Dan Hampton, speaking at an event at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, said “If my team had Jay Cutler at quarterback we would have won four Super Bowls.” (via Pro Football Talk.) Hampton, a member of the Hall of Fame, was a dominant force on the interior of the Chicago Bears’ defensive line in the 1980’s, and had 28 sacks from 1984 to 1986.
While this may seem hyperbole, it’s not an understatement to say that the Bears’ chances would have been a lot better if they had a decent quarterback for much of the decade (or for that matter, for most years since World War II). Jim McMahon was often injured, and had a brief run of success, but the Bears’ quarterback situation was ugly. It’s easy to remember the end with Cutler, but he would have been an upgrade.
In 1983, when the defense was really starting to emerge and the team finished 5th in points allowed but went 8-8 in Ditka’s second year, Walter Payton and Matt Suhey had the best passer rating. McMahon and Vince Evans combined for 17 touchdowns and 20 interceptions. In 1984, when the team reached the NFC Championship Game but lost to San Francisco, five different QBs started games and combined for 14 passing touchdowns.
In 1986, the Bears went 14-2 but lost in the playoffs, and the QBs combined for a ridiculous 12 TDs and 25 INTs. So yeah, maybe having someone like Cutler might have made a difference. In 1987, the Bears lost to eventual champ Washington at home, and McMahon threw 3 interceptions and completed just over 50% of his passes. In 1988, the Bears again lost at home after getting the #1 seed, to San Francisco, and the QBs combined for more interceptions than touchdowns.
So, to sum up, the Bears’ quarterbacks had more interceptions than touchdowns every year, and they lost to the champion three times in the playoffs, twice at home. There’s no guarantee because winning it all is difficult, but Chicago certainly would have had better odds with a better quarterback. Jay Cutler’s not a Hall of Famer but he has been the best quarterback the Bears have had since the late 1940’s.