Can Jay Cutler be a late success like Carson Palmer?

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Bears QB Jay Cutler. (AP)

There are many words that Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer would use to describe coach Bruce Arians, but “likable” isn’t included. He isn’t familiar with that side of Arians, though it often resonates with others.

“He’s a difficult coach to play for,” Palmer said. “He is on you at all times. Even when you do something really, really good and really, really close to perfect, somebody is going to get yelled at.

“It’s just not ever quite good enough, and that’s his mentality. He’s hard on us and grinds on us.”

But Arians is the perfect coach for him at the perfect time. The No. 1 pick in 2003, Palmer just happened to connect with Arians in his 30s, a decade into his career.

“I don’t think it’s so important for it to be Year 1, Year 5, Year 10 or Year 15,” Palmer said. “It’s just important to be with that guy.”

The point is, it’s never too late for a quarterback to find that right fit, especially at a time when college schemes have impeded their development and most NFL teams desperately need them.

It’s an interesting notion to consider as Bears quarterback Jay Cutler prepares for his second start under coach John Fox and offensive coordinator Adam Gase.

Can Fox and Gase finally be the right guys for Cutler?

Of course, it could have been Arians, whom Cutler met with for an hour during the Bears’ 2013 coaching search.

“I remember him being just a guy’s guy,” Cutler, 32, said. “You could see easily why players would be attracted to him, why players would enjoy playing for him.”

In some ways, Fox and Gase form a blend of Arians for Cutler. Fox is the no-nonsense, personable type with a winning résumé in what he always calls “a production-based business.” Gase is the confident and successful offensive mind who adapts his plans to his players.

“You think, as I get older and as I become a more experienced player, you want to be with that right guy,” Palmer, 35, said. “It’s important that they understand what you like, what you don’t like, what your strengths are and being honest with him about your weaknesses.”

Former coach Marc Trestman was considered a good fit for Cutler until he clearly and painfully wasn’t. The same was true for Mike Martz.

Fox and Gase, though, are approaching Cutler differently than their predecessors did. Cutler is being called on to be more of a game manager than at any point in his Bears career, reversing the give-Jay-more path that had been in the works for years.

At this point, who can say that it won’t work? Cutler, by all accounts, is all-in.

Gase thought Cutler managed his first game well as his quarterback against the Packers. Gase blamed his own play call for his late interception.

“To me, we wiped the slate clean,” Gase said of working with Cutler. “I told him, ‘Let’s just start over and see how far we can take it.’ ’’

That has worked for Palmer, who nearly faded into NFL oblivion after two so-so seasons with the Raiders in 2011 and 2012 and a rough ending with Bengals before that.

Palmer was 6-0 as the Cardinals’ starter last season before tearing his anterior cruciate ligament. And he is 14-2 in his last 16 starts, completing 64.2 percent of his passes for 4,466 yards, 30 touchdowns and a 97.6 passer rating.

What would Arians have done with Cutler?

“It was just to put him in our offense and see how much we can use,” he said. “We always tailor it to our quarterback. Everything we do is built around what he can and cannot handle. It would have been up to Jay.”

That sounds like the Bears’ current plans.

Follow me on Twitter @adamjahns


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