Editor’s Note: Originally posted on March 1, 2013
We’re coming up on the fourth anniversary of the trade between the Bears and Denver Broncos to acquire Jay Cutler. Many fans and executives around the league felt Chicago had finally found the missing puzzle piece, a franchise QB. With that subject in mind, let’s take a look back to that transaction and see how the Bears have fared since then.
On April 2, 2009, Jay Cutler was officially traded to the Chicago Bears after requesting a trade from the Denver Broncos. In the deal, Chicago received Jay Cutler and a fifth-round pick in the 2009 NFL Draft in exchange for quarterback Kyle Orton, first-round picks in the 2009 and 2010 drafts and the Bears’ third-round pick in 2009 as well. Both Cutler and Orton had worn out their welcome in Denver and Chicago and were in need of a change of scenery, or fan bases, if you will. The move was well-received in both cities and brought a fresh slate to each team’s offensive identity.
With the recently acquired first-round draft pick from Chicago, the Broncos selected DE Robert Ayers from Tennessee with the 18th pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. Denver traded their third-round pick to the Pittsburgh Steelers, who drafted WR Mike Wallace from Ole Miss with the 84th overall selection in the draft. The first-round pick in the 2010 draft that Denver had received from Chicago was traded to San Francisco, who drafted OT Anthony Davis from Rutgers with the 11th overall pick in the draft. The Bears used Denver’s fifth-round pick in the 2009 NFL Draft on Johnny Knox from Abilene Christian University. He was the 140th overall pick in that year’s draft.
Denver traded away two of the three picks they received from the Bears in the Cutler trade. The only draft pick they kept was used on Robert Ayers, who has been a disappointment in the Mile High City after being a top 20 pick in 2009. He hasn’t lived up to the potential many scouts saw while he was at college in Knoxville and is now a backup in Jack Del Rio’s defense. The Broncos were losers of this trade overall, but due to the signing last year of Peyton Manning, they have become a title contender for as long as he can stay healthy and productive.
The Bears benefited from Denver’s fifth-round pick in 2009 by selecting Johnny Knox. He had good speed and could have fit well in the offense going forward as a nice complement to Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. Unfortunately, his career is now over due to the tragic hit he sustained last December against Seattle. After seeing that, I’m more than happy that he’s able to walk and lead a normal life, let alone play football ever again.
Overall, the Bears received a quarterback who has the potential to be a franchise guy that an organization builds around. Two picks they traded were used on an offensive tackle who starts for arguably the best unit in the league and a wide receiver who is a serious deep threat, but viewed as a bit of a diva. Looking at it that way, one could argue that the Bears were losers in this trade, but we all know the man in charge of drafting at that time was very unlikely to select talents like that, given his track record. Essentially exchanging Kyle Orton for Jay Cutler was a win in itself. Had Knox still been healthy and on the roster today, it’s a home run.
The jury is still out on Cutler as far as his peak production is concerned, but the window is closing. He’s regarded as a talented quarterback with a good arm and the potential to be a winner. Unfortunately for him, he’s never been surrounded with the talent to truly showcase all of his talents, whether it be a poor receiving corps or an inept offensive line with holes like a block of Swiss cheese. The time for Jay to shine and show the league what he can do is now. The hiring of Trestman, who is a proven offensive mind, is the perfect situation for Cutler. With a good group of wide outs starting to assemble, a solid offensive line is the only thing separating Jay from his last judgment with Bears execs and fans. In a contract year and likely his last big payday opportunity, the spotlight is focused directly on Cutler. Now, more than ever, it’s time to shine on Lake Shore Drive.
The Bears’ 2013 season will be crucial in more ways than one. An aging defense, unproven QB and new coaching staff all will have to perform at a high rate if they want to meet their ultimate goal of bring the Lombardi Trophy back to the Windy City. The coaching staff will have time to adjust, as the defense will also look to reload on talent. If Jay can’t get it done this fall, it’s likely time to cut losses and find a new signal caller, as the NFL has become the league of the QB.
There is hope for Cutler. All Bears fans need to do is look at the Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens to find reason for optimism. Their quarterback, Jay Flacco had received similar criticism for not being able to be a leader on offense. His skills at the position were under fire both locally and nationally, making it a “make or break” year for him. After proclaiming himself “elite” prior to the season, he made good on his statement and led the Ravens to impressive playoff wins on the road, both in hostile opposing venues. What’s more impressive is outdueling two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks in back-to-back weeks. If Jay Cutler has to look for inspiration, a quick phone call to Joe Flacco could certainly do the trick. The stage is set for you, Jay. Flacco provided Act I. Will you give the NFL an encore?