Yesterday, Chicago Bears coach Marc Trestman announced that he would be benching Jay Cutler and starting Jimmy Clausen in this coming Sunday's game against the Detroit Lions. It's about damned time! After Chicago lost to Dallas two weeks ago and were eliminated from the playoffs, I thought the Bears would put Cutler on the bench. When I turned on last Thursday's game against the Saints and saw Cutler step onto the field for the first drive, I stopped watching the game.
Is the Bears organization going to look through Cutler and blame only Trestman?
What more was there to see in Jay Cutler? How could he not have conclusively proven that he is a bust? Why weren't the Bears taking the opportunity to test out Clausen and / or David Fales for the remainder of this dead season? It seemed so stupid! Heck, if Clausen could win games or spark the offense back to life, it could save Trestman's job. It would be solid evidence that the Bears poor season was mostly on Cutler's shoulders, and not on Trestman's. Again, the Bears looked good last year with Josh McCown playing during Jay Cutler's injury, so Trestman and the Bears have already proven that they can be successful with other quarterbacks.
Well, Trestman and Emery finally smartened up and realized that Cutler isn't the guy. But now they only have two games to examine the potential of Clausen, and it seems unlikely that they'll bother with rookie David Fales. If I had been coach, I would have given Clausen one game as starter and given Fales one game as starter, then give the third game to whichever of the two performed better. It would let me know whether Fales is a keeper, or if I should look to the draft for yet another quarterback. The big question will be: can either quarterback successfully run Marc Trestman's west coast-style offense?
Unfortunately, neither Clausen nor Fales will have access to star wideout Brandon Marshall, since he is out for the season after being rushed to the hospital with broken ribs and a collapsed lung suffered in the game against Dallas. They'll still have Alshon Jeffrey, but it will be interesting to see if Jeffrey can handle being the number one guy, or if he is dependent on defenses giving most of their attention to Marshall.
Jimmy Clausen prepares for his first NFL start since 2010.
Of course, if the team doesn't look any better with Clausen under center, then Trestman will surely be gone next year (that may not be avoidable at this point anyway).
Personally, I believe that Trestman deserves a little bit more time. Again, the team performed well with McCown last year, as he actually ran the offense as it was designed. I certainly hope that if Clausen (or Fales) does well, that the team will give Trestman another chance. Of course, they'll still have to look at solutions on defense! The defensive coordinator will likely have to leave town along with Cutler, and the Bears will have to look for quality defenders in the draft. Finding out whether Clausen or Fales can support the team for a while takes a little pressure off of drafting another QB and frees up the Bears to focus on defense.
Even if the Bears do beat the Lions, there is an unfortunate consequence: it could put the Packers back at the top of the NFC North and guarantee them a playoff spot. They'd be in a position to make a Super Bowl run, which is the last thing that I want to see. Nothing rubs salt in the wound of a dismal Bears season more than watching Green Bay win another ring.
So where will Cutler be next year?
If the Bears decide to release Cutler, they'll be stuck paying a large chunk of his salary. He is the highest-paid player in the league this year (lots of money sitting on the bench). Can the Bears really afford to waste yet another coaching staff on Cutler if they keep Cutler but ditch Trestman? Cutler already forced Lovie Smith, Mike Martz, and it looks like Trestman isn't going to survive Cutler either. The Bears would be stupid to risk another coach or offensive coordinator on a coach-killing quarterback.
Jeff Fisher may need to replace
injury-prone QB Sam Bradford
So where would Cutler go?
Well, the Titans seem to be the most sensical choice. They need a QB, and had shown interest in drafting Cutler back in 2006, and Cutler already owns a home in the Nashville area. They showed interest in him last year, but that interest may have waned considering Cutler's abysmal play and high salary.
The Patriots also have a habit of taking other teams' trash and shaping them up. I doubt the Patriots would want to pay for Cutler if they already have Tom Brady. Sot hat is unlikely.
The Rams may also be looking to replace injury-prone QB Sam Bradford. Head coach Jeff Fisher had shown interest in drafting Cutler out of Vanderbilt back when he was coach of the Titans in 2006.
The Bills are also a good option. Their defense has turned out to be quite good, and all they're lacking is a solid quarterback. It would be ironic if Cutler displaces poor Kyle Orton yet again. But this is also a risky proposition for the Bills. While an elite defense could make Cutler look good by preventing opposing offenses from capitalizing on Cutler mistakes, it is also possible that Cutler's inconsistency could make that defense look bad by keeping them on the field too long. Orton's current problem is that he's inconsistent, and the Bills might not want to replace him with an equally (or moreso) inconsistent player.
The Buccaneers, Brown, Redskins, Jets, and maybe even the 49ers could be in the market for new quarterbacks. I doubt that Lovie Smith would want to bring Cutler into Tampa after the disaster at Chicago, but Smith might not be coaching that team next year anyway, so... I also think the Browns should keep Brian Hoyer, but sometimes NFL teams make bad decisions (like cutting Josh McCown and keeping Jay Cutler). So put simply: I don't see any team that is a good fit for Cutler.
Wherever Cutler ends up, best of luck to that team at reigning him in. You'll need it.
UPDATE December 23, 2014: Cutler to start final week against Vikings due to Clausen injury
Jimmy Clausen started against the Lions last Sunday, but still wasn't able to provide a spark of life to Chicago's offense. He didn't do anything special, and he also threw a game-ending interception. He also apparently suffered a concussion. As such, Chicago is back to starting Jay Cutler this coming Sunday in the season-finale against the Vikings.
I think Trestman is making a bad decision by starting Cutler. If I were in charge, I'd give the game to rookie David Fales. There is no better crucible for testing a new quarterback than with a meaningless late-season game. Even if he isn't fully prepared, playing him will help the coaches to identify his weaknesses and problem areas against a starting NFL defense in a live game. And if the coaches and management don't see anything redeeming in Fales play, then they will know that he isn't worth keeping on the roster and potentially hurting the team's chances in future seasons if the starter(s) ahead of him go down with injury.
Playing Cutler, on the other hand, only risks getting Cutler hurt and destroying any possibility of a trade.
I'm going to write this one off as yet another bad decision in a very long, sad history of bad football decisions in Chicago...