Commentary

Carefree, confident -- and dangerous

Swagger seems sincere now for Bears QB Jay Cutler, even against the Packers

Updated: September 13, 2012, 6:05 PM ET
By Jon Greenberg | ESPNChicago.com

CHICAGO -- Of Jay Cutler's many attributes, you would think his arm would be No. 1, perhaps followed by his winsome smile. But you'd be wrong.

"The best thing he has is confidence," Brandon Marshall said after Sunday's season-opening win over the Colts. "It doesn't matter what happens with our offense, Jay's confidence is going to be sky-high."

[+] EnlargeCutler
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesJay Cutler has just a 1-5 record as a Bear against the Packers, but he's never had the weapons in Chicago he has now.

Cutler, who has been known to grimace and mumble his way through a news conference, seemed bold, funny and yes, confident when addressing reporters Tuesday. When asked about possible physical coverage from Green Bay cornerbacks, he had this to say: "Good luck," he said. "We invite press coverage."

He definitely wasn't talking about the media coverage, though that should be at full bandwagon capacity with this team's potential. No, Cutler was saying bring it on, Green Bay, this isn't the Bears team of yesteryear, or to be more specific, last year.

I can't remember hearing Cutler this carefree and confident, mostly because he knew deep down how flawed were the past three Bears offenses.

If the Packers' secondary has a bulletin board, expect "good luck" to make it. After all, it's "good luck" from a guy with a career 67.5 quarterback rating against them.

In five regular-season games with the Bears, Cutler's career record against the Packers is less than stellar -- one win, 56.0 completion percentage, 1,177 yards, 6 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

I was lucky enough to be at his first start in a Bears uniform in Green Bay, and the thing I'll most remember is then-general manager Jerry Angelo staring blankly at the field, glasses off, at halftime after Cutler threw three of his four interceptions.

I'm curious to see how Cutler's confidence translates into game conditions. When asked about earlier struggles against the Packers, he told a reporter to "watch the tape." Make of that what you will.

But, while we must use past performance as an indicator of future success, as a wise, mustachioed man in a Bears sweater once said, "Those who live in the past are cowards and losers."

Cutler's past is prologue to this year, and this team, with Marshall and Alshon Jeffery giving the Bears their first real size advantage at receiver, and Mike Tice giving him a scheme that emphasizes the importance of delivering the ball before getting your helmet cracked.

Cutler feigned confidence in the past, both in his teammates and Mike Martz's game plans, peppering his comments with a few "y'knows" and sideways glances, but now you can sense his sincerity.

A happy Cutler is a confident Cutler. As George Costanza once echoed Lincoln, "A George divided against itself cannot stand!"

And that kind of confidence is exactly what the Bears need this week.

It's a Super Bowl-or-bust season, and this is the definition of a statement game. A loss in Green Bay is no harbinger of doom, but a Bears win wouldn't just be fool's gold, rather an early salvo in a division race that is expected to be close.

Not only would it give the Bears the early edge in head-to-head record, but it would also drop the Packers to 0-2, an early hole that is historically difficult from which to emerge.

With no lockout, holdout or clear-cut injury obstacle, this Bears team has great expectations, and the 41-21 win over the Colts did nothing to temper enthusiasm. A win over Green Bay would cement the Bears as early Super Bowl favorites out of the NFC.

All this talk about Cutler aside, you figure the Bears will try to establish the running game early, mirroring how the 49ers won in Lambeau last week. Matt Forte and Michael Bush should get something close to, if not more than, the 28 combined carries they had last week.

All of the Bears wideouts are good, eager run-blockers, something Forte said he appreciates. Lambeau hasn't been kind to the Bears in the Cutler era.

Three years ago, when his tenure began with a thud, was also when Brian Urlacher injured his wrist, going on to miss the rest of the season. While we know where Cutler's head is, we're less sure about Urlacher's knee. He said he's fine, and everyone expected the Bears to treat him cautiously, as they have, pulling him out of the opener early and holding him out of practice this week.

Even if he's healthy, in our minds, Urlacher's status is game-to-game. We didn't see much out of him last week, but you can bet Green Bay will test him by flooding the zone and running Cedric Benson up the gut. Urlacher needs to show the rest of the league he's healthy.

Green Bay losing last week could be a great thing for the Bears. Because now the Packers are angry and desperate, making this test even more difficult.

With two words, Cutler threw down the gantlet against a team that has beaten the Bears four straight times. Who will need the luck Thursday?

Jon Greenberg

Columnist, ESPNChicago.com
Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com. He has lived and worked in Chicago since 2003, and is a graduate of Ohio University and the University of Chicago.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

MORE NFL HEADLINES