When Jerry Angelo made the bold move to trade for Jay Cutler in 2009, he thought he had solved a chronic quarterback problem for the Bears. Unfortunately there was one more step he failed to address: You not only have to acquire Jay Cutler, you have to keep him comfortable.
The Bears think they've finally done that. They replaced offensive coordinator Mike Martz with offensive line coach Mike Tice; they hired Cutler's former quarterback coach from Denver, Jeremy Bates; they acquired Cutler's favorite receiver from Denver, Brandon Marshall; and they traded up in the second round to draft another big receiver in 6-4 Alshon Jeffery.
''Jay is a cornerstone player of our franchise,'' Bears general manager Phil Emery said. ''We want to build around Jay. We feel very good about his talent level and his abilty and talents and traits to lead us to championships. So definitely we want to bring weapons around him.''
''This is the most comfortable I think I've been going into a camp, with the offense and what we're doing scheme-wise and the talent around me,'' Cutler said upon arriving at training camp Tuesday in Bourbonnais.
''Jeremy's come in and installed some stuff we did in Denver, some stuff I'm really comfortable with. Mike Tice has a got a really good feel for what I like to do and how to put guys in position to be successful. I'm happy with it. There's still some tweaking we have to do. so everyone's on the same page. But the offseason work we've done has put us in the right direction.''
Cutler's relationship with Tice will be critical. It's no secret Cutler clashed with Martz during their two seasons together. Though Tice has been a head coach in the NFL (with the Vikings from 2001-05), he never has been an offensive coordinator.
''I think that's Mike's sole objective to put guys in position to be successful,'' Cutler said. ''He wants to attack defense and do it smartly. Find ways so we can put our best players against their worst players. That's something we're going to try to do.
But it's how they get along that might be the bigger issue. Tice is a no-nonsense coach, but he seems to have a better understanding of developing personal relationships than Martz, who is just as quirky as Cutler.
How will Tice handle Cutler?
Good question,'' Cutler said. ''I've seen Mike explode on guys. I've seen him pull guys to the side and talk to them quietly. I think Mike does a real good job of knowing what you need, what kind of player you are -- if you're a yell-at-him type of guy or a pull-him-to-the side guy.
''Whatever. He can coach me however. I think we're all in it for the same reasons. He's excited about this offense and so am I. It's just going to be a matter of us working together and finding common ground on some stuff. ''