Cutler's 'journey' has him poised to lead Bears
It's not as if quarterback Jay Cutler has never had talented players and coaches to work with as he does this year with the Bears.
The difference is that now he appreciates it more. Cutler moved into the starting lineup late in his rookie year after the Denver Broncos chose him in the first round of the 2006 draft (11th overall).
Through the 2008 season, after which he was traded to the Bears, Cutler had a variety of talented targets, including Brandon Marshall, who rejoined him in Chicago in 2012, wide receivers Eddie Royal, Javon Walker and Brandon Stokley and tight end Tony Scheffler.
"When I came into Denver, it was a good situation, but you don't understand that at that point," Cutler said. "You don't understand that the offense we had (under head coach Mike Shanahan), the coaching staff and the city and everything else that comes with it because you don't have perspective.
"Now, looking back on the journey and the ups and downs, you definitely have a greater perspective and are able to appreciate not just the situation but how detailed the coaches are, how great of guys we have in the locker room."
Pastor, politician, activist and diplomat Andrew Young once said: "To whom much is given, much is required -- not expected, but required."
And so it is with Cutler, who has the most accomplished collection of skill-position playmates he has ever had.
Marshall is a five-time Pro Bowl pick still in his prime, and the Bears' other wideout, Alshon Jeffery, was a first-time Pro Bowler last year. Tight end Martellus Bennett is considered an ascending player coming off a 65-catch season. Running back Matt Forte is a two-time Pro Bowler also coming off his best season.
All of them are in their second year in the offense of head coach Marc Trestman and coordinator Aaron Kromer. A popular assumption among Bears fans is that the offense automatically will be better than last year when it was No. 2 in scoring, No. 5 in passing yards and average gain per pass and No. 8 in total yards.
Cutler said it's not that easy, but he also is encouraged by the way the offense has developed.
"You've got to hit the reset button," he said. "We've got to make sure that we stay focused and treat every day like it's the first day. But there's definitely a calmness in our huddle, knowing we've been through a lot of situations. We've worked together. Everyone has a good feel. We all enjoy playing together."
Trestman has heightened expectations as well for an offense he says has grown in terms of incorporating different concepts and playing more efficiently.
"It goes back to what I've said since the end of last season, as (far as) what the expectations would be," Trestman said. "(I thought) we would be more consistent in terms of playing at a high level over a longer period of time and not have the periodic dips that we had where we come back and say, 'Man, we had a chance to finish that drive,' or 'We could've made that play, (but) we took the improper step which caused penetration, which allowed Jay not to be able to get the ball off (when) we had a guy wide open.'
"We just want to be cleaner with the way we play the game and play more consistently at a high level."
A lot of that depends on the 31-year-old Cutler, who has worked extremely hard on fundamentals and techniques, including his drops, according to Trestman.
The more precise Cutler is on his end, the better chance the offense has of operating in rhythm. The perception is that Cutler didn't work very hard on the subtleties of his craft in the past because he always could rely on an elite arm that could overcome any lack of fundamental soundness.
The changes in Cutler's personal life and his demeanor have been well-chronicled, and he admits he has undergone drastic changes brought about by marriage and becoming a father to two young boys.
"It's different," Cutler chuckled. "When I go home, I've still got to work. With two kids, I get (at least) one thrown my way, for sure."
Entering his sixth season with the Bears, Cutler says some of his life-altering changes seem to have happened overnight.
"It goes by in a blink," he said. "But it's fun. Coming to work is enjoyable, especially with the group of guys that we have. Going home and being able to play with the two boys, it's a lot of fun, too."
As far as who Cutler is as a player -- on the field, in the film room or in meetings -- Trestman said his quarterback has been pretty consistent.
"I can't define the change because he's been pretty much the same guy since I've been around him, since the day I met with him when I first got here," Trestman said. "I've really enjoyed the dialogue that we've had. It's been upfront and honest. I've enjoyed talking football with him and things that are not football-related.
"I don't see changes the way maybe others see them, I just see a relationship between two guys trying to help their football team. That comes through conversation and dialogue and working together as much as we do, not just Jay and I, but all the guys in that quarterback room and the offensive meeting room."
The plan is for the end result to be something all Bears fans can appreciate, and the first step will be taken Sunday at Soldier Field against the Buffalo Bills.
• Follow Bob's Bears and NFL reports on Twitter@BobLeGere.