Jay Cutler Never Reached His Potential in Chicago, and the Timeline of Offensive Coaches Tells the Tale

It’s arguable that perhaps the instability at the top of the Bears organizational structure had as much to do with Jay Cutler not reaching his potential as anything.

Cutler played for three head coaches and six offensive coordinators in his eight years in Chicago. The played for two defensive-minded head coaches (Lovie Smith, John Fox) and a pseudo quarterback guru in Marc Trestman.

The timeline of offensive coordinators who were supposed to guide Cutler to greatness is less than inspiring, but worth re-visiting as his time in Chicago ends.

Ron Turner (2009)

  • Team record: 7-9
  • Cutler’s stats: 60.5%, 3,666 yards, 27 TD, 26 INT, 76.8 passer rating; 4.9 TD%, 4.7 INT%, 5.9 sack%
  • The Jay Cutler Era had an inauspicious start, infamously throwing four interceptions and completing only 47.2 percent of his passes in a 21-15 loss against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field in the season opener. Cutler went on to have six other multiple interception games, including a five-pick night against the 49ers in a 10-6 loss in San Francisco. After a three-interception game against the Ravens, in which he produced a lowly 7.9 quarterback rating, Cutler finished the year on a high note with consecutive games with a quarterback rating of 100 or better.

    In a sense, the 2009 season was a microcosm of what Cutler’s career was at the Bears. Wildly inconsistent, where the highs were really high and the lows were painfully low.

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    Ron Turner update: Turner was fired as the head coach of Florida International’s football team in 2016 after an 0-4 start put his career record at the school at 10-30. After the 2009 season, Turner was hired by Stanford to be the offensive coordinator, but left that job four weeks later to become the Indianapolis Colts’ receivers coach.

    Mike Martz (2010-11)

  • Team record in Cutler’s starts: 17-8
  • Cutler’s stats: 59.4%, 5,593 yards, 36 TD, 23 INT, 86.0 passer rating, 4.8 TD%, 3.1 INT%, 9.1 sack%
  • Martz has the distinction of being the only offensive coordinator in the Cutler era to be part of a playoff team, and might have been a part of two had Cutler not been sidelined with a season-ending thumb injury after starting the season 7-3. Caleb Hanie went 0-4 starting in place of Cutler, while Josh McCown picked up the only win as the Bears ended the season on a 1-5 slide.

    As for Cutler, he saw his completion percentage dip as he moved from Turner’s offense to Martz’s, but his interception rate fell, too. Unfortunately, Cutler was hit a ton and was sacked at a 9.1 percent rate.

    Mike Martz update: Chicago was Martz’s last NFL coaching stop. He resigned in 2012 over philosophical differences with head coach Lovie Smith, then became an analyst for FOX Sports. Martz recently popped up as the head coach in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, a showcase game for college prospects with draft dreams.

    Mike Tice (2012)

  • Team record in Cutler’s starts: 10-5
  • Cutler’s stats: 10-5, 58.8%, 3,033 yards, 19 TD; 14 INT, 81.3 passer rating, 4.4 TD%, 3.3 INT%, 8.1 sack%
  • Tice joined the Bears as offensive line coach in 2010, and was promoted to offensive coordinator after Martz’s resignation. Chicago went 10-6 in Tice’s one season as offensive coordinator, and Cutler put up serviceable numbers. To Tice’s credit, his offenses were more committed to the run than what Martz was running, evidenced by Matt Forte’s 248 rush attempts being his most since his second year in the league (2009).

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    Even still, Cutler was sacked 8.1 percent of the time, wrapping up a three-year stretch in which he was sacked at an 8.7 percent clip. Using Pro Football Reference’s advanced sack percentage as a guide, Cutler’s 81 (or 19 standard deviations below league average) was the league’s worst. By this metric, Cutler was was sacked at the highest rate among his peers during the Tice/Martz era.

    Mike Tice update: Tice resurfaced in the NFL as the Atlanta Falcons offensive line coach in 2014, before moving on into the same role with the Oakland Raiders in 2015, where he is still currently employed.

    Marc Trestman/Aaron Kromer (2013-14)

  • Team record in Cutler’s starts: 10-16
  • Cutler’s stats: 10-16, 64.8%, 6,433 yards 47 TD, 30 INT, 88.8 passer rating, 5.1 TD%, 3.3 INT%, 5.9 sack%
  • Kromer was given the offensive coordinator title, but it was Trestman calling the plays as head coach. The Bears weren’t great, but Cutler put together a solid two-year run under Trestman with an increase in touchdown rate as his interception rate remained steady. Cutler was sacked at a lower percentage, too, while also improving his completion percentage. Things were finally looking up.

    However, as Cutler began to find consistency in his game, the rest of the team struggled to find an identity.

    The Bears were 5-4 in Cutler’s first nine starts during the Trestman/Kromer regime. Cutler had a 2-1 TD/INT ratio, an 89.8 rating, and was sacked only 4.2 percent of the time. Things spiraled from there as the Bears lost 12 of Cutler’s next 17 starts, though his numbers didn’t nosedive as he maintained an 88.4 passer rating and a 2-1 TD/INT ratio, but he saw his sack percentage rise to 6.6 percent.

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    Marc Trestman-Aaron Kromer update: Trestman was fired after the 2014 season, and landed on his feet as the Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator – but was fired in October 2016. He was recently hired to return to the Canadian Football League as the head coach of the Toronto Argonauts. Meanwhile, Kromer (whose split from Chicago was messier than Trestman’s because his anonymous rips of Jay Cutler that resulted in a tearful apology by Kromer to the offensive unit) was hired by the Buffalo Bills to be their offensive line coach in 2015, a position he currently holds with the Los Angeles Rams.

    Adam Gase (2015)

  • Team record in Cutler’s starts: 6-9
  • Cutler’s stats: 6-9, 64.4%, 3,659 yards, 21 TD, 11 INT, 92.3 passer rating, 4.3 TD%, 2.3 INT%, 5.7 sack%
  • Gase’s tutoring opened a window to what might have been the most efficient player Cutler could have been in Chicago. His 92.3 passer rating was a career best, while his interception rate dropped to 2.3 percent – a number rivaled only by his 2011 output of 2.2 percent. Cutler’s TD% took a bit of a hit, but that might have been due to an increased commitment to running the ball.

    Adam Gase update: Gase’s resume was already quite strong before joining the Bears. In fact, Gase was one of the first interviews for the head coach job left vacant after Trestman’s firing. Alas, Gase cashed in on his success as a coordinator to become the Miami Dolphins head coach, where his team went 10-6 and made the playoffs.

    Dowell Loggains (2016)

  • Team record in Cutler’s starts: 1-4
  • Cutler’s stats: 59.1%, 1,059 yards, 4 TD, 5 INT, 78.1 passer rating, 2.9 TD%, 3.6 INT%, 11.0 sack%
  • The smallest of sample sizes turn out to be Cutler’s last stats with the Bears. His touchdown rate plummeted, his interception rate bounced back in the worst way, his passer efficiency rating would have been his worst showing since 2009, and his 11 percent sack rate would have exceeded his 2010 numbers.

    The only silver lining with regards to Cutler’s departure is that he no longer has to deal with Loggains’ offense, if there was not a fit there.

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    written by

    Luis C. Medina, who you can find on Twitter at lcm1986, has been covering the Chicago Bears at Bleacher Nation since 2017. Since then, he has written about 3 head coaches, 5 play-callers, and 11 starting quarterbacks. Previously, Luis wrote about the Cubs and MLB at BN (2015-16) and worked in the Chicago Tribune sports department (2011-16). He also co-hosted a Cubs postgame show, Outside the Ivy, in 2019.

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