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Player Spotlight: Jay Cutler

A detailed look at Jay Cutler's fantasy prospects for 2013

Jay Cutler is a quarterback the always seems to spark controversy among NFL and fantasy football fans alike. Some say that Cutler is a contender, citing his final season in Denver where he looked like he was destined to become an NFL elite QB, only to be traded to Chicago where he has never had the tools to succeed. Others say he’s a pretender, citing his frequent battles with the coaching staff and team mates, lapses in concentration and poor throwing mechanics as the real cause of his troubles. He’s been labeled everything from ‘Franchise Quarterback’ to ‘Coach Killer’ since coming to Chicago, and depending on the time of day, you’ll hear a chorus of ‘sign him to a long term contract’ trying to drown out the chorus of ‘move on without him’ from Chicago Bear fans. However, no matter what camp you find them in, Chicago fans are united in one thing though: if the Bears are going to return to the playoffs this year, Jay Cutler is going to lead them there.

From Disaster to....

In 2011, Cutler had a pretty solid season for the first ten games. He had posted over 2300 passing yards and 13 passing TDS against just 7 interceptions. However, after leading the Bears to a 7-3 start, he broke his thumb and was replaced by Caleb Hanie as the Chicago signal caller. The Bears lost five of their last six games, and missed the playoffs. The Bears promptly signed Jason Campbell to be Cutler’s backup and traded a pair of third round draft picks to Miami to bring Cutler’s former Denver teammate Brandon Marshall to Chicago.

Marshall was easily the best receiver that Cutler lined up with since coming to Chicago in 2009. Marshall promptly broke almost every Chicago single season receiving record, and had the best season of his seven year NFL career. Cutler looked to Marshall early and often, and by the time the season ended, almost 45 percent of the Chicago offense had been Cutler throwing to Marshall. The Bears finished 10-6, and narrowly missed the playoffs.

But a pathetic excuse for an offensive line and lack of pass catching receivers outside of Brandon Marshall hampered Cutler’s performance again. He finished the season with just over 3000 yards passing, just 19 passing TDS and 14 interceptions. He was sacked 38 times in just 15 games, and his 202 yards per game were his lowest since his rookie season. Although he led the Bears to 10 wins that season, he frequently struggled against stronger teams and flat out melted down in a few games, including division rival Green Bay (2 losses, 23 completions on 48 attempts for just 261 yards and 2 TDs against 5 INTS).

Life after Lovie

Exit Chicago coach Lovie Smith. Chicago GM Phil Emery wasted no time in dismissing Smith the Monday after the season ended, and quickly hired former CFL head coach Marc Trestman. Trestman has solid NFL experience as a quarterback coach and offensive coordinator. He’s best known for leading Oakland quarterback Rich Gannon to the MVP title in 2002 when the Raiders made it to the Super Bowl before losing to Tampa Bay. The Bears hope that Trestman can re-create that success with Cutler this season.

Emery also recognized that if Jay Cutler was to be successful as Chicago’s signal caller, he would need to avoid being sacked once every 12 attempts as he was under Lovie Smith. The Bears signed former Saint Jermon Bushrod and 1st round draft pick Kyle Long to bolster an offensive line that has struggled for the last several years. The Bears also signed former Giant tight end Martellus Bennett, giving Cutler a receiving option that he has lacked since Greg Olsen after the 2010 season. When Cutler came into camp this year, it was arguably the best supporting cast that he has had since coming to Chicago.

Make or Break Season.

Much has been made about Chicago and the 40+ veterans that have expiring contracts at the end of this season. Jay Cutler is one of them. We’re not suggesting that Cutler’s performance is going suddenly skyrocket because he’s playing for a new contract, but the reality of it is that the Chicago front office will be taking a long, hard look at the long-term possibility of Cutler as their franchise quarterback. Emery and Trestman inherited Cutler and there are virtually zero options to replace him on the current roster. This season’s success or failure will rest on the shoulders of Cutler and the new offense. If Cutler can finally live up to the potential that Chicago was looking for when they gave up two first round picks to get him, then he’ll probably receive a long term extension. If not, he could find himself on the wrong side of a franchise tag or even be cut loose for free agency.


  • The Bears have made additional improvements on the offensive line and added a big receiving tight end in Martellus Bennett. These are some of the best players that Cutler has had around him since he came to Chicago in 2009. 
  • New coach Mark Trestman has installed a new pass-friendly offense, and he experience working with NFL quarterbacks. 
  • There are no real quarterback options on the roster aside from Cutler. If he’s healthy, he’ll be the starter.


  • Cutler is now working with his fourth new offensive coordinator in the last five seasons. His reputation as a ‘coach killer’ has some definite merit. 
  • Cutler has been sacked an average of once every 12 pass attempts in Chicago. The offensive line has improved but it is still not a top-shelf unit and they will take time to gel. 
  • Cutler has a tendency to break down in certain circumstances, making bad decisions and displaying poor throwing mechanics in certain situations. Can one summer under a new head coach erase all of that?

Jay Cutler Projections

Will Grants Projections 318 521 3756 24 18 195 2
David Dodds Projections 279 482 3360 23 16 193 1

Final Thoughts

It's not being dramatic to say that Cutler is really at a crossroads this season. Since coming to Chicago in 2009, he has not lived up to expectations, and the Bears have been good but not great. Despite being 27-13 as a starter over the last three seasons, Chicago has only made the playoffs once and that was back in 2010. Cutler's contract is up at the end of the season, and GM Phil Emery has already said that no player will receive an extension during the 2013 season. New coach Marc Trestman has proven he can jump-start a quarterback's career. The offensive line has undergone a dramatic change. Brandon Marshall is a stud receiver and Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett are excellent complements to Marshall. The table is set for Cutler to have his best season as a Bear. He just needs to get it done. Otherwise, Chicago may just cut him loose and move on with another option. It's time for Cutler to silence the critics.

Other Viewpoints

Quote from the Footballguys message forum spotlight on Jay Cutler by TheDirtyWord:

"So count me in the camp that does not see a major improvement for the Bears passing game fortunes just because a supposed offensive mind is now HC, not to mention a realization by the new coaching staff that chucking the ball all over the field is what NFL defenses will want the Bears to do.  Winning in the NFL is winning in the NFL, and the Bears path to doing so simply isn’t going to be via the right arm of Jay Cutler.  What 2013 will show is that the scalpel used to remove Lovie Smith should have been more directed at the Jay Cutler portion of the Bears body."

Quote from Fox 2013 preview: Chicago Bears by Taylor Jones:

"Last year, the Bears reunited Cutler with his favorite target in Brandon Marshall and the two connected for 118 receptions and 1,508 yards … no other Bear had more than 400 receiving yards, but with a healthy Alshon Jeffery and newly acquired Martellus Bennett, Cutler will have the best receiving corps of his career at his disposal.

Although Cutler will be playing under his fourth coordinator in five seasons, he now has the comfort of a head coach that has the ultimate faith in him. Marc Trestman has made the seismic shift to turn the Bears into an offensive-minded football team and Cutler is obviously the key to their success."

Quote from The 2013 Season is a Make-or-Break Year for Chicago Bears QB Jay Cutler by Doc Hopkins:

"Entering his fifth season in Chicago, incumbent Chicago Bears QB Jay Cutler finds himself with a position he's never held: The undisputed face of the franchise and leader of the team.

How he responds to this predicament will address two pressing issues: whether Cutler is an elite QB, and whether or not the Bears' front office has a franchise quarterback. Either way, Cutler will bear the responsibility for 2013, meaning this truly is a make-or-break year for Chicago's signal caller."

Quote from Chicago Bears: Most Underrated and Overrated Players of All Time by Alex Gelher:

"I feel badly about putting Jay Cutler on this list because, well, the guy gets piled on by the mainstream media at times. That being said, when you look at Cutler's body of work as a Bear, it's easier to have him land on this list (and also easier than trying to find an overrated player from the Halas era, because those guys were GOOD). Cutler is often regarded as just outside the cusp of the "elite" quarterbacks in the NFL thanks to his cannon arm, but in reality his stats don't merit that level of consideration. Even in 2012, when he was finally reunited with Brandon Marshall, Cutler only threw 19 touchdowns and completed less than 60 percent of his passes. By comparison, both Russell Wilson and RGIII exceeded those totals as rookies. Until Cutler is able to cash in on his physical potential and even out the mental side of his game, he'll have to suffer labels like "overrated" for years to come. "