Despite the rocky start, Jay Cutler will work out fine as the Bears' quarterback. Brett Favre says so.
But Cutler will probably have to be a whole lot better than fine for the 4-6 Bears to challenge Favre's 9-1 Vikings on Sunday at the Metrodome.
Whether it's adapting to a new team, a new scheme or just growing pains, Cutler's 15-18 TD-interception ratio is not that of a future Hall of Fame quarterback like Favre. Cutler's current numbers are a drop-off from his first three seasons, when he threw 54 TD passes and 37 interceptions. In Favre's first three seasons, he threw 37 TD passes and 39 interceptions and was characterized as reckless and undisciplined, criticisms that Cutler has heard.
So Favre was asked if Cutler reminds him of himself at a similar stage of development.
"I think he's better," Favre said. "I do. It would be easy to point to how he hasn't performed this year. I don't look at it that way. I think my Achilles' heel throughout my career is that I never wanted to concede a play. Did that get me in trouble at times? Sure. But I wouldn't be here today sitting in this chair talking to you guys if I didn't play the way I played.
"I think at this stage [Cutler] is way more advanced. Physically, he's got all the tools. But mentally, he's way more advanced and able to see defenses and read things. I don't think it's a bad thing to want to put it all on your shoulders. And I know that's what he's thinking."
Especially after throwing 13 interceptions in his last six games, five of which were Bears losses, Cutler has seldom heard an encouraging word, so he appreciated Favre's comments.
"It means a lot," Cutler said. "He's been through ups and downs. He's been very successful for the most part. But he's been down the road a few times. And came back. And went down it again and came back."
After an injury-marred season with the Jets last year, the un-retiring Favre has enjoyed a rebirth with the talent-laden Vikings, compiling an NFL-best 112.1 passer rating. But he's known some tough times, too, like his last six games against the Bears, when he was picked off 13 times while throwing just two TD passes. Cutler knows what that's like.
"I haven't played up to my expectations," he said. "I can play better. I know that. It's a process, though. I think everyone in the offense knows what we're trying to get done. We're dressing young guys, we've got some new guys and we're still trying to jell a little bit. It's going to come, though."
Cutler has frequently been compared to Favre because of his superior arm strength and big-play capability. He says that doesn't bother him, but it's premature.
"I've still got a long ways to go to even be in the same league as him," Cutler said.
Also like Favre, Cutler is a risk taker who finds it difficult not to try for the big play no matter the odds.
"I know that Jay and the coaching staff and the fans there would say, 'Yeah, I wish I had this play back or that play,'" Favre said. "But it's the next play, [when] he makes a tremendous play, and you say, 'That's why we got him.' You have to be willing to keep shooting. Now, do you have to have the wherewithal sometimes to say, 'Probably the best play is to take a sack or whatever.'? Believe me, I've known that my whole career. That doesn't mean I've done that. That's the type of player Jay is."
QB Brett Favre
AP Images: Hannah Foslien
While Favre has the lowest interception rate in the NFL, Cutler's 18 picks are more than anyone in the league. He's already had games with three, four and five interceptions, while Favre has been picked off just three times all season.
"No one wants to go through those types of games," Favre said of Cutler's nightmare experiences. "Physically speaking, he's as good as any guy in the league. But mentally, you've got to have a lot of resolve to begin with, and I know he does. That team will be much better off with him than without him."
"I think he's [darn] good," Favre said. "I know he knows that, and I'm sure, to a certain extent, that's what Donovan [McNabb] may have been talking to him about at the end of the [last] game. I think he'll be fine."
NOTES AND QUOTES
Coach Lovie Smith and offensive coordinator Ron Turner have similar ways of ignoring the increased speculation about their job security.
"Minnesota is enough to keep you occupied," Smith said. "You have to stay focused on the task at hand. Any team that is 4-6 right now, they're questions about what's going on on the football field. But things like that really don't affect what's going on. Our day is the same. We're trying to get better each day. We have a big game coming up this week. The focus is just on that."
Turner has taken a lot of the flak for an offense that has turned the ball over too much and failed to take advantage of red-zone opportunities. He has a readily accessible diversion.
"I just look at Minnesota film," Turner said. "I put that film on. I'm not going to think about anything else but Minnesota, and that's where all of my energy and all of my focus has to go. How can we get our team better? [We have to] get our guys to perform at a high level consistently and do what they're supposed to do consistently."
Asked if he was concerned about job security, Turner said: "I'm concerned about Minnesota. I'm concerned about playing well and doing what we have to do to win this game. We still have a lot of games left. We win this game, hopefully that can get some momentum going. Really, honestly, that's all I'm concerned about right now." ...
Despite five losses in six weeks, cornerback Charles Tillman, who forced three fumbles Sunday night, isn't conceding anything.
"I think the day I lose hope is the day I need to retire," he said. "I'm always hopeful. I think this team is always hopeful. That's how you're supposed to be. It's kind of like Coach Smith gets criticized for being so positive all the time. I think it's great that he's positive. I think that's why he's a good head coach." ...
No player in the NFL since 1955 has gone farther with his first carry than the Bears' Kahlil Bell, who sprinted 72 yards through the Eagles on Sunday night on his initial carry as a pro.
The last time anyone opened a career with a bigger bang was the Colts' Alan Ameche, who went 79 yards with his first carry 54 years ago.
On the very next snap after failing to come down with a high throw from Jay Cutler on his first NFL play, Bell produced the Bears' longest run since a 73-yarder by Neal Anderson in 1989. The UCLA product says he's been carrying a chip on his shoulder for years, but that it actually helps him.
"Everyone has always told me pretty much my whole life that I wasn't running back material," the 5-foot-11, 212-pounder said. "I wasn't fast enough. I wasn't strong enough. I wasn't quick enough. Naturally, when someone tells you that you can't do something, you want to prove them wrong. Someone tells me I can't do something, I look at them and say, 'OK, well, watch.'"
Bell ran only a 4.68 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine, slow for a running back, but he says that's not the true measure of a football player.
"I think a lot of that stuff is overhyped and overblown," he said. "You see guys who run 4.3s or 4.4s get out there, and they can't even make a cut. Or you see guys like [former Bronco] Terrell Davis, who is a 4.7 guy at the combine, and his career speaks for itself.
"At the end of the day, if you can put on the pads and you can be a football player, you're a football player." ...
Cutler has been demonstrative in arguing for what he considers pass interference penalties against Bears receivers that don't get called, especially one Sunday night in front of the Bears' bench. Smith says that's part of the game.
"You can't do anything," he said. "The officials have never lost a game. We had all types of opportunities to win the game, to make plays. There are a lot of calls that could go either way. [But they] had nothing to do with the outcome of the game. That play, I saw it differently. But I see a lot of plays differently."
QUOTE TO NOTE
"I feel like we're a good football team. Our record does not show that right now, but we're a good football team. Eventually we're going to do some of those things that have prevented us from winning games. Why not this week?" – Coach Lovie Smith.
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