Bears’ Cutler welcomes being compared to Packers’ Rodgers
“We’re in the same division. We’re going to face each other twice,” Cutler said. “We’re about the same age. We’ve both been successful at times. We’re both going to be around for awhile.”
It’s been some time since Chicago was anything but the second city in the quarterback portion of the rivalry with Green Bay, but with both teams at 2-0 and tied atop the NFC North heading into tonight’s matchup, the gap may be closing.
The Bears are coming off an impressive win at Dallas and are off to their best start since the 2006 Super Bowl team won its first seven, in large part because Cutler is delivering the way they anticipated when they acquired him from Denver last year.
Now, the difference at quarterback appears as narrow as ever as Chicago prepares for its 180th meeting with the Packers, a new wrinkle for the league’s oldest rivalry.
“It’s nice to watch him have the success he has had the first two games, I think,” Rodgers said. “You got to point to, definitely, some growth in him and understanding that system coach (Mike) Martz is trying to run. It’s obviously working very well for him in the first couple weeks. I’m happy for him.”
Cutler was averaging a league-leading 10.1 yards per completion and was third with 649 yards passing through the first two weeks, and while covering all that distance, he wasn’t giving the ball away. He has five touchdowns with one interception after throwing 26—the most in the NFL since Brett Favre’s 29 for Green Bay in 2005—a year ago, and he’s hanging in even though the pass protection still is a bit shaky.
He’s showing more poise, isn’t forcing as many passes into traffic.
The Bears have 771 yards—the most for them through the first two games since the 1985 Super Bowl champions racked up 805—in large part because Cutler is adapting well to new offensive coordinator Martz.
Rodgers has thrown for fewer yards than Cutler (443), has a lower completion percentage (63.3 to 68.8), one less touchdown (four) and one more interception (two) this season, but both are considered top quarterbacks who are in the early stages of what could be a long-term rivalry.
“Good player, really good player,” Cutler said of Rodgers. “Playing at a high caliber. Did it last year. Looks like he’s back on track this year. A lot of weapons over there. Tight ends, receivers, running backs. They spread it out a lot. They do some similar stuff we do. Create matchups, he’s able to find them. He moves around well. He’s definitely one of the top quarterbacks in the league.”
Both quarterbacks have emerged from the shadow of a legend—Cutler from John Elway’s in Denver and Rodgers from Brett Favre’s in Green Bay.
Both have a Pro Bowl appearance, with Cutler making it in 2008 and Rodgers getting there last year. Both have passed for more than 4,000 yards in a season, with Cutler throwing for 4,526 two years ago and Rodgers going for 4,434 last season after collecting 4,038 the previous season.
Last year, Rodgers completed 106 of 157 passes on third down for a league-leading 1,710 yards with 14 touchdowns and no interceptions. Cutler completed 89 of 154 on third down and ranked 11th with 1,018 yards while getting picked off 12 times.
Cutler might have an edge in arm strength. Rodgers has more experienced receivers in Donald Driver and Greg Jennings and can also beat defenders with his legs. Either way, there’s a respect and a friendship between the quarterbacks.
It was Cutler who helped Rodgers’ younger brother get acclimated at his alma mater Vanderbilt. Jordan Rodgers, a quarterback, is a junior with the Commodores after spending two years at Butte Junior College.
“He’s a guy who’s been great to my little brother,” Rodgers said. “My little brother goes to Vanderbilt, and as a big brother, that’s much appreciated, the way he’s made my little brother feel comfortable down there and helped him get the lay of the land down there in Nashville. That only helped to strengthen our friendship. And I pull for him 14 weeks out of the season and hope that maybe he throws us a couple in those other two weeks.”