Kevin White and Jay Cutler: It’s a Question of Trust

The on-field relationship between Kevin White and Jay Cutler is off to a rough start. It’s up to Kevin White to earn Cutler’s trust.

We talk a lot about chemistry on the football field between many position groups.  The offensive line needs time to gel.  The linebackers need to read their keys off the defensive line to get the run fits right.

Perhaps nowhere is that chemistry more critical than between a quarterback and his wide receivers.  That’s why the relationship between Kevin White and Jay Cutler needs to be mended quickly after their Week 1 miscue led to a momentum-killing interception from which the Chicago Bears offense never seemed to recover.

Let’s recap the scenario:

The Bears had taken a 14-10 lead prior to halftime and were getting the ball back to the start the second half.  It looked like momentum was in their favor, on the road against a tough opponent.  On their first series of the second quarter, the Bears faced a 2nd and 5.

Cutler dropped back to pass and when pressured, threw to the outside, where he was expecting rookie wide receiver Kevin White to be.  White appeared to give up on his route and the ball was picked off:

White finished the day with three receptions for 34 yards and appeared to secure himself a spot in Jay Cutler’s doghouse.  Cutler was visibly upset after the pick, motioning a finger toward the sideline, showing White (and everyone else watching) what he was expecting on the route.

White, who was selected #7 overall, was considered one of the top talents in the 2015 draft class, despite limited experience running a pro style offense or even running a basic route tree at West Virginia.  He suffered a leg injury in OTA’s that ended up costing him his rookie season.  Even though he’s technically not a rookie, Sunday was his first NFL action.

As the Tribune’s Dan Wiederer points out, we’ve got to dial back expectations a bit for White:

White’s development is going to take time. And maybe a lot of it.

That means fans – and more importantly, White’s teammates and coaches – are going to have to dial their patience up several notches as the young receiver struggles through a flurry of mistakes. The book on White out of college was straightforward: superb combination of size, speed and strength but an obvious lack of polish as a route runner. The latter doesn’t change overnight.

Was it jitters that led to White’s less-than-stellar performance?  His lackluster performance was magnified by the 107 yards and decisive touchdown scored by Texans rookie wide receiver Will Fuller.

If there’s one thing we know about Jay Cutler is that he has his guys that he trusts.  I’ll never forget the first preseason game when Cutler and Devin Hester faced the Buffalo Bills.  Cutler threw up a jump ball and Hester had no chance to haul it in.  Then, Cutler said that Devin was not a “go up and get it guy” and it felt like the two never clicked.  Cutler had Earl Bennett and Greg Olsen as “his guys” early on in his Bears career.  In later years, that became Brandon Marshall, later Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett.

It’s tough to break in with Cutler and get on his good side.  Kevin White could have all the talent in the world, but if the quarterback doesn’t trust him to be in the right spot catching the balls thrown his way, he’ll be a bust in Chicago.  We’re far from that point, but after a lost season and a rough start to his career, Kevin White is going to have to earn not only Jay Cutler’s trust, but the rest of the fan base’s as well.


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