After starting five games as a rookie, he threw for 3,497 yards in 2007 and topped that the following year by throwing for 4,526.
Then, Shanahan got fired. Cutler clashed with new coach Josh McDaniels and wound up getting traded to Chicago before the 2009 season.
With the Bears, it hasn’t been the smoothest ride. There were issues with the supporting cast, particularly when it came to protection, and big questions over whether he is actually coachable.
Besides the feud with McDaniels, Cutler didn’t exactly mesh with past Bears offensive coordinators Ron Turner, Mike Martz and Mike Tice. He even got up and walked away when Tice took a seat next to him and began talking during a game against Dallas last season. Two weeks earlier, he shoved offensive lineman J’Marcus Webb after some poor blocking, incidents that didn’t exactly help his image.
The Bears hired the offensive-minded Trestman to replace Lovie Smith, hoping he could get through to their talented quarterback.
So far, it looks like he is.
“Him and Mike have a lot of similarities,” Cutler said. “They like to really protect the quarterback. A lot of stuff that we do offensively is to make sure that we’re successful and can complete a pass and we’re protected.”
The biggest difference Shanahan sees now is the supporting cast.
They added a go-to receiver a year ago when they reunited Cutler with Brandon Marshall, and Alshon Jeffery is paying off in a big way this season after being taken in the second round in 2012. The offseason addition of tight end Martellus Bennett gave Cutler another big target, and with four new starters on an overhauled line, Cutler isn’t running for his life the way he did in recent years.
The ball is also coming out of his hands quicker, which takes some pressure off his blockers. And when Shanahan looks at Cutler now, he sees more than a familiar face. He sees a familiar result.
“That’s the way he played for me,” Shanahan said.