“I think this is almost the perfect scenario to find out once and for all if Cutler is our QB.”
-4ever85 (AKA Butch Deadlift)
The Bears turned in their worst performance of the 2013 campaign, a three-phase meltdown in the City Where Santa was Booed. Soon after the players made it to the locker room and Tribune beat Rich Campbell made it to his smart phone, word began circulating that the focus had already shifted to the Green Bay Packers.
Just back from the Bears’ locker room. Those guys have already moved on to next Sunday’s game against the Packers.
Bears HC Marc Trestman said this game tape is going “in the trash can” after coaches watch it.
Bears DT Jay Ratliff: “We’ve got to put this game behind us & focus on next week because next week is really what matters.”
Make no mistake about it. Everything the Bears have achieved on the offensive side of the ball and failed to achieve on the defensive side will be forgotten at 3:25 PM CT Sunday. All the Alshon Jeffery catches, Chris Conte poor angles and Adam Podlesh shanks will be considered prologue. Those sixty minutes at Soldier Field will now be how the 2013 season is remembered. A victory will give Marc Trestman a division title in his rookie season and the Bears a home playoff game the following week. A loss will give the Bears a book of questions that require answering before they report to Bourbonnais next summer.
One of those questions may be the most pivotal faced by any football organization: do we have a franchise quarterback?
Should Sunday’s performance against the Packers be the determining factor for Phil Emery in evaluating Cutler’s future in Chicago? No, of course not. General managers need to look at an entire body of work when deciding whether to cut a check for 75-100 million dollars. Barring an unexpected run over the next month, one would hope Emery and the Bears organization have already made their decision on Cutler’s future in Chicago.
Should Sunday’s performance against the Packers be a litmus test for Bears fans when it comes to trusting Cutler as the guy? Absolutely.
This is Week 17. This is the Green Bay Packers. This is one game to decide the champion of the NFC North. And I know those three sentences will spawn tired refrains of BUT IT’S A BAD DIVISION and THEY ARE GOING TO BE ONE AND DONE but all of that noise is defeatist bullshit. There are only three things a team can win over the course of an NFL season: the division, the conference and the Super Bowl. (And losing the Super Bowl relegates the conference title to the bottom of the crowded closet.) Division titles matter. Playoff appearances matter. If you don’t believe that go back and read the criticism of Lovie Smith at the end of the 2012 season.
Cutler needs a big performance Sunday. For his teammates. For the fans. Hell, even for the national media who seem ready to pounce on him for every gesture and facial expression caught on camera. (ESPN’s rail headline after the Eagles embarrassed the Bears was Cutler Comes Up Short.) Cutler needs the type of performance that comes question mark free. 21-30, 325 yards, 2-3 TDs, 0 INTs. Make smart decisions. Execute the offense. Extend plays with his legs.
But more than anything else, Cutler needs a big performance for himself. He admitted to feeling pressure when returning from injury and hearing the calls for McCown to remain starter:
Last week was a tough week with everything surrounding it, the implications of the game, if we did lose the game, having to walk into the media room and deal with you guys if we did lose. All those things weigh on you. So being able to move on from that, I think this week is a tougher week gameplan-wise for us, but we should be up for the challenge Sunday.
Now Cutler faces the prospect of having only one more football game before the most important three-month period of his financial existence. The pressure will not be coming from the critics or Josh McCown. The pressure will be coming from Dom Capers’ Packers defense. Cutler is 1-8 against Green Bay. 1 win. 8 losses. The excuse for not increasing that number to 2 can not be the lack of turnovers or porous run defense. Cutler has to overcome these overwhelming defensive deficiencies the way great quarterbacks do in the big moments. He needs to put more points on the board than the other guy no matter how many points the other guy puts up.
Soldier Field is the sight. Home of the Chicago Bears. If Cutler wants it to remain his home for his foreseeable footballing life, a win Sunday could go a long way towards achieving that desire. It would also put the sixty-one thousand plus in attendance and hundreds of thousands elsewhere firmly in his corner moving forward.
DBB NOTE: Due to the holiday this will be an abbreviated posting week. Barring any news of note, I’ll be returning Thursday with this week’s Game Preview. As always you can keep up with the thoughts and opinions of DBB by simply following me on Twitter. To do that, CLICK HERE.