When Marc Trestman gave his introductory speech as head coach of the Chicago Bears, he talked about the relationship between a coach and his quarterback. He said it's a marriage and that, when game time comes, the quarterback must have the freedom to utilize the pieces around him.
"The quarterback is going to have the keys to the car," Trestman said in January. "He's going to have the keys to the car because he's in the best situation before the snap of the ball to get us in the best play."
Before GM Phil Emery took over last season, that car was a beaten down Honda Accord with just two hubs caps and no taillights. In a little more than a year on the job, Emery has turned that vehicle into a sleek Dodge Viper with all the bells and whistles.
With nearly every personnel decision he's made to this point as head of the organization, including those made just yesterday, Emery has had Jay Cutler in mind. On numerous occasions, Emery has referred to Cutler as a franchise quarterback, one that he believes can lead Chicago to a Super Bowl championship if given the right tools to do so.
To that end, Emery's first personnel move, made just minutes into 2012 free agency, was to trade for Brandon Marshall, giving Cutler a Pro Bowl receiver. In the draft, he traded up in the second round for Alshon Jeffery, another playmaking wideout. And in the fourth, he added an H-back with Evan Rodriguez. Emery also re-signed Matt Forte last year, while also grabbing Michael Bush, to be sure the Bears will have a run game to support the quarterback.
Fast forward to yesterday, when Emery was once again very aggressive in free agency. In the first seconds after free agency officially started, the news broke that the Bears had signed tight end Martellus Bennett. The biggest weakness in the passing game in 2012 was the tight end position, so Emery went out and found a quality pass catcher, one who caught 55 passes for 696 yards and five touchdowns last year. Not only that but Bennett can block, giving the Bears one of the best all-around tight ends in the game.
A few hours later, Emery struck again, signing two-time Pro Bowl left tackle Jermon Bushrod. The club has been in the bottom third of the league in sacks allowed the past three seasons and had to upgrade the front five. With Bushrod, the team now has a cornerstone blindside protector, which is a big step forward in mending the issues up front.
And when you consider that Trestman is an offensive-minded coach, another move made with Cutler in mind, it's safe to say the fun isn't over. When Lovie Smith, a defensive-minded coach, took over in 2004, the Bears selected defensive players with five of their first six picks in that year's draft. With Trestman inheriting an offense that finished 28th overall and 29th in passing last season, it's safe to say he'll want the talent infusion to continue.
What this all signals is the fundamental shift in philosophy the organization is undergoing under Emery and Trestman. Throughout the history of the franchise, the Bears have always been known as a defensive football team. Going forward, that won't be the case and offense will be given the priority.
Just consider the mess the club has at linebacker. Lance Briggs is signed but Brian Urlacher, Nick Roach and Geno Hayes are all free agents. Urlacher's return is still very questionable, while up to 10 teams have expressed interest in signing Roach. One could argue that linebacker is the biggest need on the roster, yet Emery spent all of the club's cap money on offensive players.
So now Cutler is in charge of a sports car, one that could receive a turbo boost if the Bears were to select a dynamic receiver like West Virginia's Tavon Austin in the first round. There are no more excuses for Cutler; the pieces are all in place. He has weapons at every single position and he'll now have time to throw the ball.
Considering everything Emery has given him, if Cutler fails to return to Pro Bowl form this season, then it's doubtful he ever will. Which means he may not be worth the eight-figure salary he'll be looking for when he becomes a free agent after next season.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.