Payton: Cutler can be an elite quarterback

Bears quarterback Jay Cutler has a fan in Saints coach Sean Payton. Andrew Weber/USA TODAY Sports

The "elite" quarterback club gained a new member in the Baltimore Ravens' Joe Flacco thanks to his Super Bowl MVP performance, and New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton believes Jay Cutler has the potential to join him.

"Yeah, I think he can," Payton said Wednesday on "Carmen, Jurko & Harry" on ESPN Chicago 1000. "We like to throw this term around the last five years, is he elite, is he one of the top five (quarterbacks)? The biggest thing is can we win a Super Bowl with this player? You look at a guy that just won, Joe Flacco. There's a journey, a path for each of these guys that win a Super Bowl, and it's not always the same.

"A guy like Trent Dilfer certainly was different than a guy like Drew Brees who was different than Peyton Manning. The question is can we get into the end zone with this guy, can he lead us to where we want to go, to where Jim McMahon took the Bears back in the '80s? I think the two big allies for good quarterback play are a good defense and a good running game. That takes pressure off that position."

Cutler has made the playoffs just one time in his four seasons in Chicago and narrowly missed the postseason in 2012 after starting 7-1 only to finish 10-6. He figures to benefit from new head coach Marc Trestman, a quarterback guru and veteran NFL offensive coordinator.

"He's got a big arm. I like what you see from him in the pocket," Payton said of Cutler. "I'm sure Marc will work on some specifics with him. I think he's a great talent. He's certainly someone at that stage where he's at where I think that expectation rises a little bit because you want to see that next step."