Acting like a pro has been a plus for Cutler

Bears QB's more relaxed demeanor showing up on, off the field

Killing the fun notion that the Bears had hired a football facsimile of life coach Tony Robbins, Jay Cutler kidded that Marc Trestman has yet to ask him to fall blindly backward to prove he would catch the quarterback.

"He hasn't said, 'Hey, this is a trust-building exercise with falls or anything like that,' '' Cutler said Thursday at Halas Hall. "Just come to work every day and I've followed his lead.''

Surprisingly, that becomes more obvious every time Cutler opens his mouth. Trestman's influence goes beyond Cutler getting rid of the ball quicker. It extends from the pocket to the podium. The more Trestman treats the media with respect and consideration, the more Cutler has acted like a professional. Anybody else wonder about a connection?

For the third straight week, a relaxed Cutler offered insight, honesty and a touch of humor that hasn't always characterized his interaction with reporters. Apparently, Cutler's 2013 No Excuses Tour has begun without a hitch. Chicagoans say, encore, encore.

Cutler took blame for the Bears' only sack in two games with the same willingness with which he accepted responsibility for the three turnovers that nearly cost the Vikings game. The 30-year-old father acknowledged age and maturity as reasons he can accept quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh's "grinder'' style better now than earlier in his career. Displaying self-deprecation, Cutler dismissed Brandon Marshall describing him as "a genius.''

"No,'' Cutler said with his familiar smirk.

The only glimpse of the curt Cutler we know well came when he refused to compare Pittsburgh's 3-4 defense with Green Bay's, a fair question. Why not?

"Because we're playing the Steelers,'' Cutler said.

Nobody will quibble with a quarterback keeping focused.

Yes, it's early and a 2-0 record makes it easier for Cutler to smile and suffer fools. Yes, Cutler needs to prove in this contract year that he is coachable, and as his cameo in "The League'' suggested, the guy can act. Yes, the true test of his cuddly new persona could come as early as Sunday night if the Bears lose or Cutler reverts to his erratic self.

But in fairness, if those of us who believed Cutler's poor demeanor in the past contributed to losing composure and making bad decisions that hurt the Bears, we cannot ignore the potential link between a happy quarterback and a productive one. We cannot overlook the possible role Cutler's healthier psyche played in overcoming his mistakes and leading two straight fourth-quarter comebacks, the first time that has happened to open a Bears season since 1971.

"Players respond to good coaching, and Jay's getting good coaching,'' Marshall said.

Enter Trestman. He wrote a book revealing how he held himself accountable to improve his life. Cutler says he read the 280-page memoir but never discussed it with Trestman. Asked if he shared with Cutler how introspection smoothed a career crossroads, Trestman was uncharacteristically vague.

"I can say that I let it all out there in terms of where I stand and what my goals are for him and the team, and why,'' Trestman said. "But I wouldn't be able to answer that question for him."

A clearer response has come in the league's 10th-rated passer finally closing the gap between potential and production, a process Trestman's presence precipitated. Nobody needed a coaching change more than Cutler, a fact that started becoming obvious to the previous staff after Week 2 last season.

What a difference a year makes. Before the third game in 2012, the hot debate centered around Cutler's leadership after he bumped teammate J'Marcus Webb. Two games later, Lovie Smith alienated his quarterback by privately scolding him for walking away from offensive coordinator Mike Tice, for whom Cutler lost respect.

It was after that incident Smith, according to sources in the building, made clear to management his concerns over Cutler's attitude.

Despite any underlying friction between Smith and Cutler, the Bears managed a 10-6 record but missed the playoffs — allowing general manager Phil Emery to fire Smith and hire an offensive-minded coach to mesh with his mercurial quarterback.

The sample size remains too small for the Grabowskis to start planning a Super Bowl XLVIII party. But everything the Bears have done to improve the life of their quarterback so far has worked.

Better offensive linemen have given Cutler more time to plant his feet before releasing, and scrambling for big gains has been more strategic than desperate. Bigger receivers — Marshall, Martellus Bennett and Alshon Jeffery resemble NBA players — have widened Cutler's throwing window and increased his margin of error. Brighter game plans have exploited mismatches, especially with all-purpose back Matt Forte.

"It's finally happening,'' Marshall said of the Bears' offensive revival.

Finally, this is the Cutler whom Chicago has been waiting for since April 2, 2009.

Seems like longer.

dhaugh@tribune.com

Twitter @DavidHaugh

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