– Jim Bearor
Do dumpster fires excite you? Go ahead, make some popcorn. You have time. This one’s a slow burn. We have yet to see the spark, but the match has been struck, giving off the sulfury smell and bit of smoke that almost always precedes fire. The Chicago Bears are a bad football team, and they might get worse before they get better.
The severity of Cutler’s thumb injury is hard to determine right now, but his absence helps us see the team in a different light. Lamarr Houston’s torn ACL and the slew of injuries to other starters decimates an already spotty roster. Having Hoyer come in and right a ship with this many holes is a pipe dream, and any scenario where this team is competitive requires the ultimate actualization of the “next man up” mentality. Alshon Jeffrey is in a contract year, which also will need to be addressed before next season.
Let’s say Cutler comes back in a month or so, plays alright, and the Bears finish the season at 6-10. That doesn’t do anything to silence the cries for his head, and he’s under contract through 2020 – and boy, is it a great contract for him. If Cutler gets brought back for a ninth year in Chicago (holy shit, he’s been there nine years?), 2017 could end with a very thorough cleaning of house.
We’re only in year two of the John Fox regime and he doesn’t have a ton of talent to play with, but you have to figure that he’s working with a three year window – at the most – where he has to come up with some semblance of progress, or he goes the way of Marc Trestman or Lovie Smith (poor Lovie, who went 10-6 and still got the axe). The front office will be feeling the heat before too long as well.
I feel like a lot of people came into this season with a “wait and see” approach to the Bears. This is consistent with the way I’ve always thought about Jay Cutler too, always reserving judgement on him because of his physical tools, his questionable surrounding casts, and his flashes of competence. We have to be getting near the end of that fuse though, right? His demeanor doesn’t help matters, and that topic would easily be swept aside if he was producing results – but he’s not. In the 11th year of his career, the football world is looking at Cutler with the same glazed-over expression of disinterest and disappointment that he basically trademarked.
Few would cry for him if the Bears were to move on, even though that move would all but guarantee they take the plunge into the dreaded rebuilding process. The question is: would the team be better off if they reach for the reset button earlier rather than later? I say no.
If this whole thing burns to the ground, so be it, but I think the smart move is to hold off on taking action, at least until the dust settles at the end of the season. I’m generally a proponent of consistency and patience when constructing a team, and this is one of those cases. It would feel a bit premature if John Fox got canned during his second year, especially with the state of the roster he’s coaching. Ryan Pace, the GM, was just hired in 2014, and while it’s easy to have concerns with the team he has assembled, he can’t be blamed for his players’ injuries.
Jay Cutler? He’s the Jenga piece that’s asking to be pulled out.
He’s the itchy scab that may or may not be ready to come off. Like the scab, he brings pain when pressed. Tearing him away would draw blood and bring to light the fact that there’s still healing to be done. If the choice was mine, I’d let this season play out and maybe the scab will fall off on its own. Casting away the apathetic Cutler won’t solve the other personnel issues, and it’ll smudge the lens we view and judge John Fox through. All of this being said, his less-than-desirable locker room presence is all the justification this team really needs to move on – and if the organization does decide to go that route, I don’t think I could blame them. After all, all I have to go off of is the word of beat reporters and what I see on television.
By the way, this incident in the tweet below was on television. I wish Vin Scully would lip read Pernell McPhee’s message for us, but its easy enough to discern: “Wake the fuck up!”
Here is the video of McPhee yelling at Jay Cutler. ( Via CSN Chicago) pic.twitter.com/l10p1Nv41R
— Chicago Sports News (@ChiSportUpdates) September 20, 2016
I’m not sure how much we can take away from that, but it’s certainly not good. I think the answer on when to flush this all down the toilet depends largely on Cutler’s actual reputation on the team – and I’m sure it’s a little more complex than his facial expressions and the way we see him react to throwing an interception on our TVs. Even if it is simple as that, the Bears will choose to keep or cut ties with him, and that’ll be the main talking point about this team. It doesn’t matter how much of his team’s failures are on him, because he’s the quarterback and the face of the franchise. His face pisses a lot of people off in Chicago (including at least one teammate), and he seems on track to be the next scapegoat.
The Bears have historically been a patient organization, but there have been quite a few shakeups in recent years. I think they should keep Fox and Pace through 2017. If Cutler isn’t an absolute cancer in the locker room, and if Chicago doesn’t bottom out and target a quarterback early in the draft next year, I say stay with Jay. Worst case scenario: The Bears suck, and with Jay Cutler’s mopey face gets the brunt of the hate.
I really do hope they turn this around because I like watching John Fox, and I enjoyed Good Jay Cutler, even though we don’t see much of him anymore and his appearances were few and far between. However, I see this as the beginning of the end for the Bears as we know them. Patience with their quarterback is wearing thin, and soon it’ll be “Good riddance Cutler!” followed by “Now what?”
– Jim Bearor (@JimBearor)