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Sunday, June 8, 2014

Back from the Depths: Phil Emery, Marc Trestman and the Re-Building of Jay Cutler

I keep going back to the game between the Bears and Cardinals in December of 2012. Following two disheartening losses to the Vikings and Packers (where Jay had been underwhelming at best) that dropped the team out of the playoff hunt, the Bears desperately needed a win against the Cardinals and some help in order to stay alive. During the game against the lifeless 5-9 Cardinals, Jay completed less than half of his passes for a measly 146 yards and looked lost. This wasn't a young, reckless, frustrated QB responding to breakdowns in protection by firing fastballs into double coverage. It wasn't even Jay forcing deep balls downfield in a futile attempt to make a play. It was just a quarterback who looked erratic, inaccurate, and lost.

Phil Emery saw the same thing. Jay Cutler was lost, and Phil had a choice to make. Keep the head coach and coordinator who was supposedly so estranged from his own quarterback that the two barely spoke and lose the quarterback forever, or replace them and dedicate one more year to trying to reclaim the talented young passer who threw for over 4500 yards and made the Pro Bowl in his last year in Denver.

As we know, Emery made the choice to roll with Cutler, and the result was a 2013 season that was, despite being cut short by injury, Cutler's best in many ways. He set career highs in passer rating, had the highest completion % of his Bears career, the second highest yards per game average of his career, and the highest TD%. Emery saw enough in Cutler's progress in 2013 to reward him with a long term contract extension. With Cutler the Bears starter at quarterback for the foreseeable future, it's worth looking back at Emery's plan and seeing how he and Marc Trestman turned Jay back into a viable starter.

1) Find the Coach: There were different reasons why the previous offensive coordinators that handled Jay in Chicago had all failed. Ron Turner's scheme was vanilla and outdated, and incapable of producing without a dominant run game.