If there’s any cliche or saying Chicago Bears fans have been hearing ever since John Fox has been hired it’s “history repeats itself.” The reasoning for this is Fox’s knack for launching his second-year teams into playoff runs when he’s at the head coaching helm.
While it would be huge to see the Bears claw into the playoffs after a 6-10 season, there is another bi-yearly feat Bears fans might see this year that might look familiar.
Quarterback Jay Cutler, who has been a large target for criticism, and a perennial goat, as it may seem, is going into his second year in the John Fox/Adam Gase/Dowell Loggains offensive scheme. Why is that significant? Well, in every year Cutler has been a starter in the NFL, his second year under a new coordinator or scheme has also been statistically better than the previous.
His first year as a starter in the NFL came in 2007 under Mike Shanahan’s Broncos. That year, Cutler went 7-9 as a starter and threw for 3,497 yards, with 20 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. The next year he improved all his totals: An 8-8 record, 4,526 yards, 25 touchdowns, 18 interceptions and one Pro Bowl nomination.
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And, according to Pro Football Reference, his average value (AV), or, a number assigned by the website which gauges just how valuable a player is compared to his other 52 teammates, rose from 12 to 15, the highest Cutler has ever been rated by the website.
This isn’t a one-time thing, either. Cutler bounced back from a 26-pick, 7-9 record campaign in 2009 to a 10-5 record in 2010 where he shed 10 interceptions off of his 2009 total. At the beginning of the Trestman era (yeah, I’m going there), Cutler put up 19 touchdowns in 11 games and had an AV of 9. But in 2014 he threw 28 touchdowns in 15 games and improved his AV to 11.
The 2008 season was considered Cutler’s best statistical year, until, however, 2015.
Yes, it is hard to point at a 6-10 year and say your quarterback had a statistically sound year. However, that is exactly what Cutler did. With Gase at the offensive helm, Cutler’s AV was a 12, the highest since the Bears’ 10-6 2010 season. He also threw 11 interceptions in 2015 compared to 18 in 2014, had a career-high quarterback rating of 92.3 and conducted four game winning drives.
But, things aren’t remotely the same. Adam Gase was a huge key to that success, and he has since taken his talents to South Beach as the Miami Dolphins newest head coach and quarterback charmer for Ryan Tannehill. Running back and very snug safety blanket Matt Forte is gone, as well as athletic yet chaotic tight end Martellus Bennett.
Thus, the “Cutler improves in his second year with everything intact” statement has become a little shifted.
In Gase’s stead, the 35-year-old Loggains now takes the offensive helm and is officially Cutler’s sixth offensive coordinator since 2009. “We definitely could be better,” Loggains told USA Today Sports. “I think it’s a mutual respect. Whatever I say to him, he knows where it’s coming from and vice versa.” A backfield by committee replaces Forte and the Bears have yet to find a tight end to replace Bennett.
No, not all is lost. Save your hot takes about Cutler until after the season starts, please.
Loggains may be a new coordinator, but he’s still utilizing the same system that Gase used to produce one of Cutler’s best seasons. Langford and company might not be Forte, but you can’t deny there’s talent in the legs of Langford, Ka’Deem Carey and Jordan Howard. And, lest we forget, while the “Black Unicorn” Bennett became extinct in Chicago, replacing him with a healthy duo of Kevin White and Alshon Jeffery is arguably better than any head case tight end.
The variables are certainly different in 2016, but the dynamic is still the same and what we know from 2015 remains true: this is a scheme Cutler can thrive in. The evidence is there and general manager Ryan Pace made strides to improve the team in other areas so Cutler doesn’t have to win 10 games by himself.
Remember, Bears fans, in order for Fox to bring success in his second season as head coach like he’s known for, he’s going to need plenty of help on both sides of the ball. Luckily for Fox and the fans, history shows Cutler can bring the big offensive dynamic that comes with his second season improvement.