So Adam Schefter reports the Bears can save some money by trading Jay Cutler this spring and the football world goes into a tizzy. Would the Bears do it? Who are the possible trade partners?? Jets? Bills? Rams? Rochester Jeffersons? Where will Camden go to school? How will Kristin cope with a city change? How many people will turn up for Waddle & Silvy remotes with Jimmy Clausen?
Take a breath. Two things.
First, I don’t believe for a second the Bears have interest in trading Jay Cutler. Phil Emery has displayed loyalty to Shea McClellin, his first draft pick, in the face of a city-wide firing squad against the former Boise State star. You really believe he would excommunicate a quarterback he just guaranteed $54 million?
Second, if the Bears traded Jay Cutler it would be pure, unadulterated stupidity; a short-sighted, cave-to-the-crowd mistake by an organization that has completely lost direction.
The Bears offense is not a group in need of a rebuild. The entirety of the offensive talent – Cutler, Forte, Marshall, Jeffery, Bushrod, Bennett, Long…etc. – aren’t going anywhere. Would this organization really be dumb enough to waste this talent in a rookie quarterback’s two-year developmental window? Would they be misguided enough to believe the Bears could employ another journeyman quarterback and sell that to the fans after quite literally 25 years of failing with that model?
And while Jay Cutler’s turnovers are frustrating, no question about it, do you really believe the Bears can replace his production in 2015 and 2016? In the NFC, Cutler is 4th in yards, 2nd in touchdowns, 5th in passer rating and 3rd in completion percentage. YES, he is also first in interceptions throw and fumbles too often on contact. But turnovers can be overcome when the Bears learn how to play mediocre defense. Turnovers don’t cripple the Indianapolis Colts because every one of Andrew Luck’s interceptions don’t result in an opposing touchdown. Cutler’s game is what it is. The Bears paid handsomely for that game. Now they are going to act surprised? Of course not. Now they must build a team around that game.
Can the Bears win with Jay Cutler? Of course they can. For all the talk of elite quarterbacks in the NFL, Peyton Manning has one Super Bowl. Drew Brees has one Super Bowl. Aaron Rodgers has one Super Bowl. These elite quarterbacks have not dominated the sport by any means. The last three Super Bowls were won by Russell Wilson, Joe Flacco and Eli Manning. Wilson can’t complete a pass this year, Flacco plays a weirder version of streetball than Cutler and Eli is the only player in NFL history who has been the best player in the world on two Super Bowl Sundays and the worst player in the world on about a dozen regular season Sundays. He is the anti-Peyton.
You know what all three of those teams did? Played defense when it counted. The 2011 Giants averaged 14 points against them in the postseason. The 2012 Ravens averaged 22 points against them in the postseason. (A defensive meltdown by Denver was the only reason they advanced from the division round.) The 2013 Seahawks averages 13 points against them last winter.
People say “the Bears can’t win with Jay Cutler” but they were one game from a Super Bowl with him in 2010 and arguably the hottest team in football with him in 2011 before injury. What did those teams have that this one doesn’t? A defense.
The Bears should not be looking for a way to dump the 35 touchdown passes and 4,000+ yards from the quarterback position they’ll receive in 2014. They should be looking to build a complete team around that production. They should be committing to this assemblage of offensive weaponry for the next two seasons by adding as much to the other side of the ball as possible; players and coaches.
Then judge Cutler. When his team isn’t having fifty bombs dropped on them three times in eleven games. When they are not dead last, DEAD LAST, in scoring defense. (Detroit is allowing 15.6 points per game. Chicago is allowing 29. You don’t need to be Will Hunting to realize that is nearly double.) Judge the quarterback of the Chicago Bears when there’s a Chicago Bears team capable of competing with the upper echelon of the league.
If the Bears want to select a quarterback early in the 2015 draft to groom as the future at the position, so be it. Cutler hasn’t earned another decade on the job. But he has earned the right to try and lead this group of offensive players deep into the postseason. He has earned that right by being the most prolific quarterback in the history of the Chicago Bears, by single-handedly modernizing the organization with his right arm and by never publicly complaining as the team went from coordinator to coordinator to coordinator to coordinator.
The next two years should be about Cutler. And Forte. And Marshall, Jeffery, Bennett. But they will be about nothing if the organization continues to field a non-competitive defense.