If nothing else, this 20-14 loss to the Lions proved the Bears can lose with or without Jay Cutler.
Is that good news?
It’s kind of like learning your orchard fruit will be eaten by apple thrips whether you spray or not.
For a moment Sunday, it looked like something was a-birthing for the Bears, something new and fresh. Call it the Jimmy Clausen Reawakening. Out of the darkness and into the Winter Solstice.
But then Clausen, who hadn’t started an NFL game in four years, went back to being meek and mild.
It’s interesting that after throwing for two touchdowns and raising his passer rating to an excellent third-quarter 102.1, Clausen slipped back to earth and finished with a game-killing interception and a 77.0 rating.
Clausen’s final rating would have been 87.7 if Lions safety Glover Quin had just knocked the ball down for an incompletion (as he should have because it was fourth down, and the Lions lost 30 yards because he hung on to the ball). That 87.7 figure fits nicely between Cutler’s 89.5 rating this season and his 85.3 career rating.
And if so, what’s the point?
Actually, there is no point to any of this.
The Bears are a team in free fall at 5-10, without much talent, heart, skills, leadership or focus. How weird is it to think back to the preseason when the Bears — particularly the offense behind Cutler — seemed primed for great things.
And then, with whimpers, no bangs, a couple of shrugs and a benching, the Bears are this . . . nothing . . . team.
‘‘Terrible, terrible,’’ defensive end Jared Allen said of losing the last home game of the season.
But it wasn’t quite terrible enough. The blah-ness of seeing Clausen do some good things — but not enough — left us all wondering how this mess can be sorted out.
It seems pretty certain that Marc Trestman’s tenure is coming to a spasmodic end after only two seasons. Nobody outside Halas Hall or George McCaskey’s living room knows for sure, but it seems likely that almost the whole coaching staff, from offense to defense, will be let go. General manager Phil Emery? Seems safe for now. But maybe not.
The thing is, how many coaches and executives can a maddening fellow such as Cutler destroy? Everybody? Water boys, too?
Indeed, this game was played with a shadow image before us. It wasn’t so much that oft-injured journeyman Clausen (career starting record: 1-10) played, as much as Cutler — upright, uninjured, as blankly enthused as ever — did not.
It was as if management were saying, ‘‘Stand there, son, and think about your sins.’’
It was as if the Bears had tanked, taken a pregame knee, just to prove that no rich, underachieving quarterback is gonna show us what’s what.
Swell. Another loss. Cut it however you want.
All it proves is that you can get a moderately interesting defeat from a sub dude who’s making $645,000 this year, the same way you can get one from a man making $22 million.
The only difference is potential.
Clausen has little. His postgame statement — ‘‘The only thing you can ask for is another opportunity’’ — was less seize-the-bull arrogance than it was please-sir-may-I-have-another-quarter-for-the-machine pleading.
Will Clausen start in the last game against the Vikings? It’s tricky because many subtleties are at play.
What good would it do to see Cutler beat a sub-.500 team in a meaningless contest? In fact, triumph causes more problems than it solves. Does Cutler thus get to say, ‘‘See, I’m not the issue’’? Does Trestman go for a win, or proof that Cutler is a serial coach assassin?
Would Cutler success mean the Bears are all in with him for 2015? Or could his failure be the spark that launches him and his massive contract out of here?
Then, too, Emery will look even worse if Cutler is determined to be a dud. We all know who signed Cutler to his huge extension last winter — Emery.
Lose to the Vikings, basically intentionally, by starting Clausen, and the Bears will get a higher draft pick next spring. There’s value in that.
But, in truth, there are too few NFL games to just toss them to the wind. If Trestman and his underlings want to work in the league again, every stat counts.
So we’re left with Clausen’s summary: Every time you step on the field, ‘‘you’re auditioning.’’ Not just for your club, ‘‘but 31 other teams are watching it, as well.’’
Is anybody watching the Bears? Anywhere?