Chicago Bears Countdown to Kickoff: 6 Days with Jay Cutler

Chicago Bears, Jay Cutler
Chicago Bears, Jay Cutler / Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
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Chicago Bears, Jay Cutler
Chicago Bears, Jay Cutler / Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Jay Cutler takes Chicago Bears deep into playoffs

Upon joining his second professional franchise, Cutler immediately stepped in as the team's starter but struggled to match some of the consistency he displayed throughout the early years of his career. Finishing the season with a league-high 26 interceptions thrown, Cutler still managed over 3,600 yards and 27 touchdowns while helping the team post a 7-9 record.

The following season, Cutler was able to cut down on his turnovers, but the offensive line did him no favors, and the quarterback was the most sacked player in the league, taken down behind the line of scrimmage 52 times in 15 games. The team still posted a 10-5 record with Cutler at quarterback, enough wins to earn the second seed in the NFC.

In the team's Divisional Round matchup versus the Seattle Seahawks, Cutler played an extremely efficient game, finishing his first postseason outing with 274 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. However, Cutler's luck would not continue into the NFC Championship, where he had to leave the contest against the Green Bay Packers due to an MCL sprain that he suffered in the third quarter.

Cutler was unable to finish the game, and the team lost a close game down the stretch. However, the incident fostered a lot of speculation in regard to his dedication to the team and the game, a somewhat harsh response to a player who was forced to leave a conference championship game.

Following the team's deep postseason run, expectations were high for the Chicago Bears, and Cutler was able to help the team to a strong start to the season. After starting the year 6-3, Cutler broke his thumb in a battle against the San Diego Chargers. Despite winning the game, Cutler would be lost for the remainder of the season, and the team would only end up winning one more game down the stretch.

By 2012, it was apparent that the offense needed more talent around Cutler to truly have a shot at competing in the NFC. The team had lost wide receiver Johnny Knox to a career-ending injury at the end of the previous season, but the team still had a number of playmakers, primarily Matt Forte and Devin Hester. Still, the Bears decided to trade for Cutler's old Broncos teammate Brandon Marshall, who had taken a detour to join the Miami Dolphins.

The reunion proved to be a valuable connection, and the two picked up where they left off in Denver. In 15 games, Cutler helped the team post a 10-5 record, thanks to his 3,000 passing yards and 19 touchdowns. In his first year back with his quarterback, Marshall was named an All-Pro after finishing the year with 1,500 yards, nearly half of Cutler's total.

Following a 10-6 finish that landed the Bears just outside of the playoff picture, longtime coach Lovie Smith was fired and replaced by Marc Trestman, who was at the time considered to be somewhat of an offensive guru. The team was able to add some more talent to the offense, specifically the emergence of Alshon Jeffery and the drafting of Kyle Long, but a defensive unit that once contained the likes of Brian Urlacher, Danieal Manning, and Henry Melton was now devoid of talent outside of Charles Tillman, Julius Peppers, Lance Briggs, and Tim Jennings.

The team struggled under Trestman, and had their best season with the regime in 2013, where they finished with an 8-8 record. However, Cutler did have some of his best seasons under the former CFL Grey Cup-winning coach, thanks in large part to his improved pass protection up front.

In two seasons under Trestman, from 2013-14, Cutler played in 26 games, where he recorded nearly 6,500 yards and 47 touchdowns, although he led the league in interceptions with 18 in the latter campaign.

After just two years, Trestman was fired and replaced by John Fox, who brought a more conservative, defensive mindset to the team. Cutler, who had recently signed an extension through the 2020 season, played well under his third head coach with the team but was unable to help the squad reach success in the win-loss column.

In his first season with Fox, Cutler logged nearly 3,700 yards and 21 touchdowns with just 11 interceptions, but the team managed only six wins on the season. The following year, Cutler started the season strong, but the team as a whole struggled, finishing with a 1-4 record through the first five games. During the team's sixth game, a battle against the New York Giants, Cutler tore his labrum, and missed the remainder of the season, with Matt Barkley serving as the team's de facto starter.