It’s time for Bears to think seriously about heir to Cutler

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Bears quarterback Jay Cutler stands on the field watching the team warm up before the game against the Cowboys on Sunday in Arlington, Texas. | LM Otero/AP

ARLINGTON, Texas — So off we go, minus Jay Cutler for a spell.

And you have to wonder whether this is a bad thing.

Quarterback Brian Hoyer was brought in last spring to be a backup, not a starter. He’s an OK player — the Bears’ 31-17 loss Sunday to the Cowboys was certainly not his fault — but you’re not going to build playoff aspirations around a 30-year-old guy who is playing for his sixth team in eight seasons.

What we have in Chicago among Bears fans is what best can be called ‘‘Cutler fatigue.’’

As good as Cutler can be at times, he has an aura of blandness and we’re-not-quite-going-to-get-there to him. And, of course, the Bears haven’t quite gotten there with him in seven-plus seasons.

It’s hard to say average much better than Cutler’s 50-49 record as the Bears’ starter. Had he played against the Cowboys, he likely would be an even 50-50.

His injured right thumb likely will keep him out for at least another week and maybe longer. Nobody knows for sure because we never really know anything about Bears injuries. The Bears’ wounds are bigger secrets than the codes to Wells Fargo’s fake bank accounts.

Cutler’s bad thumb was operated on five years ago. For a quarterback, the thumb on the throwing hand is nearly as important as the elbow or shoulder when it comes to control. You can try to play with a bad thumb, but you won’t play well. Balls will fly like game birds.

So what do the Bears do?

There really isn’t anything they can do this season. Right now, after giving up 447 yards to the Cowboys, the defense is as much of an issue as the offense.

But there was something the Bears could have done during the offseason: They could have drafted a quarterback.

There were a bunch of fresh, young quarterbacks taken in the 2016 draft, including Jared Goff, Carson Wentz (who beat the Bears last Monday), Jacoby Brissett, Cody Kessler and, tellingly, Dak Prescott.

Prescott, of course, is the Cowboys’ starter now that Tony Romo is out with a back injury suffered during the preseason.

Prescott was a dynamic

19-for-24 for 248 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions against the Bears. His passer rating was a stellar 123.6, and he also ran for 36 yards and a touchdown.

Here’s the thing about Prescott: The Cowboys took him in the fourth round — after the Bears had picked three players in the same round. Prescott was the 135th player taken. To say he was available is to say Carrot Top is available.

But maybe the Cowboys should have drafted a quarterback even sooner. Romo, 36, who has shown periods of brilliance, is brittle and missed all but four games last season, too.

Do you simply keep a star quarterback, pray he doesn’t get crippled and fill the No. 2 spot with any journeyman out there?

The answer, when things go bad, is clearly no.

Hoyer looked capable against the Cowboys — as capable as Cutler, for sure — passing for 317 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.

The Bears can get rid of Cutler at the end of the season. Just cut him like dead bait, not take too big a salary-cap whack and start fresh.

Sometimes you can get too emotional about these things and demand change for change’s sake. But even if Cutler is better than Hoyer, he is a symbol of bland.

He has been given a chance, and he’ll leave Chicago — whenever he goes — with virtually all the Bears’ quarterback records.

But what this team needs is hope. And that’s not being too emotional, only reasonable. The Bears need hope that turns into success. Why else play the game?

Prescott isn’t the answer to all of the Cowboys’ problems, but he’s a nice stopgap.

Or maybe he’s a star. He’s only 23. He’s uninjured. Blue sky above.

‘‘I’m concerned,’’ Cutler said last week of his thumb. ‘‘As a quarterback, you kind of need your right thumb.’’

Yep. And maybe he can stick it out and a hitch a ride to a team that needs an average backup.

Follow me on Twitter @ricktelander.


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