Bears going as far as QB takes them
Life is full of surprises.
The No. 1 criticism of Jay Cutler since he arrived in Chicago in 2009 centered on the quarterback's inability to put the team on his shoulders and lead them through adversity late in games.
There was a statistic in last week's game info that Cutler had engineered 12 game-winning fourth-quarter drives as a member of the Bears.
If your definition of game-winning fourth quarter drives is scoring anywhere between 9:03 and 14:39 left in the game to recapture a lead the Bears had lost generally because of their ineptness on offense, then by all means, Cutler was "Mr. Clutch" from 2009-12.
But if you want to talk about a quarterback pulling the offense back from the brink or crushing the hopes of an opponent after the game got close because of defensive breakdowns, that began in 2013.
This is a new Cutler. He trusts the players and coaches around him. He doesn't come unglued in crunch time when the momentum is not on the Bears' side. He still makes mistakes, but for the most part, his decisions are better.
And the results speak for themselves: 68-for-101, 693 yards, 67.3 completion percentage, six touchdowns, three interceptions and a 94.2 quarterback rating. It also helps that Cutler has been sacked only three times - compared to the seven sacks he took in the first three weeks of 2012.
Mind you, Cutler isn't the sole reason for the 3-0 mark. General manager Phil Emery is the one responsible for overhauling the offensive line in the offseason and acquiring proven playmakers (wide receiver Brandon Marshall and tight end Martellus Bennett). The defense is still forcing turnovers and scoring defensive touchdowns at a fantastic rate. And new coach Marc Trestman has pushed the right buttons with the players, for the most part, since taking over for the popular Lovie Smith.
But without Cutler performing at his current level, the Bears are likely 1-2, maybe worse.
The Bears are going as far as Cutler takes them.
At this rate, the trip is not expected to be a short one.
Jeff Dickerson covers the Bears for ESPNChicago.com.
Coach bringing out best in Cutler
Typically, I hate when we give too much credit to coaches and executives for how a team performs, but I think coach Marc Trestman is the man most responsible for the Chicago Bears' 3-0 start.
I often bemoan the "godding up" of coaches and executives, because while anyone can plan well, it takes athletes to play. You know that saying, "Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth."
In Chicago, Mike Ditka is a legend while the Blackhawks' front office is close behind. The Bulls players sometimes chuckle at the media's fascination with Tom Thibodeau, noting that "we're the ones running up and down the floor."
But Trestman has impressed me in several ways, from his attention to detail to his modernization of the offense to some key philosophical decisions. General manager Phil Emery was impressed by Trestman's precise planning during interviews and that hasn't changed.
Most importantly, Trestman has put Jay Cutler in a position to succeed and sacrificed some of his power to appease the veteran defense.
Trestman was hired because the Bears had so much invested in a broken offense. While the offense has yet to really take flight, you can see a different Cutler out there. He's more confident behind a strong offensive line and more willing to spread the ball around to capable receivers. Cutler is no longer frustrated with bad game plans and the lunacy of seven-step drops behind sieves at tackle positions. Three winning drives in the fourth quarter can't be wrong.
So far, it looks as if Trestman has essentially saved Cutler's middling career. Yes, Cutler has the biggest role there, actually doing the work, but in football, good coaching really is invaluable.
It would've been easy for Trestman to act like so many other coaches, insecure would-be dictators who come in and change everything. Such as how Josh McDaniels got rid of Cutler in Denver as he tried to erase Mike Shanahan's influence from existence.
Instead, Trestman hired a defensive coordinator willing to keep the same style of defense and even the same verbiage. Good coaches are flexible and set the right kind of example of selflessness. Trying to win the defensive room over was a good idea from the start.
Some wondered how Trestman, so bookish in appearance and professorial in inflection, could lead a veteran locker room. Those questions have faded, for now, as Trestman has shown his way works. We'll see what happens if the season goes south.
But for now, give the man credit for being 3-0. He deserves it.
Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com