- Michael C. Wright, ESPN Staff Writer
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler moved up a spot from No. 6 to fifth on the MVP Watch list of ESPN.com New York Giants reporter Dan Graziano, and is certainly deserving of the recognition, considering he currently ranks No. 3 in the NFL in total QBR.
You can rank the candidates here.
Cutler has led two comeback victories, and stepped up to make game-clinching plays during a clutch situation Sunday to put away the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Here’s what Graziano had to say about Cutler: “This is the same guy who got called all kinds of unflattering names for standing on the sideline during the NFC Championship Game a few years back? This guy who lowers his (throwing!) shoulder at the end of a critical run play instead of sliding, leveling a defender in crunch time against the Steelers? Marc Trestman hasn't just turned Cutler into a more efficient passer, he's turned him into a superhero. It's the Adventures of Surly-Man!”
Trestman deserves recognition for Cutler finally starting to realize his seemingly unlimited potential as a passer, but new quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh has also been a major contributor to the signal-caller’s success.
Cutler spoke last week about his relationship with Cavanaugh, who joined Chicago after working as quarterbacks coach of the New York Jets from 2009-12, and admitted it’s easier to accept the coaching at this stage of his career, because he’s “older, a little bit more mature.”
“He’s a grinder, he’s a guy that comes in every single day, and he’s looking to help me get better,” Cutler said of Cavanaugh. “And, like on Wednesday’s, it’s hard, I don’t really want to do that, I’m tired, you know. But he pushes you through it. He does a good job. There’s some give and take there. In my younger days there might have been a little bit more rocky (of a relationship) than it is right now, but it’s going real well right now.”
Cavanaugh agrees, and called Cutler a willing pupil.
“He makes it easy [to coach],” Cavanaugh said. “He’s a talent. He works hard. He’s committed. He’s focused. He wants what we want: He wants the Bears to be successful. If you’ve got those things going for you, it’s hard not to have fun.”
Cutler said he and Cavanaugh share “some similarities,” and joked he doesn’t “know if the guy sleeps.” Cavanaugh, meanwhile, acknowledged the connection between himself and Cutler, before providing insight into the quarterback’s personality.
Head coach Marc Trestman called the pairing of Cutler and Cavanaugh “a good match.”
“I don’t think either one of us are really outgoing,” Cavanaugh explained about Cutler. “I think we’re maybe contemplative before we speak. I’ve noticed that about Jay, and I love that about him. He doesn’t just talk the talk. He’s usually thought something out, and that’s whether you ask him a question or he’s got a question for you. He puts a lot of thought into it. He’s a little introspective that way, and I think I am, too. I’d rather listen first than just pop out an answer if I’m not sure what I’m saying. So I think it allows us to communicate pretty well, and sometimes, it’s quiet around the two of us. We’re not saying a whole lot, but we’re both thinking.”
Then come Sundays, they’re both doing.