Already down 0-2, the Chicago Bears are likely to miss the postseason for the sixth consecutive season, making it yet another failure in the Jay Cutler quarterback era. He’s going to miss some time with a thumb injury, and maybe it means it’s time to move on from him.
Cutler cost the Bears quite a lot in 2009: Kyle Orton, two first round picks and a third round picks. That’s the kind of price you pay for someone you expect to lead you to a Super Bowl. But whether it’s Cutler’s own flaws and failures, or simply the Bears struggling to put together a good offense and good defense at the same time, the Bears didn’t get what they paid for. They’ve made the playoffs just once with Cutler at quarterback, and that was in 2010. They finished with losing records these in 2014 and 2015. The rebuilding, it seems, either didn’t work, or is still in the works.
It was actually something of a surprise that the Bears signed a 7-year deal with Cutler in 2013, running through the 2020 season. However, like all NFL contracts, the numbers that matter have to do with guaranteed money, and when does it become worthwhile to cut a player if he’s simply not worth the cap hit anymore. Well, who knew Cutler becomes an affordable release after this season?
Cutting Cutler before the 2016 season, not something the Bears had any intention of doing, would have only cleared $2 million of cap space, and resulted in $19 million in dead money. However, next season cutting Cutler would save the Bears $14 million in cap space, and attached to just $2 million of dead money. Interestingly, there’s a theory that Cutler has a better shot of saving his job if he doesn’t play for the rest of the season.
One aspect of judging a quarterback’s contribution is looking at his win-loss record. Like in Baseball with pitchers, it’s a misleading statistic, yet rarely do teams with bad quarterbacks succeed. One could point at the Denver Broncos from last season and state the opposite, but teams like the Baltimore Ravens in 2000 and the 2015 Broncos are the exception, not the norm. Having a franchise quarterback, not just in name, but in ability, usually means prolonged success on a certain level. The Bears weren’t far from it even when they didn’t make the playoffs up to 2013, but the last two seasons and the beginning of this one have probably sealed Cutler’s fate, at least when it comes to his future as the team’s starting quarterback.
Don’t think that going 6-12 since being hired as the head coach means John Fox is 100% safe. If this season continues to go South, he might not get the chance to complete his rebuilding job in Chicago. However, while the Bears have plenty of issues all over the team, with injuries hitting them all over the field, Cutler, like quarterbacks always are, is the poster boy for this prolonged failure, and maybe will finally pay for not living up to expectations.