Cutler finally gets his man
New Bears GM Emery makes bold move on free-agency opener: a No. 1 receiver
CHICAGO -- In his three up-and-down seasons as the face of the Chicago Bears, Jay Cutler's face has often told the story.
When things are going bad, the infamous "Cutler Face" comes out. When things are going good, his smile could light up a room. OK, maybe a closet. Something with doors.
Cutler is supposedly in Cabo San Lucas right now with his pregnant fiancée Kristin Cavallari, and I can't imagine he's been happier in his Bears career than he was when he heard the news that his old teammate Brandon Marshall is coming to the Bears.
Marshall, traded by the Miami Dolphins for a pair of third-round picks, might not be the key to a Super Bowl -- it's March after all, who knows -- but he's exactly what the quarterback has been asking for.
Cutler has made it clear he wanted a big receiver, a real No. 1-style receiver.
"Anyone really over 6-2 at this point is going to look good," he said on ESPN 1000's "Waddle & Silvy" show last month.
It's a no-brainer that Cutler wanted to add to the Bears' offensive weapons, which basically consists of receiver Earl Bennett and running back Matt Forte. Receiver Johnny Knox suffered a serious back injury last year and is rehabbing at Halas Hall.
"I would hope so," he said of adding a receiver like Marshall. "I think every quarterback in the league wants that. We're not happy unless we're getting offensive guys year in and year out. More toys to play with."
I don't know how much Cutler has interacted with new general manager Phil Emery, who surely has been wearing out remote controls as he grinds on, but the quarterback certainly used Twitter as athletes should, to deliver a message sans the filter of the media.
Weeks before Emery was hired, during the Saints-Lions playoff game, Marshall and Cutler were tweeting back and forth about a possible reunion. When a fan said it was time to get Cutler and Marshall back together, Cutler, or whoever runs his account, wrote, "Let's do it!"
The two have proven synergy. In their two years together in Denver, Marshall caught 206 passes for 2,590 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Last year in Miami, he caught 81 passes for 1,214 yards and six touchdowns. Those are real receiver numbers. He will paid like a real receiver, too, with annual checks of $9 million-plus.
Cutler can be a difficult guy, and despite his immense talent, he hadn't built much of a "winning quarterback" résumé until recently. He was playing his best football before he suffered a thumb injury in Week 11, which is a good sign.
But with another new offensive coordinator in Mike Tice, it's time to start coddling the quarterback a little bit. Chicago hired his old coach Jeremy Bates as the quarterbacks coach and now have added his old teammate in Marshall. The Bears also need to add another tackle, and knowing Jay from Denver isn't a prerequisite as long he can block.
Nothing against Bennett, Devin Hester, Knox and all the rest, but the team's failure to surround a franchise quarterback with a franchise wide receiver was inarguably short-sighted, and it's one reason why I thought former general manager Jerry Angelo needed to go.
You don't buy a Lamborghini and then put doughnut tires on it and fail to buy insurance. But that was Angelo's way. Bad linemen, role-player receivers and one beaten-up quarterback.
If the Bears improve the line -- and with Gabe Carimi back that's instant help -- there are no more excuses. Tice will run a pro-style offense, Cutler has a No. 1 receiver, and Forte will be on the team. If Cutler doesn't succeed now, it's on him, and maybe on Lovie Smith.
The trade for Marshall is a franchise-changing moment; it gives Emery instant credibility among one of football's most insatiable fan bases and creates the Bears' first quarterback-receiver combination that will frighten opposing defensive coordinators in seemingly forever.
Now the Bears don't have to focus on wide receiver in the first round. They need help on both lines and in the secondary. They still might want to add another wideout in the second or third round.
Everyone is excited for Marshall now -- his teammates were tweeting their joy, and fans were so excited I thought Mayor Rahm Emanuel was going to declare "Marshall Law." Everyone should be excited. Johnny Morris is the career leader in receiving yardage with 5,059. Marshall has 6,247 yards in six seasons. Walter Payton is the career receptions leader with 492. Marshall has 494. Marshall would be tied in career touchdowns at 34 with Mike Ditka.
For all his talent, Marshall has some baggage. After a tumultuous start to his career, with a few off-the-field issues -- his wife stabbed him last year -- he had himself diagnosed as having borderline personality disorder and made a documentary about his struggles called "Borderline Beast." He's not just a mercurial wide receiver, this is serious stuff.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness defines BPD as "an often misunderstood, serious mental illness characterized by pervasive instability in moods, interpersonal relationships, self-image and behavior. It is a disorder of emotional dysregulation." After the diagnosis, Marshall admitted to struggling with his emotions in Miami. So that begs the question: How will Marshall handle the scrutiny of Chicago? There is real pressure here -- from the media, the fans and internally at Halas Hall. Guys can say they don't watch the news or read the stories, but that's bogus. Someone is always in their ear and, furthermore, our questioning gives away the storylines. Twitter has only increased the noise.
If Marshall's production drops off or the Bears don't succeed, watch out. It will get ugly. Big chances often equal bigger consequences, and with a new general manager and the same coaching staff, this is an important season.
But it's only March, and preparations for the 2012 season have really just began. What's important now is that Marshall is a sublime talent, one that Cutler has craved since the Bears traded for him three years ago.
He turns 28 this month, and at 6-foot-4, 230 pounds he is the dream package. On a team where "receivers go to die," according to a former Bears receiver, Marshall has brought new life.
If he's good, he will own Chicago and the Bears will be contenders again.
The situation is nearly perfect and hope abounds. In March, that's all you can ask for, a good beginning and stockpiling of weapons.
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