In the first of a nine-part series, ChicagoBears.com takes an in-depth look at the Bears' quarterback position heading into the 2016 offseason.*
When Bears general manager Ryan Pace and coach John Fox were hired last January, they didn't immediately commit to Jay Cutler as the team's starting quarterback.
|Jay Cutler posted a 92.3 passer rating for the Bears in 2015 that was the highest of his 10-year NFL career.|
A year later, no vetting period is necessary. Pace and Fox remain firmly committed to Cutler after he had arguably his best season since joining the Bears in 2009.
Despite a rash of injuries at the wide receiver position, Cutler posted a career-high 92.3 passer rating in 2015, completing 64.4 percent of his passes for 3,659 yards with 21 touchdowns while reducing his interceptions from 18 in 2014 to 11.
"I think Jay played really well this season," Pace said Jan. 4 during his post-season press conference. "I was happy with his performance, especially with a lot of injuries to our skill players. I think he kind of persevered through that. Jay played well."
Offensive coordinator Adam Gase, who has since left the Bears to become head coach of the Miami Dolphins, felt that Cutler's improved play was due to better decision-making.
"I just see the way that he's decisive," Gase said late in the season. "He knows exactly where he's supposed to go with the ball."
With the promotion of Dowell Loggains from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator, the Bears will continue to run the same system. That figures to benefit Cutler, who will work with his sixth different coordinator in eight seasons in Chicago.
The Bears will have to eventually find a replacement for Cutler, who is 32 years old. His presence as the entrenched starter won't preclude Pace from drafting a quarterback, something the franchise has not done in the first four rounds since selecting Kyle Orton in the fourth round in 2005.
"I think Jay knows that we have extreme confidence in him, and we're going to continue to build the offense around him," Pace said. "I think he also knows that we're always going to draft best-player-available too and acquire as much talent as we can.
"We've been very open and honest with all our players. But we have a ton of confidence in [Cutler]. He played well this year. The turnovers were down and he was athletic and extended plays with his feet and did a lot with a lot of injuries at all our skill positions."
David Fales enters the offseason as the Bears' No. 2 quarterback, a role he filled over the final six weeks of the season after being elevated from the practice squad. The Bears promoted the 2014 sixth-round pick and waived Jimmy Clausen after another NFL team inquired about signing Fales off the practice squad.
A third quarterback, Matt Blanchard, spent the final four weeks of the season on the Bears practice squad and signed a reserve/futures contract with the team last month.
Blanchard entered the NFL in 2012 with the Bears as an undrafted free agent from Wisconsin-Whitewater. He spent part of his rookie season on the practice squad and some of the 2013 offseason with the team as well.