BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Through the first two days of training camp, Jay Cutler zipped spirals all over the place. He fired strikes, mostly. Sometimes he threw picks.
The most glaring constant for Cutler so far has been his precision in execution: his dropbacks, footwork and delivery. Clearly Cutler, coach Marc Trestman and quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh worked diligently to smooth out some of the technical kinks of the veteran’s game.
But will they come back once the action’s live and the games count, when adrenaline kicks in and instinct takes over?
“That’s a great question. I don’t know if I have the answer to that other than you have to have great communication,” Trestman told ESPNChicago.com. “You have to be honest and open in terms of (if) we’re drifting back into doing something we didn’t intend to do. We’ve got to be open with it. We’ve got to come here and remind each other each day, ‘This is what we’re trying to accomplish.’ If we’ve got two willing guys that are willing to work with each other to do it, we’ve got the best chance."
Even Trestman’s vast experience tutoring some of the greatest at the position may not be able to undo a career’s worth of habits in one offseason and training camp. Trestman knows that. But the key is to continuously manage the technical elements of Cutler’s game with honest and constant communication, which will eventually lead to the quarterback making drastic strides.
"Is there a guarantee? We don’t know. Nobody knows," Trestman said. "But we’ve made a commitment to try to get this done. It’s not only myself, it’s Matt Cavanaugh. We’ll work together to try to focus on the things that we think we can change, but to not inhibit him from playing at a loose and free level to where he can do his job.”
The fact Trestman knows that he doesn’t know whether Cutler will revert to bad habits and articulates as much -- believe it or not – signifies, from this vantage point, that the coach will exhaust every option available toward furthering the quarterback’s development and expects bumps, but is confident they can be overcome. Despite a coaching career spanning more than 30 years working with quarterbacks in college, the NFL and the Canadian Football League, Trestman knows there’s no one-size-fits-all method for developing signal callers. Perhaps that’s why he’s been successful and why there’s a good chance he’ll succeed again with Cutler.
“They’re all different,” Trestman explained. “(Montreal Alouettes quarterback) Anthony (Calvillo, the CFL’s all-time passing leader), we really had to start over with him. It was different. He picked it up very quickly. But I’ve fallen into situations like with (Rich) Gannon (who won the NFL’s most valuable player award in 2002 while working with Trestman) and there wasn’t that much to do. Steve Young, there wasn’t much to do. It was just basically reminding them to keep doing what they were doing. There are some I don’t even remember. But just to give you a few, you see that everybody is different.”
To a degree, Cutler falls into the keep-doing-what-you’re-doing mold for Trestman because of the way he’s performed recently, which is a direct result of the work put in throughout the offseason to sharpen some of the fundamental elements of his game.
“Jay’s been in this kind of system, so it’s very relatable to him. I would think if you asked him, he would say that none of this is foreign to him. He’s just been doing things differently and coached a little bit different with maybe a different frame of reference over the last few years,” Trestman said. “But this, what’s doing now is not unfamiliar. There are things he feels he can do, and things he feels (less comfortable with). Really, there’s not much of (the latter). You’d like (him) to keep doing what he’s doing. We think we can be effective that way.”
Cutler absolutely can, but the key is to ‘keep doing what he’s doing’ as opposed to what he’s always done.