- Michael C. Wright, ESPN Staff Writer
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Is he a franchise quarterback?
Like new head coach Marc Trestman did in his initial press conference, recently-hired quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh eluded that inquiry Thursday at the Walter Payton Center, preferring to take a wait-and-see approach before offering proclamations.
"I think anybody that's starting in this league you hope they're a franchise quarterback," Cavanaugh said. "I think he's got all the ability. But let us spend some time (with him). I've seen him from afar. I want to see him up close. I want to be able to talk to him. I want to be able to work with him. I think he's got a ton of talent, and I know you can win a lot of games with it."
Cavanaugh described his initial meeting with Cutler as a "social conversation" in which the coach only introduced himself without getting into plans for 2013 or intricacies of the expected scheme on offense.
Trestman's sit down with Cutler was the same. While the staff recently devised a timeline for implementing the club's new offense, Trestman said Cutler "doesn't have a copy of the playbook."
"We had a meet and greet and (Cutler) went back to Nashville," Trestman said. "We're allowed to give him a playbook. We don't have one in place as of yet. It's in the process as we move through all the other things that are happening. That's one of the things we're doing is putting our playbook together in hard copy because we do have the ability to send those books yet. But we haven't completed them as yet. So when we get them done, and that will be in a reasonable amount of time, we'll be able to get it out to them."
Entering the final year of his contract, Cutler -- despite playing just four seasons with the Bears -- leads the franchise in passer rating (81.9), and completions (1,034) and ranks second in touchdown passes (82), passing yards (12,292) and completion percentage (59.6).
Still, he's been somewhat of an enigma in seven years as a pro, despite a 35-23 record (including the playoffs) as a Bear.
In addition to his past experience working with Trestman in San Francisco in 1996 as quarterbacks coach, Cavanaugh considered Cutler to be one of the drawing factors in the coach coming to Chicago.
"(Cutler has) arm talent, no question about it. (He's) athletic, football smart," Cavanaugh said. "Those are qualities that whenever you're evaluating a quarterback, you want him to have those kinds of abilities, and he's got that. We're gonna evaluate all these guys. We're gonna have a team environment with a lot of focus on, 'I'm gonna do what's best for our team.' That's gonna permeate every position on the field, not just Jay. So he's gonna learn it. He's gonna be a part of it. But he's one part of it. Our job is to get him to play consistently every week."
Step 1 in that process starts in the spring when the team convenes at Halas Hall for minicamps and organized team activities. By then, the Bears "will certainly be ready to go," said Trestman, who added that the timeline to implement the new system should put the team in a situation where it won't be rushing through installation during the summer at training camp.
"We have a timeline that will allow us to be finished much in front of that so we can take a look at the completed product and go through it as a staff sufficiently so that when we present it to our players that it will be clean in all aspects, from terminology to plays, to numbering system and things like that," Trestman said. "We've given ourselves a good amount of time. But we have a sense of urgency to get it done as soon as we can to get it in their hands, so they have a chance to preview it before they come in."
For now, the new coaching staff continues to preview the returning talent through exhaustive film study of the 2012 season to see who fits where in 2013.
Cavanaugh called "winning" the most important trait for a quarterback, saying "if you're a winner, nobody cares how you do it."
The new quarterbacks coach declined to divulge what he's seen so far from breaking down film of Cutler.
"I know you want to know a lot of details about what we think about him," he said. "Let us meet him first. Let us work with him. Let us evaluate him, and we'll get back to you. It's early."
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