Many in Chicago hoped that 2016 would be the year Jay Cutler would build off of his previous season’s success and lead the Bears to the playoffs. Justin Twell wonders if, in the wake of his thumb injury and poor start, maybe it is time for Bears fans to move on from Jay Cutler.
Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler is once again under scrutiny –perhaps unfairly, depending on your thoughts on Cutler as an NFL quarterback. After a poor start to the Bears season and a thumb injury, fans are now raising the question of whether Cutler’s time in Chicago is coming to an end.
The Bears are coming off a poor performance Week 2 on Monday Night Football as they lost 29-14 at home to the Philadelphia Eagles. Some of Cutler’s long-noticed deficiencies were on display, one of which is his failure to secure the ball well, both in the pocket and when on the move, which has resulted in fumble troubles throughout his career (he has racked up 86 career fumbles, 3 of which have already come in 2016).
His fumble on Monday Night Football in the third quarter not only cost the Bears possession, but also resulted in Cutler injuring his thumb on the play.
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On the Bears’ next possession they ran the ball seven straight times before Cutler even threw the ball, an incomplete pass to tight end Zach Miller. Then we saw Cutlers last contribution on the night: an interception that appeared to be more of a mental mistake than one resulting from injury, and set up a Philadelphia Eagles touchdown that all but sealed the game. Cutler would not return because of his injured thumb.
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Up to this point in the season, the Cutler-led Bears offense has struggled to produce much and a large part of this is due to poor offensive line play as well as their inability to run the football effectively. Per Pro Football Focus, Cutler was pressured on 8 of his 20 dropbacks against the Eagles and was the most pressured quarterback in the NFL in Week 1, facing pressure on 54.3% of his dropbacks against the Houston Texans. Even with Cutler’s inconsistent play, not all the blame for the Bears poor start falls on his shoulders.
— PFF (@PFF) September 20, 2016
Coming into 2016, Cutler’s contract situation was one worth highlighting, but so too was his 2015 production. He was efficient in 2015 – but certainly not spectacular by any means. He completed 311 passes on 483 attempts for a 64.4% completion percentage – the second best mark of his career – for 3,659 yards with 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 15 games. The Bears finished 6-10 but Cutler was able to keep them in some of those losses, five of which came by four points or less.
As far as his contract is concerned, his cap hit is $17m this year per spotrac.com with $19m of dead money value should the Bears cut Cutler right now. However next year is where it gets interesting, because if the Bears cut Cutler after this season they will save $16m in cap space and lose only $2m in dead money.
The Bears organization has been patient with Cutler, mostly due to the the constraints placed on them by his contract. But, they reportedly tried to trade Cutler to the Tennessee Titans before the 2015 NFL draft for the number 2 pick, but the Titans refused.
Cutler has been very frustrating to watch for Bears fans. He’s always had the arm talent but inconsistent play ,turnover issues, and poor mechanics have plagued his career. These lapses in mechanics have come especially when facing pressure and throwing off his back foot.
Additionally, Cutler is 33 years old, and likely does not have much improvement or development left in his career arc. The question the Bears front office needs to answer is if he is the quarterback that can lead a rebuild and put this team back in the playoffs in a few years.
The Bears and their fans are desperate for success, and Cutler has yet to bring the success they crave. His thumb injury will keep him out for two to three weeks and this season is shaping up to be perhaps the most important of Cutler’s career.
But come the end of the season they’ll be in a better position to cut him if they decide the time is right to move on, and with another likely high draft pick in the 2017 NFL draft, perhaps this time is as good a time as any to move on.
Follow Justin on Twitter @JustinTwell78. Check out his work here, including on how the Detroit Lions will fare without Megatron, the elite Minnesota Vikings’ linebacker corps, the potential for a breakout season from the Chicago Bears’ Eddie Goldman, and how the return of Jordy Nelson helps the Packers.
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All film courtesy of NFL Game Pass