The beginning of the end for Jay Cutler in Chicago arrived in the only way it should have, via anonymous source.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Wednesday evening that the Bears were benching Cutler in favor of Jimmy Clausen for Sunday’s game against Detroit. It came 10 days after offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer had outed himself as the source of a national story criticizing Cutler. Phil Emery’s leaky ship is sending up bubbles from the bottom of the sea.
Less than a year after the Bears handed Cutler a seven-year contract with $54 million in guaranteed money, they are now telling the world that not only did their general manager make a huge mistake but that if anyone is in the market for an exasperating, underachieving quarterback to please give them a call. Operators are standing by, all of them McCaskeys.
The Bears might be pulling Cutler for all of his various crimes against football, including his three-interception performance against the Saints on Monday night, but it seems more likely they’re benching him to keep him away from injury. If they want to trade him, they’d like him to be in one piece, even if his game is in pieces.
Why didn’t they yank him during Monday’s game, when he was under constant pressure from the Saints and in danger of getting hurt? Because these are the Bears, and the prudent thing to 99 percent of the population reads like Chinese to them. Remember, this is the organization that not only stood by Cutler during all of his struggles in six seasons in Chicago, it wanted to sell you on the idea he was an exceptional quarterback. Only now are the Bears pulling the trigger on a decision that should have been made at least a year ago – and surely before Emery gave him that gaudy contract.
The Bears are the laughingstock of the NFL, and this move won’t change many minds. What many of us in Chicago have been saying for years about Cutler found its way into ESPN’s coverage Monday night. It was as if analyst Jon Gruden was seeing Cutler for the first time. The bad throws, the bad mechanics, the indifferent looks – we had seen it all before. We’ve lived that nightmare.
It’s hard to imagine anyone picking up Cutler’s contract. There will be interested teams, simply because someone else will fall for his arm and his natural talent, but the Bears will have to pay some of the freight. It’s worth it.
But the more pressing issue is the incompetence of Emery, who not only chose to re-sign the quarterback to obscene money but also hired a head coach who can’t coach. The decision to bench Cutler and thus to trade him is an admission of a disaster. The Bears will have salary-cap issues if they do deal him to another team. And if they keep him? More of the same gruel we’ve been served for years. Thanks for everything, Phil.
Each week this season, I thought it couldn’t get any worse for the Bears, and then it did. The Kromer scandal was the low point (to date), pointing to a fractured organization. But the decision to allow him to get up in front of the offense and apologize for talking about a team issue publicly was beyond baffling. That, too, became public, and the mess that had previously been the Bears became a sinkhole. Besides airing Kromer’s anonymous criticism, the NFL Network also reported that the Bears had buyers’ remorse about giving Cutler that huge contract.
Now, the obvious question: If not Cutler in 2015, then whom? The obvious answer: Who cares? There will be lots of people saying that the Bears won’t be able to find a quarterback better than Cutler. Two things: One, he hasn’t won you many games, so how hard can it be to find a suitable replacement? Two, Josh McCown. I mention McCown not as someone to take Cutler’s place, but as proof that other quarterbacks can step in and do well on occasion. McCown did that last season when Cutler was injured. Find a stopgap and draft the quarterback of the future.
But let’s worry about that later. Wednesday was a first step toward making things right. For now, let’s concentrate on what’s important – making sure that Emery is not the man finding Cutler’s replacement. He needs to go. The decision to bench the quarterback might look like the actions of an assertive leader. To me, it looks like another episode of a clown show.