Cutler on same page with Martz
Now fully immersed in the Xs and Os of the fast-break attack, Cutler says he and Martz "are on the same page with everything," and he expects to rebound from the "rough year" he experienced in 2009, a season in which the quarterback threw a league-high 26 interceptions.
"It's been fun, it's been different," Cutler said on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000. "We can see the potential of what we could possibly be in the future once we start getting games going."
Prior to that, Cutler's vision seemed clouded with trepidation about how he'd perform in Martz's offense. Shortly before Martz became the club's offensive coordinator, he flew to Nashville to meet with Cutler. It didn't take long for the pair to click.
"I picked him up from the airport and Mike is all ball all the time, which is fun," Cutler said. "We went over to Vandy and just got on the board. He was showing me a few things. I was bouncing some things off him. It was a good interaction; we went to dinner. It was very casual. I think we both felt comfortable with each other. We got everything kind of hashed out because I had some issues with the timing offense, and not being able to see things. It was a little bit of give and take. It's been really interesting working with him; a lot of fun.
"I'm with him every day up in his office for at least a couple of hours watching film, talking about things, and trying to take it on the field."
Cutler shouldn't have any problems doing that. Cutler ranked in the top five in the franchise's single-season record book in nearly every major category. In fact, Cutler shattered single-season marks in attempts (555), and completions (336) while finishing second in passing yards (3,666), third in passing touchdowns (27) and fifth in completion percentage (60.5).
But Cutler's league-high 26 picks overshadowed the gaudy numbers. One of the storylines emerging from Chicago's consideration of Martz stemmed from the coordinator's biting criticism of the quarterback. Serving as an analyst on NFL Network last season, Martz ripped Cutler for his comportment after throwing four interceptions in a season-opening loss at Green Bay.
Cutler said Martz "brought that up first thing" in their initial meeting, adding that "we got it out in the open, and he explained to me what he meant. I wasn't really worried about that. You get on TV, and I understand some of those things can be taken out of context, and what you're trying to say isn't exactly what comes out."
But Cutler didn't mince words in describing his first season in Chicago, which he described as "rough" after enjoying three fairly successful years in Denver. Cutler considers 2009 a learning experience.
"I'm not gonna say it was all bad. I learned a lot. I had some success in Denver, came here, and hit a few speed bumps," Cutler said. "I think it made me a better player.
"It's gonna make me a better player in the long run. I haven't lost any confidence in my abilities. Having Mike here, just the offense we're gonna run, I think the future's really bright for the Chicago Bears offense and the organization as a whole. It's one of those things that happens to a lot of quarterbacks out there. You've just got to bounce back. That's what we're working on right now."
Given the complexity of Martz's offense, compared to the West Coast scheme the club employed last year, Cutler's resurgence could be a little more difficult than he realizes. Chicago ranked 23rd last season in total offense and 18th in third-down efficiency operating out of the West Coast scheme.
While quarterbacks in West Coast offenses typically achieve higher passer ratings, Cutler finished last season with the lowest rating of his four-year career --76.8.
"This is more a timing and speed game, sending guys a little bit deeper into holes, a few more seven-step drops," he said. "West Coast is West Coast. It's concept driven. We're kind of a numbers system now. It's just a lot of variations, a lot of shifts, a lot of stuff before the snap. Then, I think with Mike -- with a lot of great offensive coaches -- they know defenses so well. They know how to attack them. They know the weaknesses. They know how to put guys in positions to take advantage of that."
Cutler expressed confidence in the ability of the club's current personnel to make Martz's scheme go. Cutler doesn't feel extra pressure about rebounding from last year's 7-9 campaign. In addition, Cutler plans to resist the temptation of pressing to make plays this season.
Cutler compared Chicago's current situation to his first three years in Denver.
"You've got to play within yourself and get back to some of the things that made you the player you were at the past, and not try to force it," he said. "That's where I kind of got in trouble a little bit last year.
"We were grinding a little bit, trying to make plays, trying to get back into some ballgames, trying to push the ball downfield. When you start trying to do that a lot, that's where you get into trouble. Me and the guys weren't always in synch, on the same page offensively with what we were trying to get accomplished.
"Being in the second year together, just having a better understanding of each other, that's gonna be a big difference. When I was in Denver the first couple of years with those young guys -- I was young as well -- it was rough. The more [time] you spend with each other, you start understanding how you're gonna react in games. I think it's gonna be a big difference this year."
During the wide-ranging interview, Cutler also dispelled rumors about him being opposed to the club hiring Martz. It had been reported that Cutler preferred Jeremy Bates -- his former quarterbacks coach in Denver.
Cutler called the rumors "false."
"We definitely talked about a lot of different things with [head coach] Lovie [Smith]," Cutler said. "I was open minded as was Lovie about the possibility of Jeremy Bates and Mike Martz; of a lot of different guys.
"I think the Bears organization did a great job of weeding through everybody and not feeling the pressure of having to hire somebody right away. We talked to a lot of different people. But when it came down to it, after I had met with Mike, and I met with Lovie, I think everyone felt really comfortable in the direction we could go under [Martz]."
Even Cutler's good friend, tight end Greg Olsen -- who was expected to take on a reduced role in Martz's system -- is coming around, the quarterback said.
"I think early on, he was a little bit down on [the offense] because it looks like it's more of a receiver-driven offense," Cutler said. "But the more you start to understand what we're trying to get accomplished, I think the more excited he gets. He's starting to come around with the rest of the guys. We're putting some stuff in for him and moving him around. There are so many opportunities for him and for Devin [Hester], for Earl Bennett], for Johnny [Knox], for all those guys to make plays. It's just wide open. I think everybody is just starting to understand that."
Michael C. Wright covers the Bears for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.