Although Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler failed to beat the Green Bay Packers for the ninth time in 10 career starts against them, he apparently did something in Sunday's 33-28 defeat to benefit his career.
Bears general manager Phil Emery said Cutler cemented his future with the Bears that day as they signed him Thursday to a seven-year deal worth a reported $18 million annually over the first three years and possibly as much as $126 million.
"How he approached the game, how he played in the game, how he was postgame, that's when I finalized the decision," general manger Phil Emery said at Thursday's press conference announcing Cutler's deal.
Emery had seen everything he wanted to earlier this season in terms of how Cutler bounced back from groin and ankle injuries and how he fit in with Marc Trestman's new coaching staff.
"After the first three games, I definitely knew it was going in the right direction in terms of him putting the team in position to win games at the end of the game," Emery said."OK, that says a lot about a player.
"I think that Jay's third-down passing and fourth-quarter quarterback rating are very high. And they have been high for a while. But he finished in the top 10 in both areas this year. I think that speaks to a guy that can be a guy and a player that is a reason you win. And after the three games, I saw that was evident."
Emery also confirmed four players headed for free agency in March signed new deals: kicker Robbie Gould, cornerback Tim Jennings, left guard Matt Slauson and Cutler.
"It puts us on a road map to go and win championships," Emery said.
He said the majority of the work on the contracts was completed over the past three days, culminating with the Jan. 2 signing.
Fullback Tony Fiammetta also re-signed last week.
Jennings and Slauson received four-year deals.
"We were within 40 seconds of winning an NFC North crown. That would have been a step (forward)," Emery said. "We're not happy being an 8-8 football team. There were a lot of positives. But there were lows. We have to figure out how to make more positive days."
Cutler could have gone elsewhere or tested the free agent waters to try and secure a deal like Tony Romo or Joe Flacco received as free agents.
Instead he chose to stay put and sign within three days of the time negotiations began largely because he wants the chance to play in a familiar offense with players like wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. Only a couple of times in his career has he played consecutive years in the same offense.
"If you ask any quarterback throughout the league, being in an offense numerous years, being around the same group of people, hearing the same play calls, experiencing three-deep (zone coverage) against a certain call that is favorable and being able to manage that call, that's what it's all about," Cutler said. "The group of guys we have, especially offensively, they're going to make it so much easier."
The Bears offense finished tied for second in the NFL in point production. Cutler hinted the money wasn't as important as the chance to build on some initial offensive success, although certainly he wouldn't complain about the huge deal.
"I can't speak for every player, but you reach a certain point, what's the most important part of your career?" Cutler said. "Do you want to say, 'hey I made X amount of dollars' or say 'hey, I won championships?'
"I talked with (Matt) Forte, B-Marsh (Brandon Marshall), (Roberto) Garza and all the guys, we're here to win championships not to make so-and-so amount of dollars. That was my thought process. Whether it's 15 million or it is 22 million, it's hard to spend all that in your lifetime."
Cutler's rocky road in Chicago had included the NFC title game in 2010, but no other playoff berths in five years. He's always been a source of controversy with his big arm and sometimes big mistakes.
The Bears had to decide how much of his past failure had to do with not having the right surrounding cast in terms of offensive line and receivers, and the right coaching. Then they had to weigh potential in future years within the same system.
"He's been through a lot," Trestman said. "I mean, part of what's brought him to this point is the scars of the last five years and the adversity that he's gone through in getting to know himself better over the last five years. I saw selflessness. I certainly saw mental toughness.
"When you evaluate a quarterback, you say, does he have an inventory of passes? Can he make all the throws? Does he have mobility? Is he a quick decision maker? Jay has all that."
NFL Team Report - Chicago Bears - NOTES, QUOTES
--Questions over the fate of defensive coordinator Mel Tucker apparently will not be resolved until more evaluation is done by Trestman and Emery. However, Trestman and Emery both indicated the importance of injuries to the defense's failures, which would seem to absolve Tucker.
Trestman saw a different defense at season's end than the one on the field through three games. That's when defensive tackle Henry Melton was injured. Middle linebacker D.J. Williams, cornerback Charles Tillman and linebacker Lance Briggs soon followed Melton to the sidelines.
"We had a defense that was flying around to the ball, we had a defense that was creating turnovers, we had a defense that was scoring, we had a defense that was being disruptive," Trestman said. "The game plan going into Pittsburgh spelled that out. We were able to be creative because of the people that we had on the field. We created pressure with our linebackers and changed it up on the Steelers because of who we had on the field, we had weapons.
"We went through a period of injuries and we had a dramatic dropoff."
--Another popular thought is the Bears could switch to a 3-4 from a 4-3. It's an idea Trestman wouldn't discount, saying everything at this point "is on the table in terms of discussion."
He was non-committal, though, and whether they keep Tucker or hire a coordinator will not dictate their scheme.
"I can say this: We know we have the coaching ability to move scheme. We have that kind of intellect in this building," Trestman said.
The decision on a scheme will come after personnel evaluations help the Bears decide whether they have the players on the roster to be effective in schemes other than their current 4-3 with Tampa-2 influence.
"Once we get an evaluation from inside-out of what our players can do, then we'll move forward with what we can do with them schematically, and then we'll have an influx of players, as well," Trestman said.
--Last offseason Emery made it clear he doesn't discuss the team's personnel plans in any detail, before the draft or free agency, but he did make a loud statement about direction they'll look in May for the draft."I will just tell you we're going to be a younger defense," Emery said. "The draft will be focused in that area."