MUSICK: Hype, hype, hype means it must be springtime in Cutlerville

Published: Wednesday, April 17, 2013 5:30 a.m.CDT
Caption
(Jim Prisching)
Chicago Bears' Jay Cutler (6) passes the ball during their NFL football mini-camp at Halas Hall on Tuesday, April 16, 2013, in Lake Forest, Ill. (AP Photo/Jim Prisching)

LAKE FOREST –Jay Cutler stood in his orange shorts, orange jersey and blue Bears helmet Tuesday and listened intently as new coach Marc Trestman described the next play.

A few keywords later, Cutler was ready to relay the call to his teammates.

He turned around and trotted to the line of scrimmage. He barked something in Trestmanese. He took the snap, dropped back and fired a perfect strike to Alshon Jeffery.

Whoa! Awesome!

Wait. Never mind. It’s supposed to look like this in minicamp.

“It always looks good in April, May, June, July and August,” said Cutler, who was swarmed by TV cameras after practice. “September is what counts, and that’s all we’re thinking about.”

Let that be a lesson to all of us.

It’s easy to fall for the up-tempo practices and the long-distance passes and the new-school vibe that filled the air in the Walter Payton Center on the campus of Halas Hall. On the first day of the Bears’ “voluntary” minicamp – which is about as voluntary as paying taxes – reporters finally caught a glimpse of Trestman and Cutler in action.

Both looked comfortable and confident. Practice zipped by almost as fast as Cutler’s passes. If only Sundays in September could be as efficient as Tuesdays in April.

Cue the coach’s praise for Cutler, on three.

Hut, hut, hike!

“I’ve just been completely impressed with his level of football intelligence and understanding,” Trestman said. “And his ability to articulate and communicate in meetings. It’s been very, very easy to get started not only with him but with Josh [McCown].”

Cue the quarterback’s praise for Trestman, on three.

Hut, hut, hike!

“We’re getting more and more comfortable,” Cutler said. “We’re getting to know each other. It’s not going to be something where we just jump in and we’re hip-and-hip and we’re finishing each other’s sentences. We’re getting there.”

It’s springtime. Flowers are blooming. Grass is growing. Footballs are flying.

It’s all very lovely.

But we have been here before with Cutler and the Bears.

I’m not trying to say that failure is inevitable or that a productive minicamp is meaningless. It’s entirely possible that Trestman is the perfect coach to help Cutler transform into a winning quarterback, which is to say a Super Bowl quarterback.

But no longer am I willing to buy fully into offseason hype. I’ll believe it when I see it.

Because I remember this insight into Cutler from 2009: “He’s as good a person as I’ve coached. … People may have perceptions, but I couldn’t be happier.” – Ron Turner

And I remember this insight into Cutler from 2010: “He’s a remarkable man in many respects, other than just being a terrific player. I really enjoy being around him. He’s a good friend, and we really have connected.” –Mike Martz

And I remember this insight into Cutler from 2012: “Jay and I are good. I really admire his play the other night. I really admire how he’s prepared himself right now. I really admire how he’s bought in.” –Mike Tice

We know what happened to Turner, Martz and Tice. They pursued voluntary job searches not long after spending one (or, in Martz’s case, two) voluntary minicamps with Cutler.

Maybe this season will be different.

Cutler knows that this is a make-or-break season for his future as the Bears’ quarterback. His contract expires at the end of this season, and general manager Phil Emery needs to see results before he invests many tens of millions of dollars into re-signing the quarterback.

It’s possible that Emery will draft a quarterback in the middle rounds – he says he’d like to draft a quarterback every season, if he had his wish –but this is Cutler’s offense to lead. Backup quarterback Josh McCown was coaching high school football at one point last year, while third-stringer Matt Blanchard is a nice story but a total unknown as an NFL player.

So it all comes down to Cutler, who now is on his fourth offense in the past five seasons. Emery has tried to help him by bolstering every offensive position in the past two years.

Emery also hired a quarterback-friendly coach who quickly went to work with Cutler.

“He’s always ahead,” Trestman said. “He’s been through these things. He’s been through these meetings. He’s been very well coached along the way.”

Those coaches have been replaced.

Maybe this season will be different.

•Shaw Media sports columnist Tom Musick can be reached at tmusick@shawmedia.com and on Twitter @tcmusick.

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