The Bears made it clear they weren’t going to ditch Jay Cutler without a replacement in mind. Marcus Mariota was that replacement. When Ryan Pace failed to land the Oregon quarterback at the top of this year’s draft, he realize the team’s best chance to win and his best chance to remain Bears GM is Cutler under center. While the team has only committed to Cutler for one season, there’s a good chance the new regime sees him as the guy who can potentially win them a bunch of games. If, for no other reason, because finding someone better isn’t easy to do.
If you go over the last five draft classes, sixty-one quarterbacks have been takenand you can count the number who turned out to be as good as Cutler on one hand. The only one to throw more touchdown passes than Cutler last year was Andrew Luck. Even if you go back to when Cutler was drafted in 2006, how many quarterbacks have been drafted since that ended up being as good or better? Not many. The Dolphins just gave Ryan Tannehill a big contract, not because they think he’s great, but because they don’t think they can find any better.
Good veteran quarterbacks don’t become available. It’s why the Bears didn’t hesitate to sign Cutler and why the Dolphins made sure to lock Tannehill up. The best quarterbacks are usually drafted early, earlier than the Bears plan on drafting again. For every Aaron Rodgers that falls later in the first round, there are two Brady Quinns. For every Russell Wilson who falls beyond that, there are three Seneca Wallaces.
In Mariota, the Bears saw a franchise guy who could carry their team for the next decade. There’s a good chance they don’t see anyone with the same potential next year and, even if they do, it’s not likely that they’ll be able to draft him. It wasn’t that the Titans didn’t want Cutler. It was that they wanted Cutler and a hell of a lot more. The same was true with Philip Rivers. When the asking price got too high, the Bears pulled back and went to Plan B: Building a team around Cutler.
With the seventh pick, the Bears gave Cutler a receiver who can jump over defensive backs AND score from anywhere on the field. In the third round they gave him someone who is going to protect him and make the line calls for the rest of his Bears career. Then they added a running back who is going to keep Matt Forte fresh in 2015 and probably replace him in 2016.
That’s two skill position players and a blocker in the first four rounds. The previous regimes managed to draft just three skill position players and two blockers that early in the previous six years. Good teams surround their quarterback with talent and that’s what the Bears are doing with Cutler.
“In my mind, we just got Jay another dynamic weapon. That’s what I’m excited about. I hope he’s fired up because we just gave him another powerful weapon. With this receiving core, this only adds to Jay’s ability to distribute the ball.”
The Bears don’t have a young, capable quarterback on their roster and they don’t have a head coach willing to wait out a 3-5 year developmental process. Cutler’s contract becomes less obtrusive each season he remains on the roster. Obviously the quarterback needs to play better than last year. He also needs to stay healthy. But if Cutler is just the player he has been, if he plays to his numbers, he’ll remain with the Bears for the foreseeable future.
The Bears know they have a good quarterback in Cutler. If they have a chance to upgrade the position, they’ll certainly do so. The same is true with all positions. But the Bears also know that finding an upgrade isn’t going to be easy and it isn’t likely. Their plan right now has to and should be to build around Cutler.
Like it or not, that’s their best shot.