Arkush: Bears' QB Jay Cutler looks, acts like changed man

Monica Maschak - mmaschak@shawmedia.com Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler talks with a coach before the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Soldier Field on Thursday, August 14, 2014.

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Nothing makes me crazier than an analyst who believes he’s made a discovery but refuses to put his name on it for fear of being proven wrong.

Hey, nobody’s perfect, especially me, so I’m done tiptoeing around.

Through an entire offseason of OTAs, veteran minicamp and three full weeks in Bourbonnais, it appears to me Jay Cutler is a changed man.

In spite of his own warning to me today – I’ll get to it in a moment – that my pronouncement may be premature, I’m convinced we’re dealing with a new and better model of Cutler.

While it is one of the telltale signs, I’m not talking just about his relationship with the media.

“We’ve absolutely noticed," offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer said. "I think everyone in the building has noticed a difference in Jay.

“None of us knew Jay very well before getting here last year and we worked through the year and that first year is always hard on everybody. But we see, and what I see in Jay Cutler right now is a guy that’s leading the group. A guy that is approachable and is working to make everybody better because he realizes that it’s important that everybody is on the same page with him.

"He’s talked with receivers, he’s talked with linemen, he’s working with the running backs constantly and that’s a maturity on his part of knowing the offense, knowing what we want as coaches, and feeling good about being the leader that he is. It’s been a very good start of the year that way.”

If the old Cutler, whose most memorable moments as a Bear have included shoving teammates on the field and cussing out his coaches on national TV, isn’t gone forever, he is certainly deep in hiding.

This new Jay has even made himself the official Chicago Bears welcoming party for wayward souls arriving on Halas Hall’s doorstep.

“You know, Santonio (Holmes) was here, had signed his contract and 60 minutes later he was on the field with Jay and throwing routes," Kromer said. "That was totally him (Jay) doing it and just getting the timing, getting the feel for how fast he is, the speed, how he’s going to look getting in and out of cuts, so they started right away and they’ve continued since.”

Who would’ve thought J'Marcus Webb would ever long to be a Bear again?

I believe the notion Cutler is injury prone has always been overrated. In the seven seasons since he became a starter in Denver, Cutler has started 16 games three times, 15 games twice, and missed just 13 of a possible 112 starts.

My fear for Cutler has always been that his attitude and the way he’s carried himself, which prior to this year was petulant, angry, dismissive and disgusted with everyone around him a good chunk of time, would be his undoing at a position where, if he couldn’t lead, he would never succeed.

The most important single ingredient for the Bears to succeed this year is a new and better Jay Cutler. Whether it's married life, the birth of his second son or he's just a late bloomer, I think they may just have one.

So I asked the man himself today.

"Jay, are you more at ease this year with yourself, your teammates and the media, and if so why?"

“It might be true," Cutler responded. "Anytime you are in an offense and have the same group of guys around you, it’s going to be more comfortable. It is for me, anyway. I like the group of guys we have in the locker room, understand what we’re doing offensively. And it’s early. It’s still preseason with you guys.”

A year ago, I would have taken that last line as a legitimate warning. But, based on the big smile and chuckle he offered along with it, I’m pretty sure the new Jay was actually just having fun.

• Chicago Football editor Hub Arkush can be reached at harkush@chicagofootball.com or on Twitter @Hub_Arkush.

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