Most are in agreement expectation levels for Jay Cutler in his first season as Bears quarterback are at third-and-long or fourth-and-forever by now. It is going to be challenging for him to meet them, in his first season anyway.
"Anytime a team wants to make a trade like that and give up what they gave up, it's going to be a lot of pressure, a lot of high expectations,'' Cutler said last week after an OTA. "I welcome it. It's going to be fun. It's going to be a good challenge.''
The Bears don't need Cutler to replace John Elway. They need him to be Elway. They've never had that quarterback in franchise history and much is being expected of him even though little has been done with the exception of some new and moving parts on the offensive line. Now that the Bears have their quarterback, they can go out and build around him.
One analyst who is tempering enthusiasm is KC Joyner, who publishes The Football Scientist. No one tackles more game tape than Joyner and he's not convinced Cutler is going to do more than make the Bears' receivers better alternatives in fantasy football.
"Regarding Cutler, I've said many times and I'll say it again, he'll make Bears fans remember Rex Grossman quite fondly,'' Joyner said Thursday in an online chat on ESPN.com.
He bases this opinion on what he calls the "bad decision rate" Cutler has in comparison to other quarterbacks. Joyner finds that Cutler is even more of a risk taker than Grossman was. One gunslinger has been replaced by another, a guy who just happens to be carrying a bigger gun.
"His bad decision rate is 5 percent,'' Joyner said. "That means one out of every 20 passes he throws is either an interception or a near interception because of a mistake he made. A high YPA [yards per attempt] can offset a high bad decision rate but the upper limit for offsetting tends to be around somewhere between 3 and 4 percent. Cutler has got to stop making so many mistakes, period.''
Cutler threw 18 interceptions last season in Denver. Only Brett Favre, after a disastrous stretch at season's end, had more with 22. His yards per attempt average was 7.3, which ranked 10th. The thinking is that now without Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal to throw to, Cutler could wind up pressing.
"I have no doubt that Cutler will make the Bears wideouts better fantasy picks,'' Joyner said. "I'd also point out that Grossman took the Bears to the Super Bowl and even that wasn't enough for Bears fans to forgive him his mistakes. Cutler forces more passes into coverage than Grossman (he had the highest bad decision percentage in the league last year) and there is no reason to think he won't do that for Chicago as well."
Some have made the Bears their preseason favorite to win the division. Joyner has Minnesota as his selection. He doesn't believe Cutler will impact the Bears in wins/losses. He casts doubt on the switch to the 3-4 defense being made in Green Bay. But he likes Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
"Based on last year's numbers, I would take Rodgers hands down [over Cutler],'' Joyner said. "His YPA, success percentage, vertical numbers and bad decision percentages all fare well or were better than Cutler's.''