BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Even though Jay Cutler said in June it could take up to three years to master the Chicago Bears' new offense, he understands it's possible that time won't be allotted, which is why expectations for the unit in 2013 shouldn't be tempered.
Entering the final year of his contract, which pays $8.47 million this season in base salary, Cutler admits to experiencing "ups and downs" learning the new offense under coach Mark Trestman, but said for the most part "it's been going well."
"You still have to have high expectations," Cutler said. "Just because we don't know completely 100 percent of it, there's no reason we can't go out there and be successful."
Cutler calls "the verbiage" of Trestman's offense the most challenging factor for him in learning the new scheme. Still, that hasn't slowed Cutler's absorption of the system, according to Trestman who sent in a couple of longer play calls during Wednesday's workout that the quarterback made easily in the huddle.
"I feel he's doing an excellent job," Trestman said. "We've had some long calls today in the huddle. I gave it to him once. He spit it right back out. He's on top of it, him, (backup) Josh (McCown), Matt (Blanchard), all of them they're dealing with a lot of new words and verbiage. It's very difficult to hear it, repeat it in the huddle, and then go out and execute it."
McCown, like Cutler, has worked with former offensive coordinators Mike Martz and Mike Tice, and pointed to the verbiage in the system as quite a departure from previous schemes he's executed. McCown also called the new coaching staff's heavy emphasis on making sure the quarterbacks advance through all the progressions one of the main differences between the new staff and coaches he's worked with previously. The changes have led to continuous dialogue between Cutler and the backups, which McCown believes will only make all the quarterbacks better.
"The fun thing is it's a new system for both Jay and I. So we've got to go through it and learn it together," McCown said. "To be able to test each other and kind of help each other study, it's been good because you feel like you're on the ground floor of something; like you're getting a good basic understanding of what you're trying to do. He'll come to me and say, 'Hey man, this is what I'm seeing' or tell me, 'Hey man, you were a little off balance here,' or something like that while he's watching a play. I'll say the same thing, 'Man, your feet,' or 'you might want to think about this.' There's a lot of give and take, and I'm thankful for that because Jay's a smart football player."
Offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer complimented Cutler for doing "a nice job digesting the system," and "leading (the) group to help them learn the system," which has translated to "a pleasant preseason" thus far.
"Jay's doing a good job of managing the offense, and helping the receivers to be on the same page with them," Kromer said. "As long as they're on the same page, they'll throw completions."
The group made that apparent during a red-zone drill near the end of Wednesday's workout. Cutler fumbled the first snap, and then fired a touchdown to a leaping Alshon Jeffery, before nailing Brandon Marshall the next play on a back-shoulder throw for a touchdown over Charles Tillman. The fast-paced tempo of workouts with Trestman make it nearly impossible for Cutler or anyone else to lament mistakes such as the fumble during the red-zone drill.
Cutler thinks the approach will be beneficial going into the regular season.
"You are going to have mistakes out there, and you've got to rebound the next play and get it right," Cutler said. "It makes it fun for us. It's challenging for quarterbacks to keep it up-tempo like that, and see different looks from the defense but as close to a game (situation) as we can make it."
It's not quite mastering the offense, but that's key in assuring Cutler and the rest of the group operate efficiently under duress. The offense improves gradually in that area daily, which is likely why Cutler believes it's perfectly reasonable to have high expectations for the group this season.
"As we move through training camp, we'll continue to give them a lot of different things," Trestman said. "We're in the process of finding out more about ourselves each and every day. By giving them different things to do, it helps us understand what we can give them during the season. We're off to a good start."