Chicago Bears Quarterbacks: Top 10 All-Time

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#2 All-Time Bears QB, Jay Cutler

Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Jay Cutler.  The Vanderbilt product who forced his way out of Denver after three seasons under Mike Shanahan when new coach Josh McDaniels’ infatuation with Matt Cassel was made known.  The guy who, after throwing for 4,526 yards in ’08 and being named to the AFC Pro Bowl roster, was traded to Chicago on April 2nd, 2009 for Kyle Orton and a king’s ransom of draft picks (2009 1st and 3rd round picks, 2010 1st round pick).  The guy who holds just about every passing record the Bears have.

That’s our boy.  Depending on who you talk to he’s either overrated or over-scrutinized, but a common ground can typically be found in all of those arguments on the undeniable talent he possesses.   Cutler has the prototypical size, arm strength and mobility sought after in NFL quarterbacks; but the questions about his status as an elite, franchise-level QB remain.  Can he lead his team to a championship or will his gunslinger mentality forever cap his immense potential?

In 2009, his first as a Chicago Bear, Cutler threw 27 TDs — the fourth highest single-season total in team history — but the team finished 7-9 as Cutler also accounted for the second-most INTs in a single Bears season with 26.  In Cutler’s first year in the Windy City he also threw for 3,666 yards, good for 3rd-most in single-season franchise history (was 2nd-most at that time before he surpassed his own record in a subsequent season).  Additionally, Cutler was sacked 35 times — the seventh most in team history.  He also had this sweet play in a game that I attended (sitting in the opposite end zone, unfortunately)

For QB-starved Bears fans, it was clear that Jay had everything we could want in a QB and maybe more than the Bears have ever had at the position.  It was also clear that he was prone to turnovers and reasonable doubt existed as to whether or not he was cut out to be the type of franchise-leader the Bears had paid so richly for.  Of course in those first few years with the Bears Cutler wasn’t throwing to any All-Pro receivers, and he was forced to set up shop behind a patchwork offensive line that made him the most-ever sacked QB in single-season Bears history (sacked 52 times in 2010).  As such, the jury was still out.

In 2010 the Bears finished at 11-5 and won the NFC North, then toppled the Seattle Seahawks in the divisional round of the playoffs to earn a trip to the NFC Championship against the rival Packers.  In one of those “you remember where you’re at when it happened” moments (I was at the Portage, MI Brann’s steakhouse working over a few beers), Jay Cutler inexplicably was removed from the game after one series in the second half and there was no indication as to why.  Turns out he sprained his MCL, but at that time the Bears didn’t make it immediately known and the vitriol against Cutler was harsh as many suspected he quit or simply wasn’t tough enough.

In 2011 the Bears were 7-3 and cooking with gas behind Cutler, but in a cruel twist of fate Cutler broke the thumb on his throwing hand against the San Diego Chargers when Johnny Knox fell down on his route and Cutler subsequently attempted to tackle the intercepting Antoine Cason.  The Bears QB clown car made a return appearance after that, this time running out Caleb Hainie and then Josh McCown.  The Bears lost their next 5 games in a row amid a comedy of errors and with that, the likely best chance at a deep playoff run in the Cutler era was wasted.

In 2012 Cutler had another strong year, passing for 3,033 yards (8th-highest single-season total in team history) with 19 TDs and 14 INTs while leading the Bears to a 10-6 record.  In an NFL rarity, however, the team missed out on the playoffs despite winning 10 games.  Lovie was shown the door and in came Marc Trestman as HC with a clear edict to get the most out of Cutler and the potentially great offense.

In 2013 Cutler started in only 11 games due to injury, clearing the way for Josh McCown to play one of the greatest abbreviated stretches of football in Chicago Bear history.  Cutler posted a 5-6 record in his starts, but had the highest completion rate (63.1%) of his career with the Bears to that point.  It seemed he had turned the corner with his ball security, but the injury bug bit at an unfortunate time.

Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

Cutler’s most prolific year as a passer for the Chicago Bears actually came in 2014, which comes as a bit of a surprise considering how the offense seemed to often struggle.  Cutler’s completions (370) and attempts (561) rank #1 in single-season team history while his 3,812 passing yards and 28 TDs rank #2.  Cutler is almost unequivocally the best statistical QB in Bears history; a championship or two could bump him to the top of this list.

  • Most passing yards in team history (18,725)
  • Highest yards per game passing average in team history (228.4)
  • 2nd-most passing TDs in team history (129)
  • 2nd-highest completion percentage in team history (61.4%) with a minimum of 275 attempts
  • 2nd-highest rated QB in team history (84.3) with a minimum of 2,000 yards passing
  • 3rd-winningest QB in team history (44-38)

Next: #1: Still the Best