Cutler is Finally Worthy of the “Franchise” Title

Posted: November 24, 2011 in Okafor's Corner
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If asked seven weeks ago whether or not Jay Cutler was a franchise quarterback, I would have responded in the negative. Despite the fact that he played behind a porous offensive line, threw to below average wide receivers, and had to cope with archaic and stubborn play calling, I refused to believe that Cutler was a true franchise quarterback because he was still apart of the problems that plagued the Chicago Bears’ offense. Many times since his arrival in 2009, I watched Cutler make questionable throws, hold on to the ball too long, and exhibit a lack of pocket presence.

Seven weeks later, things have changed. Examine only Cutler’s statistics (60.6%, 226.5 yds/game, and a 9-3 TD-Int ratio) in the recent seven weeks and you will conclude that he remains the same maddening quarterback. Delve deeper than the statistical surface and a poised, much-improved player is revealed.

Cutler less frequently makes poor decisions, gets the ball out of his hand quickly, and has become adept at avoiding the rush by sliding and sidestepping would-be tacklers while keeping his eyes downfield. The offensive line and the wide receiver group are still bereft of ProBowl talent and the offensive coordinator will occasionally call a play that leaves you perplexed but no longer is Cutler apart of the problem. He is now firmly apart of the solution and has improved his play to the point that he makes the players around him better.

Now that is the mark of a true franchise quarterback.

Who is Caleb Hanie?

With the regular season ending injury to Cutler, Caleb Hanie is expected to lead the Bears to the playoffs. Fortunately, the Bears have a relatively soft schedule as four out of the six remaining teams on their schedule have below .500 records. It goes without saying that down the stretch, their running game must be emphasized and effective but also, the defense and the special teams must maintain their high level of play in order for the Bears to reach the playoffs.

I spoke with Hanie’s head football coach, Sonny Lubick, while Hanie played football at Colorado State University from 2004-2007 to get a better sense of the type of person and the type of player that we will see in the coming weeks.

How would you describe Caleb Hanie?

“He is a young man who loves football. He basically worked hard to make himself a good player when he was in college. He wanted to be good. He worked hard to improve. He was very, very good at throwing the long ball. Plus, he is a tough young man. He is very tough. He has a lot of great support from his family. His mom, dad, sisters, as well as his wife.”

What is Hanie’s best football skill?

“He is smart. He does have the ability like he did in college, it might be a touch different in the NFL, but he did have the ability to make a few a plays with his feet. Nothing spectacular but he could avoid the rush for a little bit, rush for 6-7 yards. He keeps moving. But I think that he is very intelligent. I think he knows where he is supposed to go with the football.”

How would you describe his learning curve?

“I would say extremely intelligent. He would have no problem, especially being in the meeting rooms everyday and listening to coaches talk to Jay Cutler. He will absorb everything.”

How did he deal with adversity? Was his response favorable?

“Very favorable. He had a share of ups and downs here at Colorado State. I know that all the players have a lot of respect for him. He will never point fingers. He’ll just go on to put it on his shoulders and he will work hard to correct whatever happens. He will not get down. He will just prove that he can help bring the team along. He’ll help bring them to be better and to victory.”

Do you think that Hanie will play well? 

“That is hard to say. I was pleasantly surprised at how well in he played in the championship game last year. To come in there under very adverse circumstances, under spur of the moment, the cold, the snow. He went in there and played very well and probably a little excitable. He had that interception that really hurt but he made more good plays than he had bad plays. I think that he’ll play pretty well.”


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