While receiver Brandon Marshall continues to speak of the Bears’ confidence, or lack thereof, it’s fair to wonder where his quarterback’s is.
So let’s ask coach Marc Trestman.
“All I can evaluate is how [Cutler] works on a daily basis,” Trestman said Wednesday at Halas Hall. “He’s a tough guy. We know that. He’s a resilient guy. I expect him to bounce back. I feel that way in the meeting rooms.”
Cutler needs to show some signs of bouncing back because he appears to have regressed in Year 2 under Trestman. It’s a fair time to compare, too, considering he’s thrown 330 passes in nine games this season after having 355 attempts during an injury-shortened 2013.
Cutler is having a late-career sophomore slump of sorts, and that’s a major problem considering the team’s investment in him and its belief in Trestman. The $15.5 million base salary that Cutler is set to earn next season ranks 10th in the league.
Cutler is responsible for 15 of the Bears’ 18 turnovers, but there are other numbers that also illustrate his struggles:
◆ Cutler’s statistics have been enhanced by garbage-time production. If you omit his second-half numbers against the Packers and Patriots (considering the Bears trailed 42-0 and 38-7 at halftime in those game), his rating drops to 89.8, which is just barely better than his career-best 89.2 mark in 2013.
That may not be decisively different from his 92.8 passer rating this season. But consider this: Cutler had 14 first-half possessions against the Packers and Patriots and came through with just one touchdown. The Packers’ and Patriots’ offenses combined for 73 points.
◆ Advanced statistics, such as ESPN’s QBR (total quarterback rating) and Pro Football Focus’ quarterback ratings, also show a decline.
Cutler currently has 57.4 QBR, which values a quarterback on all plays, after finishing with a career-best 66.4 mark in 2013. His career average is 53.6.
Cutler’s PFF quarterback rating is 83.09, which factors in drops, spikes, throwaways and receiver production. He had a 91.47 mark in 2013 and an 84.67 rating in 2012 under offensive coordinator Mike Tice.
◆ According to STATS, Cutler’s success on third downs has decreased. He has completed 57.9 percent of his passes on third downs for 621 yards, eight touchdowns, four interceptions, seven sacks and a 97.5 rating.
In 11 games in 2013, Cutler completed 60.6 percent of his passes on third downs for 769 yards, nine touchdowns, three interceptions, six sacks and a 102.6 rating.
◆ The Bears simply aren’t getting the bang for their buck. According to spotrac.com, a sports contracts website that’s partnered with the Pro Football Writers of America, Cutler is the NFL’s worst-value quarterback.
The site mathematically compares pay to production. Most of the best quarterbacks have minus ratings because of their high salaries. But Cutler’s league-worst minus-18.22 grade definitely stands out when compared to Tony Romo’s minus-2.45, Joe Flacco’s minus-8.35 or Matthew Stafford’s minus-9.82
Cutler’s production also made the Bears’ the worst-value team after Week 10.
“When the highest paid player in the NFL (Cutler) puts up a dud performance, the overall value of the team really has no chance,” Spotrac.com wrote.
◆ Cutler isn’t alone in experiencing a second-year decline under Trestman.
Former Arizona Cardinals quarterback Jake Plummer, with Trestman as his offensive coordinator and position coach, went from a 75.0 rating in 1998 to 50.8 in 1999, when he threw a league-high 24 interceptions.
The Bears and Trestman aren’t about to give up on Cutler. Benching him is a far-fetched idea.
But Cutler needs to be better over the final seven games to validate the Bears’ beliefs in him. His 8-12 record under Trestman isn’t good enough.
“We need him to play well, just like we need everyone else to play well,” Trestman said. “We’re doing everything we can to get back to that place.”