BOURBONNAIS — Jay Cutler? The broadcaster? It’s almost like he was never here.
The Bears resolutely ended an era and moved on when they released their franchise quarterback in March. And in the first few days of the first training camp without Cutler in nine years, it’s clear that this has been a clean break.
Nobody’s wistful about the Cutler era. Nobody’s talking about the big shoes to fill or the leadership void with his absence. The Bears have turned the page to a new quarterback era, embraced a new quarterback in Mike Glennon and a quarterback-of-the-future in Mitch Trubisky and moved on from Cutler as quickly as Cutler moved on from the football field.
A fitting conclusion perhaps, but a little strange that there’s no lingering nostalgia for a player who was the focal point of Bears football for eight seasons, a beacon of hope — actually, the beacon of hope — and arguably the best quarterback the Bears have had since Sid Luckman.
“I can’t really tell the difference right now because we’re just having practice with Mike,” left tackle Charles Leno said. “Mike’s our guy now. We know Jay is gone. We’re just going to follow Mike’s footsteps. He’s the quarterback. You kind of just look up to that guy.”
The Bears most definitely have moved on. Even guard Kyle Long, the biggest Cutler backer on the team, acknowledged that “change is good” when discussing the team’s new quarterbacks — with no disrespect intended. This team had Cutler’s back, especially in the latter years. But everybody seems eager for the next chapter with Glennon and Trubisky, as well as Mark Sanchez and Connor Shaw.
“It’s been really easy to get to know these guys and to feel that they have a real sense of team and leadership,” Long said. “Obviously having Jay for an extended period, that’s what I was used to. I loved Jay Cutler; he was my quarterback for a long time. But it’s 2017, and we have Mike and Mitch and Mark and Connor. Things are looking up, and it’s always good; change is good, and I think in this situation it is.”
The Cutler era was one of the oddest and most mystifying in recent local sports history. On the one hand, he seemed to be his own worst enemy — the reason why the Bears had six offensive coordinators and made the playoffs only once in eight years. On the other, he rarely had the support he needed — inadequate receivers in the early days, a flawed defense in the latter days and often subpar protection.
This season is likely to be a referendum on those arguments: Was it Jay or the Bears? Glennon will face many of the same challenges Cutler did with the Bears. He’s in a new offense, with a new coordinator and an undefined receiving corps. He’s taking over a 3-13 team.
But after eight years of bad timing, bad breaks and inconsistent performances leading to one disappointing finish after another, Glennon’s advantage might be that he’s not Cutler, the ultimate star-crossed quarterback. From Brian Urlacher’s season-ending injury two quarters into his Bears career in 2009 to a knee injury against the Packers in the NFC Championship Game and a broken thumb against the Chargers in the midst of a five-game winning streak in 2011, fate seemed to move its huge hands to thwart Cutler at the most inopportune times.
With all due respect to Cutler’s determination and growth in his eight seasons with the Bears, sometimes you just have to find a guy with better luck. Like Long says, change is good.
Following a guy who always seemed to be at the wrong place at the wrong time might put Glennon in the right place at the right time.
Follow me on Twitter @MarkPotash.