Jay Cutler left Week 2’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles in the second half with a right (throwing) hand injury.
Here’s the real question: will he ever take another snap for the Bears?
We don’t know the extent of Cutler’s injury. He could be back in a week, he could be out for the season. But Monday night’s loss highlighted that the Bears — a team in transition — don’t necessarily need, or want, Cutler back anytime soon.
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The Bears aren’t going to make the playoffs this season. They’re probably not going to make the playoffs next season, either. It doesn’t matter if Cutler is the quarterback for this year or the next, the Bears are not going to be a playoff team.
That’s by design — the Bears are one of the youngest teams in the NFL. They’re building to 2018 and beyond. Cutler is the oldest player on the Bears, at age 33.
His injury might be the best thing that could have happened to the franchise.
Cutler has played well, considering the poor offensive line in front of him and the lacking offensive talent around him (save for Alshon Jeffery) but he’s making too much and producing too little for the Bears to keep him around.
“Franchise” quarterback is an arbitrary term — much like “elite” — but “transcendent” is not. Cutler is not a transcendent quarterback — he’s not a signal caller who can elevate the play of his team singlehandedly, like Aaron Rodgers when he’s at his best.
Monday night gave us a serious indication that Carson Wentz might be able to reach that level soon.
Landing a player like Wentz has to be a tantalizing concept for the Bears.
The Eagles traded a boatload of draft picks to the Cleveland Browns for the right to draft Wentz, but the Bears do not have to go through all those hoops — they can stay the course and end up in position to land the transcendent quarterback they’ve lacked without moving assets.
The Bears would be lucky to win six games this season. They will almost certainly be drafting in the top 10 of the 2017 NFL Draft next spring regardless of who is at quarterback. But why chance it?
Cutler will only hit the Bears cap for $3 million, total, if they cut him before next season, according to Spotrac.com. The Bears can save as much as $71 million by cutting Cutler before the 2017 season starts. Why not get a head start on that process at the end of this season?
The Bears don’t need an experienced, plus-at-best quarterback to man the helm for the next two seasons. A 9-7 season does them no good. Why not try out some young QBs in the meantime?
If the Bears are looking to win Super Bowls in 2018 or beyond, it won’t be with Cutler as the quarterback. Even the biggest Cutler optimist would agree with that at this point.
Finding a franchise-level quarterback is hard. It’s even harder to sign or trade for one — the Bears could tell you that. The best way to find "the man" is through the NFL Draft, and the surest bet is to have a high pick.
With that being the case, why would the Bears jeopardize that by playing Cutler for the rest of the year? The Bears should call it an era and set themselves up for a better one in the years to come.