Cutler's back in time to face his fave foe
MINNEAPOLIS--Jay Cutler is set to make his return from a thumb injury against the Vikings on Monday night, but the Bears quarterback may be using the second half of the NFL season as an audition for a job next year with another team.
MINNEAPOLIS-Jay Cutler is set to make his return from a thumb injury against the Vikings on Monday night, but the Bears quarterback may be using the second half of the NFL season as an audition for a job next year with another team.
Thanks to a large contract that would cost the Bears $16 million in 2017, Cutler's time in Chicago could be nearing an end.
If that's the case, he will begin building his resume next week against the Vikings, the team the embattled quarterback has beaten more than any other.
Even while losing his past three games against Minnesota, Cutler has an 8-5 record against the Vikings, with 26 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.
"He can make every throw on the field, and he can fit the ball in a very tight window," Vikings cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said. "So when they got him back, I was like, 'Man, we've definitely got to be on our game.'"
Cutler is returning after missing Chicago's past five games because of the thumb injury.
Cutler resumes duties as the starting quarterback of the 1-6 Bears, a position he has held since 2007. But he may not have gotten back on the field so quickly had Brian Hoyer, his replacement, not broken his arm last week.
"I feel good," Cutler said. "But obviously I wish as a team we had a better record."
While Cutler's reputation as a quarterback has taken a hit in recent seasons, Vikings players praised Cutler, in part because they've seen him at his best more than any other team.
"He's a guy that can make some deep throws," defensive lineman Brian Robison said. "We have to rush him very smart because he's athletic enough to get outside the pocket and pick up first downs with his legs. He's just one of those guys that you have to be very smart in the way you play him. We've got to get back there and get some hits on him. But once again, it starts with stopping the run game up front."
In Chicago, Cutler has worn on fans, in part because of his high-risk, high-reward throws. This week, the Chicago Tribune reported that Bears coach John Fox, "was done" with Cutler until Hoyer was injured.
Cuter responded to a question this week about whether Fox trusts him by saying: "He doesn't have a choice."
Cutler has a 91.8 quarterback rating in 13 games against Minnesota. He threw for three or more touchdowns in five of those games.
Last season, Cutler passed for 3,659 yards, 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
"Injuries kind of slowed him down this year, but at the same time, last year he definitely played at a very high level," Munnerlyn said. "He took care of the football, and like I say, he's a gunslinger, man. He can throw the ball all over the field, and he feels like he can make every throw. And he's a very, very competitive guy."
Cutler takes the reigns of a Bears offense that has had trouble turning sustained drives into points. The Bears rank 16th in yards per game (349) but dead last in points per game (15.9).
"That's kind of hard to do," Cutler said. "So we've just got to do better down there and find a way to score touchdowns and not field goals."
That won't be easy against a Vikings defense that ranks first in yards (279.5) and points allowed (14).
"It's going to be tough," Cuter said. "They're ranked highly in a lot of different areas, and they play well together. ... The more you watch them, the more you realize how well they play together, how well they know the scheme."