'New chapter' for QB and team as Cutler is introduced by Bears

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Jay Cutler grew up rooting for the Chicago Bears in Lincoln City, Ind.

Now, after a stormy exit from Denver, he's the franchise quarterback for his once-favorite team.

Taking sides

One thing, though: Don't call him a savior.

"I don't see myself as that," Cutler said Friday.

Two big moves. One big statement.

The Bears showed they're serious about contending in the NFC after missing the playoffs the past two years, and in Cutler, they finally have a top-tier passer after a decades-long search.

"Time will tell if he's going to be a franchise player," Bears general manager Jerry Angelo said of Cutler. "We're certainly hoping that's the case. But what we do know is we got a winning quarterback, and we feel very good about that."

The Bears landed a Pro Bowl quarterback who threw for 4,526 yards and 25 touchdowns with 18 interceptions last season, yet was traded after a major blowup with Broncos management and new coach Josh McDaniels. Cutler wasn't happy when Mike Shanahan was fired or when his position coach, Jeremy Bates, left for USC.

And just when things were starting to smooth out, Cutler found out in late February that the Broncos were trying to trade him to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a three-way deal that would have sent Matt Cassel from the New England Patriots to Denver.

Cutler and his agent didn't believe McDaniels was up front with them about the trade talks and asked the Broncos to deal the quarterback. McDaniels, however, insisted that he informed Cutler the morning of those discussions. Cutler declined to discuss the timeline Friday, saying, "This is kind of a new chapter for me, and I'm excited to be here."

Either way, two meetings that were supposed to ease the tension in Denver only escalated the ill will, even though McDaniels insisted Cutler was his quarterback.

Cutler even said earlier this week that he didn't want to leave Denver, yet that's exactly what happened.

Cutler initially figured he'd wind up with the Washington Redskins, but he was sent to Chicago with a chance to repair his reputation.

"I think in time, everyone will get a clearer picture of what I'm about on and off the field," Cutler said. "Whenever you make this decision, you either have to go at it full speed or not at all because there's going to be some stuff out there that's said that might not be true."

If Cutler performs as advertised, the Bears finally will have a mobile, rocket-armed quarterback who will bring an end to the long line of mediocrity at the position.

"He does for us what Ben Roethlisberger does for the Steelers," said Bears offensive tackle Chris Williams, Cutler's teammate at Vanderbilt.

In Denver, Cutler had to live up to the legacy of John Elway. In Chicago, he can create his own.

Twenty-three quarterbacks have started for the Bears since Jim McMahon in the mid-1980s, but the quarterback problems date back about six decades, since the days of Hall of Famer Sid Luckman.

"This is like my second draft day," Cutler said.

When he arrived in Denver, he couldn't escape the comparisons to Elway.

"It was, 'How are you going to fill his shoes? What are you going to do to be like John Elway?'" Cutler said.

In Chicago?

"I'm going to have to do some research on Sid," Cutler said, grinning.

He certainly will miss throwing to Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal and setting up behind a line that allowed him to be sacked just 11 times while throwing 616 passes. Cutler figures to be well-protected if Pace stays healthy and Williams performs as expected in his second season.

Cutler also has a solid running back -- something the Broncos lacked -- in in Matt Forte and two good tight ends in Greg Olsen and Desmond Clark. But the wide receivers? Well, Angelo is looking for help.

Devin Hester struggled with a bigger role on offense and saw his production on special teams drop after two record-setting seasons returning kicks. Rashied Davis struggled to hang onto the ball, and Earl Bennett didn't catch a pass as a rookie after being drafted in the third round out of Vanderbilt.

"I'm excited about what we have here," Cutler said.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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