How Much of a Leash Does Jay Cutler Truly Deserve?

Jon DoveContributor IJuly 6, 2013

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 23:  Quarterback Jay Cutler #6 of the Chicago Bears thows a pass during the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on December 23, 2012 in Glendale, Arizona.  The Bears defeated the Cardinals 28-13.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Chicago Bears need to support Jay Cutler and give him a longer leash to fulfill his potential. His time in Chicago hasn’t garnered a lot of success, but he’s still the team’s best option at the quarterback position for the foreseeable future.

When evaluating Cutler’s time with the Bears, it’s important to factor in the lack of support he has received from the organization.

It all starts with the revolving door at the offensive coordinator spot. Cutler has dealt with four different offensive coordinators in his five seasons with the team.

He has had uninspiring coaches like Ron Turner and Mike Tice, who struggled to develop an effective game plan. The Mike Martz era was a complete disaster that saw Cutler taking a ton of hits due to a poor protection scheme.

Cutler came to Chicago at age 26, which was right in the main part of his development process. The instability at the offensive coordinator position absolutely hindered his overall progress as a player. It’s also important to note that his head coach, Lovie Smith, was a defense-oriented coach who truly believed his defense was how the team would win games.

Not only did the Bears struggle surrounding Cutler with good coaching, but they also failed to bring in the weapons needed for a young quarterback to succeed. The most consistent receiving threat he has had with the Bears is running back Matt Forte.

Forte actually led the team in receptions in both 2010 and 2011. Last year was the first time a receiver led the team in receptions during Cutler’s tenure in Chicago.

It’s tough for any quarterback to find success when he lacks the proper weapons. We’ve seen similar situations occur with young quarterbacks like Sam Bradford and Mark Sanchez.

Cutler has also had to deal with one of the worst offensive lines over these past four seasons. The chart below shows where Chicago’s offensive line has ranked in sacks allowed over the past several seasons. Keep in mind that Cutler is a good athlete and kept this number lower by avoiding sacks.

The fact is Chicago has done a poor job supporting its franchise quarterback.

However, this upcoming season is a different story. The additions of head coach Marc Trestman, left tackle Jermon Bushrod and tight end Martellus Bennett are all steps in the right direction.

Trestman knows how to design an effective offense and work with quarterbacks. He should immediately be able to help Cutler improve as a player, although it will still take some time for Cutler to become comfortable in this new attack.

Bushrod isn’t an elite left tackle, but he represents an upgrade over the previous seasons. His addition also strengthens the right tackle spot because J’Marcus Webb shows the skills that make him a more natural fit on that side of the line.

Bennett gives Cutler another pass-catching option as a tight end who can stretch the field. Adding Bennett will also help in the running game. He’s one of those tight ends who’s a well-rounded player and contributes in all aspects of the game.

These new additions have created more expectations for Cutler. Most expect the Bears to contend and make a strong payoff run.

However, missing the playoffs this year shouldn’t result in Chicago parting ways with Cutler.

The reasons above show why the Bears owe Cutler more than one year with a solid surrounding cast. Another strong reason is the fact that it’s very difficult to find a quarterback with Cutler’s talent level.

The NFL is a quarterback-driven league, and quarterbacks with elite talent aren’t widely available. Looking at the landscape of the league, you can see how struggles at the quarterback position can doom a franchise.

Teams like the Jacksonville Jaguars, Buffalo Bills and Oakland Raiders have been at the bottom of the league because of poor quarterback play. If Chicago decides to part ways with Cutler, it’d have to look to the draft for a replacement.

The upcoming draft features intriguing quarterback prospects like Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater, Clemson’s Tajh Boyd and Alabama’s A.J. McCarron. All three of those players are far from sure things and would need time to develop.

So, Cutler isn’t only Chicago’s best option for the short run, but he’s also someone the team needs to keep around for the long term.

This is a quarterback who has yet to fulfill his potential and still has the opportunity to improve as a player.