Thirteen years ago today, the Chicago Bears made a franchise-altering move that occurred at arguably the most important position in sports. It was a trade that changed the course of the organization, for better or worse. Thursday, April 2, 2009 was a cool, overcast early spring day for Chicago standards. This was a time when Twitter was in its infancy stages, a far cry from the huge news-breaking source we all know and love today. Early in the afternoon, then-Bears general manager Jerry Angelo finalized a trade to acquire quarterback Jay Cutler from the Denver Broncos. As Bears fans ingested the news, excitement filled the air in the Windy City.
Once the dust settled and the hoopla ceased, these were the final terms of the exchange between the two teams.
- Quarterback Jay Cutler
- 2009 fifth-round pick (140th overall)
- Quarterback Kyle Orton
- 2009 first-round pick (18th overall)
- 2009 third-round pick (84th overall)
- 2010 first-round pick (11th overall)
Acquiring a QB of Cutler’s caliber in exchange for the package outlined above would be considered a “steal” nowadays due to what teams are willing to give up for such a player in the modern NFL climate. How those draft picks panned out is hindsight. In fact, the Bears used the acquired fifth-round pick to draft Johnny Knox.
Lead-Up To The Trade
Denver had just parted ways with Mike Shanahan, whom Jay Cutler was a huge fan of. However, the Broncos replaced the legendary coach with ex-Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. The new guy on the scene tried to acquire Patriots backup QB Matt Cassel in a trade, which Cutler found out about. This led to Cutler demanding a trade and putting his house up for sale.
On the flip side, the Bears had just finished the 2008 season with a 9-7 record, missing the playoffs by one game. Chicago could have clinched a spot in the postseason by beating Houston Texans in Week 17. Then-Bears QB Kyle Orton had a decent game, going 22-of-37 for 244 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. However, falling short of the playoffs spurred Angelo to aggressively address the QB position, to no fault of Orton’s.
The Jay Cutler Era
The Jay Cutler era didn’t turn out as Chicago Bears fans hoped. Cutler spent eight seasons with the Bears, compiling a .500 record of 51-51. His tenure produced one playoff appearance in 2010, during which the team went 1-1. In total, Cutler posted a 61.8 completion percentage and threw for 23,443 yards, 154 touchdowns, and 108 interceptions.
But Cutler managed to play all 16 games just once in those eight years as he suffered from nagging ailments throughout his Bears career. His best years came between 2010 and 2013, but the Bears often fell short of their playoff aspirations for various reasons.
It’s no secret that Jay Cutler was a polarizing figure in Chicago. Fair or not, fans and media often criticized him for his attitude and body language. Cutler was not for everyone. He was truly a “you hate him or you love him” type of player. There were fans who gave up on him fairly quickly. Then, there were those — like myself — who defended him until the very end. Those opposing viewpoints left the fan base divided for most of his time here.
Just as well, some of Cutler’s teammates didn’t think of him as a leader or a friend. Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs, Matt Forte, etc. instantly come to mind. But there were others who went to bat for him, such as Kyle Long, Greg Olsen, Brandon Marshall (for a while), etc. Again, polarizing.
However, Cutler managed to stabilize the Bears’ QB position for eight years. The organization and fans knew who the starting QB was that window, something that had been lacking for quite some time in Chicago.
Cutler’s time with the Bears was truly a roller coaster ride for the ages. He often dazzled with his brilliance and athleticism as well as his arm talent. That taste of playmaking ability left fans desiring more. But his style came with the spurts of head-scratching decision-making and plays.
Overall, Cutler was a super talented QB with his intelligence, arm strength, and athleticism. Unfortunately, it never fully came together for him, which was truly the most frustrating part of his tenure. Through it all, nobody can question his toughness. Week in and week out, he showed up, put his body on the line, and took a beating.
Revolving Door of Coaches
During his time with the Bears, Jay Cutler never truly settled in. In those eight years, he had three different head coaches:
- Lovie Smith (2009-2012)
- Marc Trestman (2013-2014)
- John Fox (2015-2016)
As well as a revolving door of offensive coordinators:
- Ron Turner (2009)
- Mike Martz (2010-2011)
- Mike Tice (2012)
- Aaron Kromer (2013-2014)
- Adam Gase (2015)
- Dowell Loggains (2016)
It’s fair to question whether Cutler had a role in the everchanging of the guard at OC. But on the flip side, it’s also equally mind-numbing to consider how many times he had a new coach in his ear. Imagine having to work with a new supervisor every year or two at your place of work. The revolving door of OCs certainly did not hamper his development, but by no means did it do him any favors. Add shoddy offensive line play and lackluster playmakers (at times) into the mix, and it’s not a mystery why Cutler’s Bears tenure played out as it did.
All in all, the Jay Cutler era didn’t yield the desired results, which would have included more playoff appearances and a Super Bowl. However, not many QBs in recent times have done that.
Overall, it was a tumultuous eight years consisting of the good, the bad, and the ugly. Cutler provided flashes of “awesome” with quite a few memorable moments. But plenty of drama and letdowns accompanied the highs, of course. It is what it is.
Like him or not, he did hold down the Chicago Bears’ QB position for eight years, providing a sense of stability the organization needed at the time. In retrospect, trading for Jay Cutler was worth the gamble that Jerry Angelo took back on April 2, 2009.
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