Finally, after some times of struggle mixed in with a little bit of petulance, everything is beginning to fall in place for Jay Cutler.

Last weekend he started his first playoff game since high school, which led to his first playoff win since high school. He still forces throws at times, but Cutler’s decision making is progressing smoothly. A year after leading the league with 26 interceptions, he cut down considerably and chucked 16 this year. As an added bonus, he has a celebrity blonde attached to his arm, and she won’t let go.

Now if only the city of Chicago would fall in love with him too.

A column in today’s Chicago Sun-Times by Neil Hayes gives Cutler a gentle pat on the rear, but then drops a damning comparison, putting Cutler’s in the same sentence as Rex Grossman.

Gulp.

All Cutler proved last week was that a mid-sized moment wasn’t too big for him. It’s going to take a stronger statement for people to quit viewing him as a more fleet-of-foot version of Rex Grossman. It’s going to take a win over the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday at Soldier Field for Cutler to begin to earn the respect every quarterback craves.

Don’t blame the fine people of Chicago for being hard to please and harsh on whomever happens to be taking snaps for their beloved Bears. It’s an ingrained part of life in the Windy City, and a staple of Chicago’s sports culture. Hating Bears quarterbacks is as much a part of Chicago as deep dish pizza, feeling insulted when someone puts ketchup on a hot dog, and fires that burn down an entire city.

Don’t take it too personal, Jay, they can’t help it. With Chicago’s history of recycling quarterbacks, trust and respect have become tremendously difficult to earn. Since their lone Super Bowl victory in 1985, the Bears have had 29 quarterbacks start a game, a parade of arms equalled by only the lowly Lions during that 26-year span. The Packers–Chicago’s opponent in the NFC Championship this weekend and their long-time rival–are at the extreme opposite end of the spectrum with 12, and three in the last eighteen years.

What’s most impressive is that out of the 29 quarterbacks on their dubious list, 12 if them started five or fewer games. Flipping through the list of failed Bears quarterbacks is akin to taking a wrong turn while walking your dog and ending up in a haunted graveyard, only this yard is littered with castoffs and failed NFL dreams. You might recognize the quarterback who started the most games for the Bears post-1985 because he’s been in a few headlines recently. His name is Jim Harbaugh, and he was under centre for 65 games.

From there, the waters get murky. Jim McMahon (21 total starts) was taking snaps during that ’85 championship, but he was a caretaker on a defence oriented team, and a glorified Trent Dilfer. In seven seasons as the Bears’ starting quarterback, McMahon threw 67 touchdowns alongside 56 interceptions. He was incredibly brittle too, never once starting a full 16-game season. The list of comparable quarterbacks to McMahon on profootball-reference.com has names like Vinny Testerverde, Neil O’Donnell, Rodney Peete, Gus Frerotte, and Tony Banks. Yikes.

There are the obvious Bears starters from recent years like Kyle Orton (33 starts), and Grossman (31 starts). Then the frightful names begin, and between 1997 and 2004 Chicago had six years in which at least three  quarterbacks started a game. Here’s the best worst of the rest, with their total regular season starts in brackets. Cutler’s 33 starts puts him in a tie with Orton:

  • Eric Kramer (42)
  • Kyle Orton (33)
  • Mike Tomczak (31)
  • Jim Miller (26)
  • Cabe McNown (15)
  • Shane Matthews (15)
  • Chris Chandler (13)
  • Dave Kreig (12)
  • Steve Walsh (11)
  • Steve Stenstrom (7)
  • Kordell Stewart (7)
  • Craig Krenzel (5)
  • Chad Hutchinson (5)
  • Jonathan Quinn (3)
  • Peter Tom Willis (3)
  • Rick Mirer (3)
  • Steve Fuller (2)
  • Mike Honensee (2)
  • Henry Burris (1)
  • Doug Flutie (1)
  • Steve Bradley (1)
  • Will Furrer (1)
  • Moses Moreno (1)

Comments (2)

  1. “parade of arms” — is that a BG original? if so, it’s very funny.

  2. Sigh. I’m confident that I’m growing as a writer around here, but I won’t be satisfied until I’ve been ripped by you, Chris, and told to find a new job. That’s when I know I can ask for a raise, and so far you don’t even seem to be recognizing which posts are mine.

    C’mon Chris, show me the money! That’s an ST original, just like the entire post.

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