Jay Cutler played for four different head coaches in his NFL career. His greatest individual success came with his first in Mike Shanahan with the Denver Broncos. However, his greatest team success didn’t happen until he joined Lovie Smith in Chicago. The longtime Bears coach had suffered from quarterback problems since his arrival back in 2004. It was hoped the ultra-talented Cutler might be his missing piece.
It almost was. Together they reached the NFC championship game in 2010. Cutler delivered the best performance of any Bears QB in postseason history, accounting for four touchdowns against the Seattle Seahawks in the divisional round. Sadly they couldn’t complete the mission. Injuries derailed their opportunity. Not just in that title game against Green Bay but the next year as well when Cutler broke his thumb. It was a sequence of events that left fans wondering what-if.
The quarterback himself feels the same.
During an interview with Red Line Radio, Cutler was asked about his complicated relationship with Smith. Namely how the head coach, for all his good qualities, had a terrible reputation when it came to elevating the offensive side of the ball. While the quarterback made it clear he liked his former coach as a person, he admitted he wished the man had been more supportive of the offense’s plight.
“I respect Lovie. I think he was a good coach. He’s a good man. He treated everybody with respect. I mean, he was a defensive guy. We drafted defense. Everything we did was defense first. Practice was defense first. I mean it is what it is. When I was in Denver with (Mike) Shanahan, it was offensive-driven my first three years there. I think that’s probably pretty commonplace in the league. I don’t have any animosity towards Lovie whatsoever.
He was a good dude and that defense was unbelievable. It’s just that if we could’ve had a few more key pieces on offense here and there? Things might’ve been different.”
Is his gripe justified? Yeah, it is. Smith was part of four NFL drafts when Cutler was in town. Of those four, three of the four top picks the Bears made were on the defensive side. Jarron Gilbert (2009), Major Wright (2010), and Shea McClellin (2012). It’s worth noting guys like Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders, and David DeCastro were all available with those picks. The only offensive pick they did make was Gabe Carimi in 2011. He ruined his knee two games into his career.
Jay Cutler endured a lot of hits under Smith’s watch
The sorest spot for him was definitely the lack of attention to the offensive line. Carimi pick notwithstanding, the Bears didn’t devote a ton of resources to that area of the team. Barstool Carl pointed out how Olin Kreutz went to Smith after the 2009 season and pointed out the line needed help. Smith assured he’d make something happen. Then the Bears signed Julius Peppers to a record deal in free agency and drafted Wright a month later.
“We didn’t put a lot of value in the offensive line while I was there.”
The numbers back up what he is talking about. In his four years under Smith, Jay Cutler was sacked 148 times in 56 games. For the sake of comparisons, Tom Brady was sacked 100 times in 62 games across that same timeline. Cutler was hit a lot. Not until 2013 when Marc Trestman became head coach did the team get truly serious about fixing that line. They signed Pro Bowler Jermon Bushrod in free agency and drafted Kyle Long in the 1st round. The Bears finished with the 5th-best passing offense in the NFL.
One can safely say the franchise has learned its lessons.
Just 24 hours after drafting Justin Fields in the 1st round last April, the team selected offensive tackle Teven Jenkins. Then with their next pick on Day 3, they took another tackle in Larry Borom. Would that have happened with Smith in charge instead of Matt Nagy? Probably not. Another reason Cutler is a fan of the new Bears head coach. No doubt he wishes Nagy could’ve been there over a decade sooner.