Like a quality steer, Jay Cutler has been branded with a lot of labels since he’s become a professional quarterback. Some good, a lot bad.
Unlike any steer, the label most affixed on Cutler has been that of “gunslinger” — a player who is most likely to let it rip when brandishing the ball from his center, letting the bodies fall where they may.
Today, Cutler has once again been branded as starting quarterback for the Bears, cleared to lead the team into action in its latest showdown with the Lions on Sunday.
Last time we saw Cutty though, he was the one that fell, with an injury that hit a little too high in the saddle. Cutler’s groin injury against Washington (along with Lance Briggs’ left shoulder injury that same game) put the townsfolk of #Bearsnation into an emotional tailspin, unsure of just what the heck is going to become of their team.
Two weeks and a half and a wholly unexpected win in Green Bay later and the Bears have found themselves actually still in a position to gain control of the NFC North should they win against Detroit. These two most spirited rivals currently in the division are right now the best two teams period and the most well-equipped for a run at the postseason, depending on how and when Aaron Rodgers can come back.
A couple of weeks ago there was a similar murkiness draped over Cutler’s recent future. An initial four to six week diagnosis of recovery placed Cutler at a post-Thanksgiving return and at the mercy of an increasingly weakened Bears squad to keep itself within playoff contention, giving the returning QB a revived shot at glory and a solid future in Chicago past the running out of his contract after this season.
With his choice to come back early from his injury and to play this weekend, Cutler is taking back control of his personal situation and once again staking his role as leader on a team that does need him to be successful this season. Showing that the Bears do need him and that they can be successful with him are tasks 1 and 1A for Cutler this year, always have been, that is if he wants to remain a Bear.
Cutler’s choice in this matter makes all kinds of sense. Also, I don’t want to short his competitive fires, which I’m sure were stoked by Monday’s result and have to be remaining high with Detroit on the horizon (and the feeling is mutual).
A gunslinger through and through, Cutler isn’t thinking about the chances of Suh or Fairley running him down (Suh sacked him twice in the Bears’ 40-32 loss last month) and putting him on his head. Cutler should be worried of that even with his lower half healthy and ready to run, I don’t think that will be the case entirely this week.
In clearing Cutler, the team itself has to be confident in Cutler’s ability to not only maneuver away from the Lions’ defensive line pressure but to let the ball go quickly and effectively within the offense, something Josh McCown has done so well in one and a half games as starter.
McCown has also kept the ball in Chicago’s hands, not turning the ball over once in 61 attempts, but could he match the potential offensive output of another accomplished ‘slinger, Detroit’s Matthew Stafford? Maybe that’s the most relevant question that’s been asked this week and therefore the reason we’re seeing Cutler at least a week too early.
Now is the time to see what Jay Cutler is really made of, and more importantly for Marc Trestman to see. If Cutler starts Sunday like he did against Washington (3 of 8 with an interception) could Trestman long for McCown’s stability and steadfastness, which helped develop plays like his impressive connection with Brandon Marshall early against Green Bay?
The gunslinger has long been romanticized in American culture, but its been a long while since they were actually counted on to right wrongs and settle scores in the streets.
We weren’t there when that moment of transition occurred but we may be there for this small moment of transition on the Bears’ sideline. ‘Ol Cutty better hope he knows what he’s doing, and also that his aim is steady.
Follow Regal Radio on Twitter @regalradio1 and Kyle Means @Wrk_Wrt