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Return to reality? It’s harsh for Cutler, Bears

Today’s Wisch List column from the Kankakee Daily Journal

Return to reality? It’s harsh for Cutler, Bears

The WISCH LIST

Nov. 28, 2009

As I sat on my couch last Sunday night watching Donovan McNabb whisper sweet nothings in Jay Cutler’s nationally televised ear, I couldn’t help but wonder if perhaps the Bears could find a way to trade their quarterback to North Korea.

Because, right now, Cutler could overthrow a dictator.

Yes, that was Chicago’s would-be football Messiah tossing unintentional Hail Mary’s over his receivers’ heads time and time (and time) again as the Bears forsook a trinity of touchdowns en route to a 24-20 loss to Philadelphia that effectively ended their season. (Don’t count on a resurrection.)

As it turns out, remarkably enough, Jay Cutler doesn’t walk on water.

But he can make you whine.

Regular Wisch List readers may recall that back in September after Cutler tossed a quartet of interceptions in the Bears’ season-opening loss to Green Bay, I issued a quarterback caveat through this column.

“I’m sorry, but Jay Cutler isn’t the Sistine Chapel,” I wrote on Sept. 19 after the QB was compared to Michelangelo’s masterpiece. “Nor is he Michael Jordan in shoulder pads. Certainly not yet, at least. And no matter how much Chicago has seemed to want him to be.”

At that time, the Windy City was having its first doubts about Cutler’s competency following a summer-long love fest that had reached preposterous proportions. So, I called for tempered expectations while stating that I did still believe Cutler to be a talented quarterback, that trading for him was a good move and that he could potentially lead the Bears to Super Bowl glory.

Regarding those three topics today, though, I’d now have to say, “I guess he is,” “I suppose it was” and “Yeah, not any time soon.”

I wasn’t trying to tear Cutler down at that time, but rather urging fans to hold off on so quickly building the guy up. Because, as I wrote, before deciding on exactly what Jay Cutler is, we need to first let him show us.

And so far, with his league-high 18 interceptions, what Cutler has shown is that he’s a work in progress (or, perhaps, regress).

And not a superstar.

Not now. Not yet. Maybe not at all.

To be honest, at this point, I don’t really know what Jay Cutler is. I’m not sure that anyone does, and I think that includes even Cutler himself.

What we do know for certain about the Bears’ mop-top QB is that he racked up huge numbers with the Denver Broncos, has a cannon for an arm and hasn’t won a postseason game since 2001, when he led Heritage Hills High School to the Indiana Class 3A state championship.

In fact, since his senior year of high school, Cutler hasn’t even played in a postseason game. Not in the NFL, and not in college at Vanderbilt.

Because of this lack of playoff success (or appearances) and his often-dour demeanor both on and off the field, I’m not at all convinced that Cutler is a leader. And I’m concerned as to whether his confidence can survive this season in Chicago, where signal-callers seem to enter as quarterbacks and leave worth a plugged nickel.

Regardless of all that, though, Cutler isn’t going anywhere. He’s Chicago’s property through 2013, so the Bears had better figure out how to best use him.

And with a shaky defense, a receiving corps that often can’t seem to catch H1N1 and an offensive line that’s become, well, downright offensive, the Bears have a lot of work to during the coming offseason.

This week, the Bears’ management situation has been picked apart like a Thanksgiving turkey, and you can certainly argue that both Lovie Smith and general manager Jerry Angelo should get their walking papers (I’d probably agree). That’s unlikely to happen, though, and it’s much more probable that offensive coordinator Ron Turner will be replaced instead. To which I say, it’s time.

For Illini and Bears fans (such as myself), Turner – who worked with the Bears, coached the University of Illinois and then returned to the Bears – has been in our lives for 17 seasons.

That’s three more seasons than even Michael Jordan played here. Think about that.

During Turner’s tenures, the Bears and Illini combined have gone a pedestrian 111-119 with about 111,119 frustrating play calls. I’m sorry, Ron, but the relationship has run its course (if not its routes) and, at the very least, the Bears need to bring in someone new in to teach Cutler how to, in baseball parlance, become a “pitcher” and not a “thrower.”

Besides, the Bears reportedly will have a big-name offensive coordinator option available to them quite soon. His name?

Charlie Weis.

Heaven help us.