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL, with coaching staff specifically brought on to help him improve, yet his 2014 season was the most dismal yet. Can we really say that it was Trestman’s fault? Yes, Trestman did come on to the Bears staff with big promises of being the coach for Cutler, but Cutler has proved to have issues with previous coaches and staff. Further, Cutler is notorious for impromptu play calling, poor audibles, mediocre footwork, and having a bad attitude towards other players. These things are all learned or corrected during the first days of football, not nine years into a professional career. Athletes across the board can attest to how hard it is to relearn a skill that they had learned incorrectly in their first years of playing. Has Cutler been playing too long to be corrected? Regardless of how great of a coach you are, can you really teach an old quarterback new tricks?
While firing Trestman might have been the right thing to do for the Bears organization, it is clear that Trestman was not the main problem. Cutler sticking to his old ways and refusing to change the way he plays his game affected not only the relationship between him and his teammates, but also the coaching staff and upper management. Though fans are begging the organization to let Cutler go, contract restrictions may lead to Cutler remaining as quarterback for the 2015 season. Will we see more of the same 2014 Cutler, or will this new coach be able to bring out something in Cutler that the Bears have never seen? Whatever the case, Cutler has proven to be the downfall of the Chicago Bears this season, and will have to regain support from loyal Chicago fans if he intends to remain.