Marshall makes strong case for Cutler

Chicago Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall lays out in detail why Jay Cutler, who will soon be a free agent, should return as the organization's long-term quarterback.

Often in sports, you hear a fan espousing the merits of his alma mater's team. Whether he or she is right or not, it's hard to take someone too seriously when the bias is blatantly obvious from the start.

Similarly, when Chicago Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall talks about wanting Jay Cutler, one of his best friends, to return next season, you have to take it with a grain of salt. Of course he wants Cutler back. We knew that already.

Yet Marshall yesterday laid out a pretty convincing argument for Cutler's return.

"I call myself a Chicagoan because I believe this is home now," Marshall said. "You guys really embraced me. It feels amazing, not only playing in the city but also being a citizen here, embedded in the community. One thing I know about Chicago: It's been a long time since we had a quarterback like Jay Cutler."

It's a fact few will debate, considering the long line of mediocre quarterbacks that came before him. And for those with short memories, here are the signal callers that lined up under center for the Bears before Cutler's arrival in 2009:

Kyle Orton
Rex Grossman
Brian Griese
Jeff Blake
Chad Hutchinson
Craig Krenzel
Jonathan Quinn
Kordell Stewart
Chris Chandler
Jim Miller
Henry Burris
Shane Matthews
Cade McNown
Steve Stenstrom
Moses Moreno

To find a decent Bears quarterback who put together a good season before Cutler, you have to go back 14 years before his arrival, to the 1995 campaign in which Erik Kramer threw for 3,838 yards and 29 TDs.

Think about it. For nearly a decade and a half before Cutler, the Bears wallowed under some of the worst quarterback play in NFL history. In Cutler's first year in Chicago, he threw for 3,666 yards and 27 TDs.

He also throws a lot of interceptions and the team has made the playoffs just once during his five years in the Windy City, so he's far from perfect. But Marshall has a point when you compare his talent level to the 15 passers that preceded him.

"All your stories this offseason, I think that should be the headline, or that should be the story written this year: ‘Oh, how we love Jay Cutler,' because it's been so long," Marshall said. "His first few years here he hadn't gotten it done and I think that's not all on him. There's some on him but then you look around and he's one of the most beat-up quarterbacks around; didn't have adequate coaching on the offensive side of the ball. Every year I think we had a different offensive coordinator. Now that you have continuity, not only upstairs, but in the locker room, or the room with the wide receivers, offensive line, running back position, it's set up for him to be successful."

Cutler made large strides under coach Marc Trestman this season. His 63.1 completion percentage was his highest since coming to the Windy City, his 89.2 passer rating was a career best and his 19 passing touchdowns in just 11 games equaled his scoring total from 15 starts last season.

"The steps that he's taken this year in leadership and even growing as a quarterback, mentally and physically, we saw those things but it was kind of cut short with injury. Next year, if we pick up where we left off, we'll be OK," said Marshall. "I think last year we were in the bottom of the barrel, as far as statistically on offense, and this year we're in the Top 10. I think we finished 8th in yardage and that's big. That's huge. That says a lot about [GM] Phil Emery. That says a lot about coach Trestman. That says a lot about Jay Cutler. That's the trickle-down effect. We just benefit from it. We're just getting the fruits."

And things are only going to get better, with an offensive line that allowed the third fewest sacks in the league, Pro Bowlers at the skill positions with Marshall and Matt Forte, an emerging young wideout in Alshon Jeffery and one of the most dependable tight ends in the league in Martellus Bennett.

With Trestman in charge, the argument could be made that no offense is better suited for a quarterback to succeed than the one in Chicago - just ask Josh McCown. So it's safe to assume that Cutler will continue to ascend under Trestman. And if he ever reaches his immense potential, watch out.

"When was the last time you had a Jay Cutler?" asked Marshall. "When was the last time you had Jay Cutler with Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Martellus Bennett, Matt Forte, [Matt] Slauson, [Jermon] Bushrod, [Kyle] Long, [Jordan] Mills, [Roberto] Garza, Trestman, [coordinator Aaron] Kromer, [receivers coach] Mike Groh, Phil Emery? The pieces are there."

Marshall admitted that his desire for Cutler's return doesn't mean anything to Emery but he has faith the GM will make the right decision.

"It's business," said Marshall. "But I will say this: Phil is smart. He'll get it done. He'll do what's best for the team and I think Jay is what's best for the team."

Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his third season covering the Chicago Bears full time. 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.

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