Before backup quarterback Josh McCown had a breakout 2013 season, Jay Cutler was on his way to having a great year of his own in Marc Trestman’s system. Unfortunately, a groin injury derailed his development. However, he’s shown steady improvement in each of his 5 seasons with the Bears, and in 2013 he appeared to make the biggest jump.
Cutler has thrown off his back foot or from other off-balanced positions unnecessarily throughout his career. That changed in 2013. His footwork was significantly better. He was much sharper, more often planting his back foot and stepping into his throws (as you can see in the screenshot above). He stayed in the pocket longer and stepped up to avoid pressure instead of drifting backwards. Simply put, Cutler finally looked like a polished and professional quarterback.
As is the case with most gunslingers, Cutler’s strong arm gives him the ability to make some unbelievable throws. It also gets him into trouble, though. He sometimes stays on his receivers a tick too long, knowing he can get away with it. However, this leads to a higher rate of interceptions and mistakes than someone with Cutler’s talent should have.
Despite Cutler’s growth over the last several seasons, his biggest problem is still his decision making, which has plagued him for his entire career. Cutler’s arm gives him the ability to take chances and make throws that other quarterbacks can’t, but it also lets him believe he can make any throw on the field at any time. And while Cutler can technically make any throw, not every situation calls for a quarterback to fit a ball into a tight window 30 yards downfield.
Having game management skills and recognizing when is or isn’t the right time to take a chance is different than being a “game manager.” This is an area Cutler has gotten better at but must continue to improve in order to take the next step as a quarterback.
Luckily for Cutler, he finally has a good offensive line as well as weapons at the receiver positions, two things he hasn’t had for most of his time in Chicago. Now it’s just a matter of staying healthy and continuing to grow in Marc Trestman’s system.