This is not Jay Cutler’s last stand.
But it might be his last chance in Chicago.
The Bears will have a new head coach, offensive coordinator, quarterbacks mentor and assorted new faces on staff in 2013 largely because Cutler has never reached his potential in Chicago.
No, it’s certainly not all his fault that he’s had five offensive coordinators in the last six years, including four already in Chicago with the change from Mike Tice to Aaron Kromer — or Marc Trestman, to be more specific.
But at some point folks around the league are going to stop blaming the coordinators and instead blame the quarterback who doesn’t always work and play well with others.
Sure, there will be a place for him in the NFL and teams interested in trying to reinvent Cutler if it doesn’t work with Trestman, but Cutler is on the clock in Chicago.
It is officially time for Cutler to grow up and start taking his job seriously.
Not that Cutler’s ever going to be Tom Brady, but Brady was a sixth-round pick, 199th overall in 2000, while Cutler was the 11th pick of the first round in 2006.
And now Brady is gunning to become the first quarterback with six Super Bowl starts. Jay Cutler has played six playoff quarters.
But when you listen to the New England Patriots talk about their Hall of Fame quarterback, you realize just how far Trestman has to take Cutler.
“You don’t see behind closed doors what he does,” defensive tackle Vince Wilfork said a few days ago in Foxboro. “You don’t see what he does with film study, with how he takes younger guys aside, or how he takes a group of guys, showing them how they want to do things a certain way.
“I mean, he’s still working on his footwork and all types of stuff. I see him in practice. I think, ‘Man, you’ve been doing this for so long and you’re still working on footwork?’
“But it’s just little things. He is always going that extra mile to make sure he is in the best shape and putting his teammates in the best situation that can give us a chance to win.”
This is coming from Wilfork, who — last I checked — plays defense for New England.
“As a teammate I can’t do anything but sit back and learn,” Wilfork said. “It is unbelievable what he brings to us and the amount of motivation that he gives us as a team.”
Little things. Footwork. Respect. Motivation. Taking his running backs aside and teaching them. Endless hours of film study. Huddling with receivers. Completely dedicated to his craft. Focused on winning.
Does any of that sound like Cutler to you?
“I just want to win and be a part of this football team,” Brady said. “I love this so much. This is what I want to do.”
There is nothing like winning, and once you win, you only want to win more. There is no substitute.
“He is still that guy that comes early and leaves late,” said Pats linebacker Jerod Mayo. “He is hardworking, and even though he is a Hall of Fame quarterback, you would think this is his first year starting in the league.
“He always makes sure everyone is on the same page on both sides of the ball. He actually pulls me to the side sometimes when he sees something that the (other team’s) offense is doing. You don’t see much of that going on in football.”
So Brady sees things on film, or during a game, and helps coach the defense, too?
“It’s part of the responsibility of being a veteran player,” Brady said. “You help the young guys, the way that veterans helped me when I was young. You try to show them so they don’t have to learn the hard way.”
Look, not everyone has that type of personality or work ethic. You can’t expect Cutler to be all things Brady, but it’s stunning to hear the reverence with which the Patriots speak of Brady.
“It is amazing seeing how he runs our offense,” Mayo said. “Whether it’s no-huddle or getting guys in the huddle, the way he changes the pace of the game. He commands the game like no other, and I love watching him from the sideline.”
And then there is the Brady they know off the field.
“One of the things I love about him is he’s a regular guy to us,” Wilfork said. “He hangs out with us. He tries to speak with his teammates as much as possible, and that’s one of the things I respect about him.
“He could easily go home and stay cooped up by himself, but he’s not like that. He’s a (heck) of a guy off the field as well as on the field.”
The reality of NFL life is that no two quarterbacks are created equal, and it’s not reasonable to think Cutler is going to change completely at this point in his life.
But there are certain personality traits, leadership characteristics and work habits that go beyond the physical talent it takes to be a Hall of Fame quarterback.
The best of the best possess the best of these qualities.
Jay Cutler would be wise to study them, to watch a man like Tom Brady, and emulate one of the best who has ever played.
And he best do it soon if he wants to remain in Chicago.
ŸHear Barry Rozner on WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.