Matt Trowbridge: Bears need to take shot at Cutler

Matt Trowbridge

Statistics lie.

Jay Cutler isn’t as good as his.

Kyle Orton is better.

The Bears should trade for the disgruntled Cutler anyway.

That sounds nonsensical — until you see just how huge the gap in those numbers are. Cutler passed for 4,526 yards for the Denver Broncos last year. The Bears haven’t had a quarterback reach even 2,000 yards in eight of the last 11 seasons. With Chad Hutchinson in 2003, Chicago’s leader topped out at an embarrassing 903 yards.

The Bears practically invented the modern passing game when they introduced the T formation with Sid Luckman in the 1940s. After winning four NFL titles from 1940-46, including the first by a 73-0 score, maybe the Bears figured it was too easy having a good quarterback. In the last 50 years, Chicago has played only two seasons with a Pro Bowl passer. Bill Wade made it in 1964 and Jim McMahon in 1986 — the year after Chicago’s last two NFL titles.

That’s no coincidence. It’s tough to win without an elite quarterback.

Cutler isn’t quite one yet, but Orton never will be.

The Bears can win with Kyle Orton. He’s a humble, likable leader. He’s just not that good of a passer. Or that mobile (49 yards rushing last year). He was the NFL’s No. 25-rated passer this year with a career-high 79.6 rating. With better receivers, a healthy ankle and more experience, the Bears can reasonably expect Orton to climb into the mid-80s in passer rating.

But no starting quarterback in the NFL the last three years has a career passer rating more than a couple of points higher than the best of his first four seasons. That means Orton is now what he probably always will be — a competent, ball-control quarterback.

That might have been enough for the Bears to win the 2006 Super Bowl. It was enough in 1985. But most years it’s merely enough to go 9-7 or 8-8.

A top-10 passer can erase a lot of mistakes. Kurt Warner almost won the Super Bowl for Arizona. Ben Roethlisberger did win it for Pittsburgh, passing for 88 yards in the final 2:30, overcoming a first-and-20 from his own 12-yard-line.

Can anyone see Orton overcoming first-and-20 from his own 12 in the last two minutes of a Super Bowl?

Cutler, who demanded a trade Sunday and says he won’t show up at any Denver practice that isn’t mandatory, comes off as a whiner for complaining about Denver’s new coach, Josh McDaniels, trying to trade for Matt Cassel. He also threw 18 interceptions, causing his fall to 18th in passer rating (86.0). But he’s big (6-foot-3, 233), young (25), mobile (at least 200 yards rushing the last two years) and has a passer rating of at least 86 three years in a row. The Bears have had only eight seasons that good in their 89-year history and only once have come within 1,300 yards of Cutler’s 2008 total.

Cutler, who grew up in Indiana, wants to play for the Bears. Division rivals Detroit and Minnesota are other rumored landing spots for Cutler. Both are additional reasons for the Bears to be interested.

Chicago, though, probably has little that Denver wants other than draft picks. It could take as many as three No. 1 picks. That sounds like a lot — until you attach names to Jerry Angelo’s picks.

The Bears general manager has made seven first-round picks for Chicago. It’s possible Cutler could help the Bears more than all seven Angelo No. 1s put together: Marc Colombo, Michael Haynes, Rex Grossman, Tommie Harris, Cedric Benson, Greg Olsen and Chris Williams.

Three No. 1s, with Angelo doing the picking, is a gamble. The Bears should take the sure thing. Take Cutler.

Or at least try.

Matt Trowbridge covers the Bears for the Rockford Register Star. He can be reached at (815) 987-1383 ormtrowbridge@rrstar.com.