In time, Jay Cutler will sit back and go over the highs and lows of the most efficient season of his career.
But general manager Ryan Pace knows what he saw and he liked it. Considering Cutler had to win him over, you could say Pace liked it a lot.
“Jay knows that we have extreme confidence in him,” Pace said. “We’re going to continue to build the offense around him. I think he knows that.”
This is where the Bears are with Cutler — again. As the NFL’s revolving door leads to the departures of some of Halas Hall’s players, it’s Cutler who remains.
In a sense, he’s the last man standing, playing on for the Bears despite personnel, coaching and general manager changes.
“Still here,” a smiling Cutler said during in an interview with the Sun-Times on Monday at Halas Hall. “Everybody’s kind of probably taken a shot to get rid of me. It hasn’t worked so far. I’m happy to still be here.”
And it feels different. There’s a comfort now that stretches beyond the contract that he signed under former general manager Phil Emery.
“I’m in a really comfortable place here right now,” Cutler said. “I enjoy coming to work, enjoy working with these guys because everyone has the same goals.
“There’s no underlying issues. There’s no angles. Everyone is in it for one reason and one reason only and that’s to win football games. That’s all you can ask for. It’s a very refreshing atmosphere to work in.”
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Offensive coordinator Adam Gase’s system is a blend of just about everything and everyone — from Mike Martz to Josh McDaniels to Peyton Manning to the West Coast offense to some “keeper game,” Cutler said — and it has helped produce Cutler’s career-best 92.3 passer rating.
And Cutler did it without receivers Alshon Jeffery and Eddie Royal for seven games, Marquess Wilson and tight end Martellus Bennett for five and rookie Kevin White for the entire season.
“This is the best system I’ve been in in my entire career,” Cutler said.
The Bears’ top goal for Cutler was accomplished. Cutler threw 11 interceptions this season, his fewest since seven in 10 games in 2011 and seven less than last season.
“It was something we talked about a lot,” Cutler said. “A lot of that is Adam, his play-calling and the attention to detail that we have around here, holding guys accountable.”
But it’s also him, and Cutler probably deserves more credit for it. Gase said Cutler was very open to changes from the beginning and those who criticize Cutler’s work ethic have no idea what they’re talking about.
Most of all, Gase said he’s thankful that Cutler maintained an honest dialogue with quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains and him.
There are reasons to believe in Cutler after his up-and-down past.
“The things that he does during the game and the things he does that people don’t notice, sometimes you’ll hear guys say that this guy’s a stud,” Gase told the Sun-Times. “And I’ve heard it a lot this year. I’m happy to see him get that from his teammates.”
Gase, of course, may leave. His first head-coaching interview is Tuesday with the Eagles. Will Cutler miss Gase? Absolutely. But Cutler also thinks he deserves to be a head coach.
“The good part is that we stole his system from him, so we have kind of the foundation for it,” Cutler said with a smile. “We’d have to take the next step without him, which I don’t think is impossible. That can be done.”
Loggains could be a reason why. Cutler understood from the get-go that Gase could leave if they excelled together. But Loggains is ready if a promotion is made, Cutler said, and he’d be “100 percent comfortable with him.”
“We’re going to keep the system in place,” Cutler said. “Obviously, we’d to like to find somebody to call the plays. But everyone is in agreement that this system needs to stay in place, not only for the quarterback’s benefit but for everyone else around.”
Coach John Fox’s influence also shouldn’t be overlooked. It’s not by Cutler.
“Foxy has done a great job of letting us know on offense of exactly how he wants us to play,” Gase said. “We’re a complementary football-type team. One of the main things that we needed to do was not turn the ball over, have short fields. We’re trying to end every possession with a kick, whether it’s a field goal, an extra point or a punt.”
It’s a mindset that resonates with Cutler.
“Instead of always harping on turnover, turnovers, turnovers and putting that in guys’ heads,” Cutler said, “he does a really good job of staying positive and staying on the other side of it.”
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Pace’s draft philosophy is straightforward. The best player on his draft board is the one he’s taking.
“If it’s a quarterback, it’s a quarterback,” Pace said. “I’ve said before how important that position is, and that’ll continue to be the case.”
With the 11th overall pick, Pace will have quarterbacks to consider. How would Cutler feel about it?
“I’d feel two different things,” he said. “One, I’d feel like I can’t play forever, so I understand the reasoning for drafting one.
“On the flip side of that, I would think we could have got somebody at 11 who could help us now and could really make a difference and help me out or help the defense out, which would help us win games. Either one that happens, I’ll deal with it and we’ll move on accordingly.”
But the Bears are moving on with Cutler. He’s earned it. Fox and Pace are on board with him being their starter for 2016. And he’s on board with everything Pace and Fox are doing.
“Everything is headed in the right direction,” Cutler said. “But if we don’t take that next step and everyone try to get better this offseason . . . and win more ball games, then more changes are going to happen to get it right.”
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