- Michael C. Wright, ESPN Staff Writer
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So, let me get this straight: Former Chicago Bears general manager Jerry Angelo gave up two first-round picks, quarterback Kyle Orton and a third-round selection to acquire quarterback Jay Cutler in addition to spending countless interviews defending him.
Now the former GM is criticizing Cutler, who is coming off his best season as a pro.
Did Angelo -- as he once so eloquently and hilariously told a reporter -- "Whistle Dixie" here?
Sure seems like it, considering what Angelo gave up to get Cutler, the contract extension he gave the quarterback just five games into 2009, in addition to all the rhetoric wasted on defending him over four seasons. Grading Cutler and the rest of the league's quarterbacks for sidelineview.com, Angelo wrote: "Has all the physical tools, but inconsistent in the clutch. Mostly due to a lack of poise. He's not comfortable reading defense and consequently locks onto a favorite or pre-determined target that may or may not be the right choice. The less he's asked to see the better he is. A better half-field general than a full field one."
Perhaps all of this is true. But it's not like any of this hasn't been brought up in the past to Angelo.
Back in 2011 prior to a matchup against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field, many of those critiques were mentioned in a conversation with Angelo, who defended the quarterback, saying he was "seeing ghosts" and "shellshocked" from all the punishment he had taken due to horrid protection up front. At the time, Angelo's defense of Cutler made sense. Going into that matchup, Cutler had been sacked 15 times over his previous four outings. Then, in that 24-14 loss to the Lions, Cutler suffered three sacks while completing 73.7 percent of his passes.
In the four years Cutler and Angelo spent together in Chicago, the quarterback finished with passer ratings of 76.8, 86.3, 85.7 and 81.3, throwing for 82 touchdowns and 63 interceptions while completing 59.6 of his passes. In 2013, Cutler produced a career-best passer rating of 89.2 and completed 63.1 percent of his throws in Year 1 of a new offense with a new head coach in Marc Trestman.
Angelo also broke down Cutler's game back in September on his Facebook page:
He has all the physical tools. His arm strength, release and precise passes make him dangerous from anywhere on the field. He moves well and throws well on the run, an area that can be cultivated like his days in Denver.
But his numbers and most QB rankings are pedestrian, given his talent. The question is why?
Part of the problem, he's going on his fourth coordinator since arriving in Chicago. Continuity is important to every player, particularly those at his position.
From his standpoint, two issues stand out to me.
First he needs to distribute the ball consistently to his secondary receivers. His penchant to have a favorite receiver is understandable but not at the expense of ignoring the others. To put up big numbers, you have to keep defenses on their heels and off balance. Make them guess or cheat and when they do, you make them pay.
The way to do it is force them to defend the whole field, not half of it. Make them defend every level and every zone. You do this by spreading the ball to all your weapons.
You force defenses to respect those weapons by going to them.
All the elite quarterbacks create receivers.
The second concern ties into the first; his lack of consistency and production in the red zone. It's not all on Cutler, but it's where the top quarterbacks distinguish themselves. The Bears were tied for 22nd in offense when they got down there. He's better than that, and they have enough established weapons to exploit opponents when they are down there.
The optimum word for Cutler is 'trust': in himself, those around him and what he's asked to do. He's taken a lot of 'hits' and at age 30 they can take their toll. I've never questioned his toughness and knowing him, I know he's in top shape and anxious to get going.
Usually at this point, you either get it or you don't. He has an offensive specialist as his head coach, and it's going to take the help of a specialist for him to reach his ceiling.
I think it's a good bet he'll have a top year.
Obviously, Cutler did that. Yet Cutler remains a target of criticism from the man who spent so much in 2009 to acquire him and so much breath defending him. Angelo's critique isn't without merit, just a little perplexing given their history.
Remember, Angelo once said "it's crap" in response to criticism regarding Cutler's toughness after the quarterback left the NFC Championship Game following the 2011 season due to a knee injury.
"We wouldn't have been where we were without [Cutler]," Angelo said at the time.
Now, Cutler lacks poise and isn't comfortable reading defenses.
Again, maybe that's all true. But as we so often like to say on Monday Night Countdown: "C'mon, man."