Trestman's off-season plan working wonders for Cutler
A funny thing happened to Jay Cutler on the way to the podium Sunday.
Well, it's not ha-ha funny. More like odd funny.
Certainly, it was unexpected.
Cutler has never dressed the part of leader, happy teammate or member of the community. No man is an island, but Cutler sure liked living on one.
It worked for him, being sour and unappealing. He made a lot of money and a nice career for himself. What he didn't do was play nice with others -- or win big.
And Sunday, by all appearances, he was a different guy. Now, let's not kid ourselves. If the Bears lose Sunday night in Philly and Cutler stinks, you could very well see the old Cutler.
But Sunday in Cleveland he was a changed man postgame. He was smiling, energized, affable and -- above all else -- he was honest and humbled.
Maybe he was humbled by seeing someone -- for the first time -- take his job and do well with it while he was injured.
Maybe he was shocked to see what he perceived as competition.
Maybe it was an appreciation for the way Marc Trestman stood by his side, the way Brandon Marshall had his back, or the way his teammates rallied to his defense.
Maybe he just watched Josh McCown speak after games with class and style, not to mention humility, and learned from it.
Maybe it was the way McCown was so incredibly selfless even while having the very best games of his life.
Maybe it was all of those things.
What's certain is this Cutler is a better teammate than he's ever been, communicating with -- and getting to know better -- the people with whom he works every day. And while some will argue that it's irrelevant, it can't be argued that when Cutler came out of the gate throwing the ball to the other team Sunday, his teammates did not roll their eyes and wonder if the wrong QB was in the game.
They defended him, patted him on the back and insisted he was the right man for them, that he would turn it around and win for them.
That's what happened, and Cutler was not shy about admitting that Trestman's off-season plan to have players learn more about each other, especially outside their usual cliques and comfort zones -- and perhaps even, dare we say it, like each other -- has helped this team stay together.
There has been precious little finger pointing publicly, even though the offense has had a right, and Sunday the most important defensive players were in Cutler's ear, whispering sweet nothings and shouting to the gray skies that he was their man and all would be well.
Does this really matter? If you've ever played on a team then you know it does. No one needs the added pressure of sniping on the sidelines, or players wondering why there isn't a QB change.
Cutler didn't have to face that and never was there a tipping point in his mind or the minds of his coaches or teammates. He drew confidence from their belief, and there are few better weapons in sports than possessing confidence.
"There was a lot of stuff swirling (last week). We had to lock ourselves in the building and rally around each other," Cutler said. "I felt good. The guys were all in.
"I talked to the offensive line on Monday or Tuesday. I was like, 'Hey, I'm good to go. Just want you guys to know I'm back and see how you guys feel about it.' They didn't flinch. They were like. 'You're our guy, glad to have you back,' and they played like it."
Cutler also spoke with Matt Forte and Marshall, wanting to hear that they were ready to embrace him again.
"I felt the need to talk to some people. I didn't know how they'd feel," Cutler said. "I had a good feeling how they'd react. Just wanted to talk to them man to man. 'Hey, if you got a problem with this, I want to know.' This is a team game. No one reacted negatively and no one flinched, and I really appreciate that."
It's amazing because it's never seemed as though Cutler cared what anyone thought about anything.
"That was interesting because I never talked to Jay about him going around to the team. He did that on his own," Trestman said Monday. "His concern for the team goes much deeper than just himself. But that was news to me in terms of him talking to other players."
It is a direct result, however, of Trestman's attempt to fashion an environment of togetherness.
"I think that's the atmosphere Trestman wants to create, Phil Emery wants to create, George McCaskey wants to create. That's the direction we want to go in is having an open locker room with players, coaches all in on this," Cutler said. "At the end of the day, it takes all of us. We've all got to be together to make it happen or we all lose together.
"We're starting to understand that it's reflective in how we play and how we practice."
It sounds as if Jay Cutler is starting to get it, and maybe even growing up a bit in the process. How much it matters, or how long it lasts, remains to be seen.
But as my grandmother used to say, "It couldn't hurt."
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