CHICAGO -- Fun fact, well, fun unless you’re a McCaskey or a Grabowski, I learned Wednesday: Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw 11 interceptions in 25 games over the past two seasons.
That’s from Peter King’s fascinating story about Rodgers, where they focus on how Rodgers treats his few interceptions with apologetic contempt.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy and quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt preach ball security with Rodgers, and the coaching staff handles each interception like it’s “a crime scene investigation,” according to NFL analyst Rich Gannon, who was quoted in the story.
Combing over every pick with a blacklight and a detective kit is easy when you only have five to work through. I did a cursory trip through all of Jay Cutler's interceptions last season, and I feel like I’m investigating a career criminal.
In 26 games over the past two seasons, Cutler threw 30 interceptions, including 18 in 2014, which was the most since his first year with the Chicago Bears when he threw 26.
Now, it takes a village to make an interception, and by now we’re aware Cutler isn’t to blame for 100 percent of his mistakes. But it’s still his throw, his decision, his fault.
Cutler is tough, but his greatest weakness is how he handles adversity. If he’s a gunslinger, he’s operating on a suspended license.
We’re all tired of asking this question, but will there be a new Cutler under offensive coordinator Adam Gase and quarterback coach Dowell Loggains? The answer remains the same: It’s certainly possible.
"Watching tape from last year and watching Jay perform in the preseason, I think there is definitely some change in the pre-snap disciplines and mannerisms," McCarthy said in a conference call with Chicago reporters. "He looks like he's comfortable in what Adam is having him do. I think it's a good fit."
In his Thursday media session, Cutler praised Gase’s offense -- so far. Cutler tends to fall out of love by the holiday season.
“I think he’s done an excellent job with all the quarterbacks of just making sure we have answers, not putting us in bad positions,” Cutler said. “Each and every day of going through the game plan. On first down, second down, third down, red zone, making sure we’re clean with everything, making sure we know the reasons he calls plays and where to execute them that way.
Trust hasn’t always been there for Cutler or his coordinators.
For the Bears to be competitive in 2015 in what looks like a rebuilding season, there will have to be a harmonious relationship, and in a lot of ways, that starts with Cutler taking care of the ball like Rodgers.
On Thursday, Gase said he liked Cutler’s “efficieny of running the offense” during the preseason.
“I felt like he was comfortable,” Gase said. “I felt like he did a great job communicating. He ran what we were doing, whether we were in the huddle, no huddle, whatever we were doing, up tempo, never seemed to be bothered by anything. There were a lot of guys that weren't on the same page with him sometimes because, like I said, he's ahead of everybody else. That's going to happen at the quarterback spot. We just got to see how fast everybody gets caught up to him and just keep him growing as a quarterback.”
Tight end Martellus Bennett is just excited to catch a lot of passes this season.
“As long as we make it quarterback-friendly for him, he has all the ability in the world, and I love playing with him and I'm excited to go out there with him this season,” he said. “And I think we're going to light it up.”
It all sounds great but past is prologue and all that. So what about last year, when Cutler was supposed to have this big leap forward in the second year of Marc Trestman’s “A Beautiful Mind” offense?
Cutler said there wasn’t much use watching tape of last year’s beatdowns against the Packers because Gase’s offense is so different. But I took a stroll down Nightmare Lane and went through Cutler's interceptions just to see how damaging they were in the context of the games.
Of his 18 picks, nine led to points on the next possession, including Green Bay cornerback Casey Hayward's touchdown return.
In all, opponents scored 51 points in possessions directly after a Cutler interception. Some helped put the Bears in an early hole, some sealed a defeat and others were meaningless turnovers at the end of a half or when the Bears were down big.
One stat that makes sense: the Bears were 4-1 when he didn’t throw an interception and 1-9 when he did. With that defense, Cutler didn’t have much of a margin for error last season.
In the season-opening loss to Buffalo, Cutler’s first-quarter interception was returned by ex-Bear Corey Graham for 45 yards. An Alshon Jeffery penalty tacked on an extra eight yards, and on the Bills’ first play, E.J. Manuel found C.J. Spiller for a 7-yard touchdown.
In the fourth quarter, with the game tied at 17-all, Cutler was picked by defensive tackle Kyle Williams, and Brandon Marshall earned a 15-yard penalty for a horse-collar tackle. Seven plays later, the Bills kicked a field goal. They wound up winning 23-20 in overtime.
In the first Green Bay loss last season, Cutler was picked by Clay Matthews, off a deflection, to start the third quarter. A six-play drive ended with Rodgers hooking up with Jordy Nelson for a touchdown to make it 31-17.
On the Bears’ next drive, Cutler was picked by Sam Shields on a miscommunication with Brandon Marshall, who returned it 62 yards. Rodgers connected with Randall Cobb for a 3-yard score to end the 38-17 game.
In a 31-24 loss to the Carolina Panthers, Cutler’s fourth-quarter interception turned into the tying field goal.
In a 27-14 loss to the Dolphins, Cutler’ second-quarter interception led to a Ryan Tannehill touchdown that gave Miami a 14-0 lead.
In that 55-14 loss to Green Bay, Cutler’s first pick led to a Rodgers touchdown pass that gave Green Bay a 14-0 lead in the first quarter; Cutler's second was returned for a touchdown that made it 55-7.
On Thanksgiving, the Bears trailed by two touchdowns early in the fourth quarter when Cutler was picked. Detroit converted it into a field goal in a 34-17 win.
Cutler was benched, albeit for just a game, after throwing three picks in the Bears’ 31-15 loss to New Orleans on Dec. 16, but only one was converted into points -- a field goal -- that made it 24-0. He threw a pick on the opening drive, but the Saints fumbled in the next possession and Cutler tossed another one before the half ended.
Coach Mark Trestman had had enough after that game. No one could scapegoat Cutler for the disastrous 2014 season, but if Cutler wants to stay in Chicago under the new regime, he has to limit his turnovers.
Before Cutler can make it through a season, he has to play Green Bay in the opener with a hobbled receiving corps. The Bears are 1-9 against the Packers with Cutler at quarterback. He has 21 interceptions and was the recipient of 33 sacks in those 10 games.
Maybe this year will be different? Or maybe it’ll be a new chapter in an old story.