The boos came from all over Soldier Field, and if boos can be tired, these were absolutely exhausted. They came from people who had see this act from Jay Cutler too many times before.
It was late in the third quarter Monday night, and the Bears quarterback had just thrown a pass that landed in the hands of Eagles linebacker Nigel Bradham. You would have had a hard time convincing the faithful that Bradham wasn’t the intended receiver on the play. It was classic Cutler, and anyone who has followed this team during his time here knows what that means. Classic like Classic Coke, among other bad ideas.
So here came the boos from the fans, from the wounded and the bone weary, and it was impossible to blame them. But that turned out to be the easy part. Those boos were nothing compared with the verbal abuse injured teammate Pernell McPhee sent Cutler’s way as the quarterback walked off the field.
It was the first time a Bears player seemed to agree so enthusiastically with public sentiment about Cutler.
But, this being Jay, there were aggravating circumstances. He said he had injured the thumb on his throwing hand earlier in the game, and that the inability to get a grip on the ball led to the interception. He finally told the coaches to take him out of the game, leading to Brian Hoyer’s appearance.
“I knew I was putting the team in jeopardy,’’ Cutler said.
Why didn’t he take himself out earlier? I’d rather have a healthy Hoyer than a Cutler with one thumb tied behind his back. Just more of the same from the Bears, who have made bad decisions a way of life.
There was nothing about a 29-14 loss to the Eagles that said the arrow is pointing up for this franchise. The offensive line didn’t block, the defense didn’t defend and the coaching staff didn’t do much other than look befuddled.
When the loudest message coming out of the home opener is that it’s going to be a long, long season, it makes you want to take up a hobby that’s easier on the system. Is toxic-spill mopping a hobby?
After the game, Cutler said he didn’t know the extent of his injury but did say he was concerned. He said he was not concerned about McPhee’s outburst.
“He’s a passionate guy,’’ Cutler said. “Everyone’s got a lot invested in this, and he does as well. No one likes to lose, and no one likes to lose in that type of fashion. He’s upset, I’m upset, everyone in that locker room is upset right now.’’
Cutler is Cutler. Many of us know that. Others refuse to acknowledge it. But there’s something almost offensive about the way the Bears have not just stood by his side but tried to construct a narrative that he’s a good player. As if the viewing audience doesn’t have working eyes and a rudimentary knowledge of football. That’s what made McPhee’s sideline act Monday so stunning.
Somehow Cutler manages to stay on, like the only employee who knows which keys go to what locks. For all his physical talents, that’s his most amazing skill. He managed to get a seven-year, $126 million contract in 2014 out of very little production. I’ll have what the Bears were having when they gave him all that money.
Here’s how his Monday night went:
— A pass that should have been picked off in the first quarter.
— A sack that led to a terrible fumble recovered by the Eagles.
— A pass so short of the receiver that it probably left a divot.
— And, almost like clockwork, that awful interception.
It wasn’t all his fault, of course. He was sacked three times. Jeremy Langford averaged 2.5 yards on 11 carries.
Even when the Bears did something right Monday, like stuffing a goal-line run on fourth down, something bad happened, like defensive lineman Akiem Hicks lining up in the neutral zone to give the Eagles another chance. That, of course, led to another Philadelphia touchdown.
Cutler was outplayed by Eagles rookie Carson Wentz, who had a nice, but not great, night. Wentz completed 21 of 34 passes for 190 yards and a touchdown. He made few mistakes.
The Bears are 0-2. Perhaps team consultant Ernie Accorsi can remind us about what he saw when he recommended coach John Fox to the McCaskeys, because right now, with the team in distress, it’s hard to see whatever it was he saw.
It was a brutal game to watch. The best part was the knowledge that it would eventually end. Midway through the fourth quarter, Soldier Field was mostly empty. The fans had seen enough. They had had their say. So had one of Cutler’s teammates, finally.