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Jay Cutler's big breakthrough

Trestman's improvements to QB's game could fuel NFC North's top pass attack

Updated: May 28, 2014, 1:26 PM ET
By KC Joyner | ESPN Insider

Chicago Bears head coach Marc Trestman had a number of notable offensive achievements in his first year at the helm of this team. Under his tutelage, the Bears set franchise records for net offensive yards (6,109), net passing yards (4,281), completion percentage (64.4), passing touchdowns (32) and first downs (344) and placed second in team history in points scored in a single season (445).

As impressive as those accomplishments were, the biggest feather in Trestman's Chicago coaching hat was how he helped Jay Cutler cure a career-long habit of being one of the worst decision-makers in the NFL. Two of the best offensive coaching minds in league history (Mike Shanahan and Mike Martz) were among many who had previously tried to solve this issue without success, but Trestman's simple yet incredibly effective approach worked wonders where others had failed.

This accomplishment is significant, because while it wasn't quite enough last season to vault the Bears into the postseason for the first time since 2010, a closer look at the situation indicates that Cutler is poised for a breakthrough campaign (provided he can stay healthy) in 2014. And not only will that make Chicago a playoff contender, but it gives this unit enough upside potential to challenge Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers for the honor of best passing attack in the NFC North.

A history of legendarily poor decision levels

Before getting into the specifics of what Trestman did to help correct this problem, it is worth taking a step back to see just how high a mountain he had to climb.

In his first seven pro seasons, Cutler wasn't merely below average in the bad decision rate (BDR) metric that gauges how often a passer makes a mental error that leads to a turnover opportunity for the opposing team. He was bottom-of-the-barrel caliber.

To illustrate, take a look below at Cutler's BDR rate and where it ranked each year.

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