VIKINGS: For Bears' Cutler, Favre still way beyond compare
ST. PAUL Jay Cutler is often compared to Brett Favre, primarily because neither lacks self-confidence -- or is that arrogance? -- or strong arms. The 27-year-old Chicago quarterback never figured the future Hall of Fame quarterback, 41, would be ...
Jay Cutler is often compared to Brett Favre, primarily because neither lacks self-confidence -- or is that arrogance? -- or strong arms.
The 27-year-old Chicago quarterback never figured the future Hall of Fame quarterback, 41, would be a contemporary, yet Cutler still admires Favre's plucky play.
"I didn't imagine he'd still be playing when I'd be playing," Cutler said. "But you never know, I guess. He still looks good. He's still doing some of the same stuff he used to."
Favre giveth (NFL record for touchdowns) and he taketh away (NFL record for interceptions), which is why he doesn't dismiss the comparisons to the younger quarterback who followed a Pro Bowl season in Denver by tossing a league-high 26 picks with the Bears.
"I guess you're probably getting to the riverboat-gambler mentality," Favre said when asked if he sees himself in Cutler. "When you have a big arm, you feel like you can throw it through any coverage, any window, and at times, you do.
"I see that in him. You kind of take the good with the bad."
Favre pointed to a Monday night game last December, when Cutler completed 20 of 35 passes for 273 yards with four touchdowns and one interception in a 36-30 Bears victory. After that game, Favre told Cutler, "That should hush people up for a while."
After a strong start to this season, Cutler's play has declined, and he's 16th in the NFL with a quarterback rating of 86.0.
But Favre knows Cutler has not had the benefit of continuity.
After appearing in only two games as a rookie with the Atlanta Falcons in 1991, Favre was traded the next offseason to the Green Bay Packers. There, he worked under newly hired head coach Mike Holmgren, who coached Joe Montana and Steve Young in San Francisco.
"Mike was my coach, and he continued to be my coach until I was able to set out on my own," Favre said. "If you look at Mike and myself and say, 'Which one was the difference maker in my success early on?' I would say Mike Holmgren.
"With Jay, he hasn't had that consistency yet, same offensive coordinator, same head coach, same system. He hasn't had that, and to me that's such a huge part of anyone's success, especially a young quarterback."
Cutler's only had two head coaches (Mike Shanahan in Denver and Lovie Smith with the Bears), but the fifth-year player is working with his fourth offensive coordinator.
Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz engineered an offense in St. Louis and operated it for seven seasons, resulting in two Super Bowl appearances, including one win. But he offered his stint in San Francisco with former No. 1 pick Alex Smith as a example of how constant change can hurt a quarterback.
"Alex went through seven coordinators," Martz said of the sixth-year pro. "That's hard on a player. You just have to learn to survive as opposed to learning the game and playing within that system."
The future of Cutler, Martz and the Bears' current regime is hardly etched in stone beyond this season. But given their investment in Cutler and their struggles to develop quarterbacks, the Bears' owners will have to tread carefully moving forward.
Given the reported issues with new quarterback Donovan McNabb, Redskins coach Shanahan could have serious interest in trading for Cutler if he's available next offseason. Cutler threw for 4,526 yards and 25 touchdowns in 2008 en route to the Pro Bowl. Also, neither Shanahan nor Cutler have masked their respect for one another.
Favre said consistency and continuity were essential to his success. After throwing 24 interceptions in 1993 -- his second season as the Packers' starter -- Favre got off to a poor start the next season and visited with Holmgren, who took note of certain plays that Favre did and did not execute well.
"I give (Holmgren) a tremendous amount of credit and praise for, over time, figuring out what I ran well, what suited me, which may not have been the best of plays for Joe or Steve Young," Favre said. "I thought he did an extremely great job not only with me, but with judging our overall talent and calling plays that fit what we were good at."
The Bears' offense is searching for its identity, still learning its personnel.
But Smith suggested Cutler is trying to carve out his own legacy.
"Jay would just say he's just trying to be Jay Cutler as much as anything," Smith said. "But again, it's not bad to be compared with (Favre)."
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.