Jay Cutler is going to have the best year of his NFL career in 2013. Whether you love the Bears quarterback or love to hate him, Jay does not care. (DOOOOOOOOESN'T CAAAAAAAARE.) But what's happened around Cutler is what's important in forecasting his near future.
1. The Trestman factor
When Marc Trestman arrives at a new team, offensive numbers surge. He became the Oakland Raiders' offensive coordinator in 2002—and 37-year-old Rich Gannon threw for 4,689 yards. When he took over the CFL's Montreal Alouettes in 2008, they scored 610 points in 18 games. The year before his arrival, they tallied only 398. That 212-point difference wasn't all rouges, people. (I Googled it too, don't feel bad.)
2. The offensive line got better
New acquisition Jermon Bushrod was a Pro Bowler in 2011. Kyle Long is huge. Roberto Garza is still solid at center. And J'Marcus Webb can't play any worse than he did last season. Think about how many games you've seen Cutler running for his life like he was in a backyard football game with a "one-thousand-ONE-GOOOO!" blitz count. He'll get to at least "one-thousand-THREE" this year.
3. The defense got older
I don't believe Brian Urlacher's departure will hurt the team much, but having six starters on the wrong side of 29 will eventually start to show. Losing Kelvin Hayden for the season and Julius Peppers already having hamstring issues doesn't bode well. The Bears defense has been remarkably healthy over recent seasons; perhaps 2013 will be the year the bug bites worse. If so, Cutler will need to score more.
4. Millions are on the line
This will be Cutler's final chance to prove he deserves to be considered an upper-tier quarterback (I'm not saying "elite"), and his final chance to earn the paycheck that comes with that status. At age 30, Cutler won't stay in the top 10 highest-paid quarterback ranks with another average season. (He was sixth in 2012.) If he soars, he'll get the kind of contract that ensures generational wealth. If he flops, he'll have to do TV commercials well into his 60s.
No. 4 puts me over the top on the guy from Santa Claus, Ind., this season. Draft accordingly in your fake football leagues.
RedEye special contributor Alex Quigley can be heard on WGN Radio 720.
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