Five days after Bears coach Marc Trestman deemed his franchise quarterback unworthy to start, Jay Cutler will do just that Sunday.
The Bears’ $126.7 million man was promoted Monday almost by default, after Jimmy Clausen, who fared well in his first start in four years, suffered a concussion Sunday from a helmet-to-helmet hit by the Lions’ Ziggy Ansah.
“Jay gives us the best chance this week,” Trestman said Monday at Halas Hall.
That wasn’t the case last week. Which makes for one final awkward moment in a season with more twists and turns than anything at Great America.
Trestman maintained that he and Cutler’s relationship was not fractured despite his decision Wednesday to bench the quarterback. He cited public comments by both he and Cutler last week that, he claimed, showed they were on the same page.
“I said, very specifically, that I believe that Jay can work his way out of this,” Trestman said. “And I’ve enjoyed coaching him and working with him. And we had dialogue last week. And we worked together last week.
“It was a tough week on him. I empathize with him on that. But we’re moving forward, both with the idea that we’ve worked together for a long time, and that hasn’t changed.”
The context, though, certainly has.
Cutler said last week he wasn’t sure whether he’d played his last game in a Bears uniform, and the football world has already begun speculating of which teams — if any — could trade for him and his hefty salary.
Starting Cutler in a Week 17 game that will decide draft order and little else exposes him to injury, which would complicate any offseason trade discussion. The Bears didn’t seem concerned Sunday, though — they activated Cutler, meaning he would have taken the field had Clausen been removed.
Trestman’s future, too, is in doubt. Asked Monday if he’d been told of his fate, the coach said he’d “been supported by this organization since Day 1 — and that hasn’t changed.”
Trestman and Cutler, then, will be connected for at least one more game.
He wouldn’t say if Cutler would have started over a healthy Clausen this week, but it seemed unlikely. The Notre Dame alum was solid Sunday, completing 23-of-39 attempts for 181 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
“I think everybody is going to draw their own conclusion,” Trestman said. “Certainly Jimmy did a lot of things well in terms of managing the game and managing the team. Ultimately we didn’t win the game.”
Team doctors examined Clausen immediately following the 20-14 loss but found no concussion symptoms. When they surfaced late Sunday, the Notre Dame alum went to the hospital, per Bears protocol, and was diagnosed by a team doctor.
He was ruled out six days before the game, unusual among Bears’ concussion victims this season. Trestman, though, said the “doctor’s decision” was made Monday.
Cutler was “clearly our best option” compared to rookie David Fales, who has never taken a regular-season snap, he said.
Cutler told him he’d be ready to go, starting with meetings Monday afternoon.
“He’s on a journey of his own,” Trestman said. “It’s been a very, very tough year for him in terms of playing at a consistent level. But I’ve seen this before and I have faith that he’s going to return.
“He’ll go to work this week and put himself in the best position to help our football team win — and take the things out of the game last week that he could have learned by standing and watching and observing the continuity of the game.”
The move should please veterans annoyed by the way Cutler’s benching made him appear to be a scapegoat. Trestman said last week’s benching wasn’t a grand statement.
“The change was made because I thought we needed to get better play out of the quarterback,” he said. “And we weren’t getting it.”