Somewhere inside Halas Hall on Wednesday, quarterback Jay Cutler was working on his injured throwing shoulder, while general manager Ryan Pace and coach John Fox were addressing the media.
Cutler wants to play again, but it’s uncertain where that will be. Pace and Fox made it known that Cutler was rehabbing and making impressive headway, but Pace still kept the details of what he called “real candid conversations” with him private.
“Once we make a decision as an organization, whatever it is, he’ll be the first to know and his agent, Bus Cook, will be the first to know, and I made him that promise,” Pace said.
“But again those decisions haven’t been completely finalized yet, but when they are, you know he’ll know immediately.”
Getting the Bears’ situation at quarterback in order supersedes everything this offseason. Pace acknowledged as much. And all signs continue to point to this being the offseason where life after Cutler begins for the Bears.
“In my mind, there is no more important position than the quarterback,” Pace said. “It is a critical position. And I know and I recognize that the decision that we make on that quarterback is going to be significant for all of us for the direction that this organization is going to head.”
It could mean sacrificing draft picks to acquire Jimmy Garoppolo from the Patriots. It could mean re-signing Brian Hoyer and/or Matt Barkley or going after A.J. McCarron or Mike Glennon in free agency.
As unlikely as it seems, it could mean keeping Cutler for one more year — the money isn’t an issue — and let him be the mentor for an early-round draft pick.
“It’s free agency, it’s trade, it’s draft, it’s current players on our team,” Pace said. “Everything’s on the table, and we’ve got to analyze all that and the next two months are going to be huge for that. It’s critical that we get that right.”
Still, nothing would energize an apathetic fan base more than a young quarterback, whether it’s Garoppolo or a high draft pick.
The third season of a rebuilding effort might seem late to inject a young QB, but Pace sees benefits to it.
On offense, there are questions at tight end and receiver, but the emergence of running back Jordan Howard and having center Cody Whitehair and guards Kyle Long and Josh Sitton in front of him make for a good starting point.
“If you are talking about adding a quarterback, you want to make sure your roster is equipped to handle that quarterback, [especially] when you come into a situation where there are a lot of holes and there is a lot of heavy lifting that needs to take place and you’re trying to fill needs all over the roster,” Pace said.
The same applies to the coaching staff.
Fox’s previous teams don’t have a history of developing quarterbacks, but Pace sees offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains and QB coach Dave Ragone as capable of doing it.
“It says something to bring Matt Barkley late in the year and have him function well for a guy that wasn’t even with us during training camp,” Pace said. “I like the fact that Ragone played quarterback at a high level. That’s important when you’re coaching that position and asking them to do certain things that you’ve seen yourself. This situation is set up well to handle that if that ends up being what happens.”
Still, it’s a situation that starts with deciding what to do with Cutler.
“I love him as a player,” chairman George McCaskey said. “I love him off the field. He gets enough credit for what he does off the field. As far as the football evaluation, that’s up to Ryan and John.”