Back in December, while Bears quarterback Jay Cutler was recovering from an injury and backup Josh McCown was racking up NFC Player of the Week honors, there were questions about whether Cutler should keep his job when he was healthy enough to play.
Bears coach Marc Trestman quickly dismissed such talk and Cutler returned to the lineup in Week 15 against the Browns. He got off to a rough start -- his first drive ended with an interception in the end zone and he tossed a pick-six before the half -- but he looked sharp over the final 30 minutes, throwing three touchdowns and completing 71 percent of his passes.
At the time, Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall conceded that Cutler's shaky start raised some eyebrows.
"I'm gonna be honest with you, there is a little chatter," Marshall told Jay Mohr at the time. "There's a human element side of things in the sporting world. You have a QB like Josh McCown playing so hot, not only playing great ball for the Bears, but he's one of the hotter QB's in the NFL.
"[McCown] was up there with Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, those few weeks he was leading us. So, naturally there is gonna be a little chatter, but at the end of the day we know that Jay Cutler is our QB. He's our franchise QB ... he's our leader."
The Bears agreed -- they gave Cutler a seven-year, $126.7 million deal in January -- and on Thursday Marshall went so far as to suggest that his quarterback will be the NFL's best player in 2014.
“League MVP,” Marshall said of Cutler during an appearance on NFL Network (via PFT). “He's the first one in the building, last one to leave, his leadership is through the roof. He's correcting the coaches. I mean, this is his offense. This is his organization. He's running it, and I love it.”
The good news is that quarterbacks have won the award in six of the last seven seasons. The bad news -- at least from Cutler's perspective -- is that Brady (twice) and Manning (three times) have dominated the voting, while Aaron Rodgers won it in 2011.
As for how Cutler stacks up against the league's best, he ranked 13th in value per play among all NFL quarterbacks last season, according to Football Outsiders. He ranked 27th the season before and 21st in 2011.
But hey, if you get points for owning a conversion van, Cutler's the clear favorite.