Week 9 brings a break for the Bears but not for our staff. The Five Questions piece this week is aimed inward as we examine the state of the team. As you might imagine, throwing questions to a half dozen bloggers produced a volume of hot takes so massive, the Fire Marshall ordered us to break it into multiple pieces. Today, we dig right in with the fate of Jay Cutler.
Jeff Berckes: Universally, the first question I get on these pieces is about #6. On the heels of one of his most impressive professional victories, what do you think the Bears should do about Cutler in the offseason? Hold, cut, or trade?
Robert Zeglinski: Undeniably, the Bears need to hold onto Cutler. They aren't ready to move on with a new young quarterback nor would it make sense to. This is a team, as you saw against Minnesota, that if it had all its healthy parts, would have looked dramatically different in their 1-6 start. The talent Ryan Pace has brought in is really starting to shine and Cutler adds an element as this team's leader that potentially puts them on the cusp of something special. I've never wavered in the idea that they can win a title with him provided the surrounding roster is sound, and that's starting to happen. Finish out his contract.
Jeff Berckes: Wow! Okay, we get an endorsement for 4 more years! Who else thinks the hold is the right way to go?
Josh Sunderbruch: The Bears need to hold on to Cutler. The quarterback who is going to take this team into the future is not on the roster (and Pace needs to get on that). However, nothing would help that future quarterback out more than having a guy in front of him to take the heat and to hold things together while he adapts to the NFL. With a team-friendly deal and his ability, Cutler is that guy.
Ken Mitchell (aka Sab, aka Den Master): Hold: He's under contract, his contract is not that high for a starting QB, and we have nobody to replace him. I'm not opposed to moving on but only if we have a viable upgrade option. Definitely draft a replacement though, 100 percent sure on that one.
Steven Schweickert: Can I answer in a "Not Cut" format? The Bears get no extra benefit from cutting Cutler except for the roster spot, versus they either keep a serviceable-to-solid starting option at quarterback or they extract some additional value out of him at the end of his contract (It is not an untradeable contract by any stretch). A future draft pick at quarterback is a must, but that doesn't mean that getting rid of the current guy is also a must for at least the next year.
Lester A. Wiltfong Jr.: I’m with Ken, Jay’s contract won’t hamper the Bears next year, so keep him, but draft a guy. I’m not sold on any of the QBs coming out as being able to be day 1 starters, so draft your guy, coach him up, and make the move when he’s ready.
Jeff Berckes: Josh, Ken, Lester and Schweickert are advocating for a hold in 2017 but draft the replacement this year. Anyone want to disagree?
Jack M Silverstein: This will sound like a cop-out but I swear it isn't: the Bears should make the decision that gives them the best chance to win a Super Bowl as soon as possible. You should never ever ever ditch a guy without a plan to replace him. I don't believe in addition by subtraction. The Bears made that mistake with Lovie, the Bulls made that mistake with Thibs, and the Bears tried to make that mistake when Trestman benched Jay in 2014 only to have him back the next week.
Jay is arguably the best QB in franchise history, unquestionably the most physically gifted, and almost definitely the best Bears QB post-Luckman. Every year Bears fans start tripping and pretend the guy behind him should be the starter. Every year they eat their words. If Jay gives us the best chance to win a Super Bowl in 2017 or 2018, keep him. If trading him is best, trade him. But stop pretending like Joe Backup is better than #6. He ain't.
Jeff Berckes: Total cop-out, Jack. The public wants answers, not wafflers! Is anyone going to cut Cutler?
EJ Snyder: I'm going to go against the grain here; I think Cutler goes in the offseason. Via trade would be nicer but I think they may let him go. I know there are many reasons not to (friendly contract, solid ability, toughness, no player on hand to replace him, etc.) but hear me out. Several things are aligning to make me think that Jay could leave town.
A.) The Bears will have a high pick this year, unless they win out. Quality starting QB's typically come from high up in the draft. You can throw Brady, Wilson and Dak at me but they are literally the only ones. Starters generally come from round 1 or high in round 2. The Bears will have that shot this year and they have to take it.
B.) Cutler does not want to mentor anyone. He wants to be the top dog and start... and rightfully so (he's better than about half the league's QB's). If Chicago wants to have a QB develop it will not be behind Cutler, it will be on the field, ala Wentz, Dak, Luck, etc.
C.) Where there's smoke there is fire, and there is so much smoke around Jay, it's blinding. If it not his personality/leadership, it's Fox's relationship with him. If it's not that it's something else. It's always something else; the players around him, the coordinator's, the line, etc., etc. ad nauseum. The bottom line is the bottom line and it always has been: he's average and that's what he's going to be. The part that scares us as Bears fans is we've seen worse (much, much worse) and we are averse to going back there... but that is the gamble all teams have to take to move forward and be great. I think the Bears rip the band-aid off and go for broke... right or wrong.
Jeff Berckes: I’m pretty sure EJ just wants to write up every single QB in the upcoming draft for Draft Watch. What about the trickier proposition - that is, keeping Cutler with an eye for trading him away?
Sam Householder: Hold until you know you have a better option. Next year his salary is $12.5 million with a $16 million cap hit. While that is far and away the highest contract on the team, the team still has a projected $42 million in space (All numbers from Spotrac), so it hardly ties them up.
In a league where Cleveland has had five different QBs play for them, where a wanna-be Super Bowl contender in the Vikings deemed it important enough to trade a first round pick for a mediocre starter and where there are several franchises being held back by poor QB play (Houston, Jacksonville, Los Angeles, San Francisco), why would you want to dump a starting-caliber QB?
At worst he's a highly paid back up, at best he's what he's been for eight seasons: a top-15-20 starter. Cutler has his shortcomings, he's frustrating at times, but until you know you have a better answer there is no excuse to cut him loose. With that in mind, his contract is definitely trade-able at this point but with that sort of "make him be the back up" leverage they can force a slightly higher return if need-be because they don't HAVE to trade him.
Let’s recap: Five of our writers think Cutler will be under center next season, one thinks he’ll be gone, one made the case to possibly trade away if the Bears find their guy, and Jack made us waffles.
If you were Ryan Pace, what would you do with Cutler this offseason?