Bears: Revisiting the Jay Cutler trade in 2009 to Chicago

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - DECEMBER 20: Jay Cutler #6 of the Chicago Bears warms up before the game against the Minnesota Vikings on December 20, 2015 at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - DECEMBER 20: Jay Cutler #6 of the Chicago Bears warms up before the game against the Minnesota Vikings on December 20, 2015 at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) /

Back in April of 2009, the Chicago Bears traded for quarterback Jay Cutler. Ten years later, let’s revisit Cutler’s tenure in Chicago.

The Chicago Bears traded for Denver Broncos’ quarterback Jay Cutler in early 2009. An interesting thing to note, Kyle Orton over three seasons in Chicago was 21-12 as a starter. Cutler was 17-20 during his first three seasons in Denver.

To begin with, the Cutler trade was one of the biggest trades in Bears’ recent history. They sent quarterback Kyle Orton, the Bears’ first and third 2009 draft picks, and their first-round pick in 2010. They gave up a little bit less to get Khalil Mack.

The Bears got rid of a quarterback that was a proven winner for a guy that hadn’t even made the playoffs in Denver. Cutler also had a bad attitude and didn’t get along with coaches during his three years as a Bronco.

At the time, Cutler was being compared to Aaron Rodgers. I know, that’s crazy to think. NFL Network experts were saying how exciting the NFC North would be in 2009. A division where Cutler and Rodgers would duel it out twice a year. A division where both teams had the potential to make the playoffs each year for years to come.

In 2009, Cutler threw 27 touchdowns and 26 interceptions. The Bears went 7-9 and missed the playoffs. Orton, on the other hand, was 8-7 as a starter. He threw 18 touchdowns to only 12 interceptions. The Broncos finished 8-8 and also missed the playoffs.

2010 was totally different. Cutler lived up to the potential he had. With offensive coordinator Mike Martz, he went 10-5 as a starter. Cutler threw 23 touchdowns to only 16 interceptions. That was a 10 interception drop-off. The team went 11-5 and was the second seed in the playoffs. Orton, on the other hand, went 3-10 as a starter. Orton’s stats improved with him throwing 20 touchdowns to only nine interceptions. Still, he wasn’t good enough to win more than three games.

In 2011, Cutler would get hurt after a 7-3 start. In 10-games, Cutler threw for 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He was getting better at not turning over the ball. The problem was, the Bears fell apart after his injury. They would finish a disappointing 8-8.

Orton would play only five games for the Broncos. He had a record of 1-4 before getting traded to the Kansas City Chiefs. After two and a half seasons in Denver, he was 13-21 as a starter. That was a total turnaround from the success he found in Chicago.

During that same time, Cutler was 25-18 (including playoffs) as the Bears’ starting quarterback. It was a lot better than the 17-20 record he had in Denver. Both players turned their career’s around, Cutler for the better, Orton for the worse.

After 2011, Orton would bounce around the league to two other teams. He would be a journeyman back up in both Dallas and Buffalo until 2014. After 2014, he would hang up the cleats. He finished his career with a 42-40 record. Orton threw 101 touchdown passes to 69 interceptions. He would have eight comebacks and eight game-winning drives.

From there on, Cutler was still the Bears’ starting quarterback. Going into 2012, there were high hopes for the team. Starting 7-3 with Cutler and then missing the playoffs without him showed how much he meant to the team. A healthy Cutler meant playoffs.

The Bears started off 7-1 in 2012. Cutler would get hurt in their ninth game of the season on a dirty hit against Houston. He would miss the next week due to a concussion where quarterback Jason Campbell got destroyed by the 49ers. After that, the Bears would find a way to miss the playoffs at 10-6. Head coach Lovie Smith would get fired after a 10-6 season. Whether it was the correct choice or not, it happened.

2013 would see Cutler and new Coach Marc Trestman get together. Trestman had success with Steve Young in the 1990s and won championships in the Canadian Football League. It was an interesting hire, but fans remained optimistic.

Cutler would play in 11 of the 16 games. He was 5-6 as a starter with 19 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. The team finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs by losing to the Packers 33-28 Week 17 of 2013. It was a heartbreaking defeat. After that game, Cutler re-signed with the Bears for seven more seasons. The Bears’ goal was to make him a Bear-for-life.

In 2014, Cutler was 5-10 as a starter. He threw 28 touchdowns and 19 interceptions. This was the first time in a long time the Bears’ defense was terrible. During the last three seasons, they focused on offense as their defense started to age. They brought in Brandon Marshall and Martellus Bennett instead of fixing up the aging defense. Both of those choices got Trestman fired and set the Bears back a few seasons.

In 2015, John Fox was hired. With Fox, the team was in a rebuilding phase. Marshall and Bennett would leave the Bears. Cutler during the next two seasons went 7-13 as a starter. He threw 25 touchdowns and 16 interceptions during those 20 games. The Bears finished so bad in 2016, they were given the third overall draft pick for the 2017 NFL Draft. The Bears would trade up to the second pick and draft Mitchell Trubisky.

Cutler would be released, then retire. After eight seasons in Chicago, Cutler would only make the playoffs once. He was 51-51 as their starter. He threw 154 touchdowns and 109 interceptions in a Bears’ uniform. He would end up with 23 comebacks and 28 career-winning drives.

Right before the 2017 season, he would un-retire and become the Miami Dolphins starting quarterback. That wasn’t Cutler’s best season. His moment of that season was beating Tom Brady on national TV during primetime.

In the end, the Bears did win the trade. Cutler played eight seasons with the Bears, Orton played two and a half with Denver. The Bears made the playoffs once with Cutler. There were three other seasons they were a game out from the playoffs.

Whether fans loved him or hated him, he kept us on our toes. He is the best quarterback in Bears’ history. If he would have won the Super Bowl in 2010, there would be a decent argument for him to be in the Hall of Fame. That would be based on his numbers and having a Super Bowl ring.

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Either way, he didn’t win a Super Bowl and won’t be in the Hall of Fame. Let’s hope Trubisky will fare-better than Cutler did in a Bears’ uniform. Cutler did some great things and some terrible things. Despite that, we own him a big thank you for many years of excitement.