Try as you might, you can’t run away from the three certainties in life: Death, taxes, and Jay Cutler no longer playing quarterback for the Chicago Bears in 2017.
Indeed, the Cutler era - after a grueling, controversy-filled eight seasons - is finally, mercifully coming to a close. As reported by ESPN’s Jeff Darlington, the Bears are “actively shopping” the 11-year veteran who had seemingly drawn criticism from every nook and cranny of the NFL during his Bears career.
The storied and tragic Cutler chapter in Bears lore has reached its conclusion.
You don’t need to think too long and hard about it. You’ll hurt your brain because this fact and the basis behind it is simple.
Cutler’s fate in Chicago was preordained long before this official report surfaced. His destiny as soon as he began to falter as an aging player with a new regime was set in stone. His future was predetermined as soon as the Bears who cleaned house led by Pace, figured he was too inconsistent to be the guy. No new personnel evaluator wants to tie their career to someone they didn’t even acquire three years in.
General manager Ryan Pace did commit to Cutler in his first season with the Bears in 2015 with hopes of reinvigorating the quarterback’s career in seeking stability following the much publicized drama and fallout with former head coach Marc Trestman. But injuries in only making five starts last year as well as inconsistency, plagued Cutler in 2016 following the highest passer rating of his career at 92.3 in 2015. This wasn’t a guy Chicago could rely on if they had any stake in becoming a contender soon. A rare, shrewd but necessary move from an organization with a history of a dearth of calculated planning.
Truthfully, the Bears should’ve began planning their fail safe to replace Cutler long before this offseason, but that’s a different problem altogether. For now, know that it’s over. It’s done. The end of the road, it’s here.
Blame the offensive system left in the dust and in pieces by former offensive coordinator, Adam Gase. Blame the turnstile offensive lines, the lack of a quality supporting cast, whatever. That’s simply the Bears way. Trading for Cutler seemed like the right decision in 2009 and moving on from him is the right decision in 2017, eight years later. The clean break is beneficial for both sides and was coming as soon as the avalanche of the disastrous 2016 season tumbled down on Cutler.
A player like Cutler who wasn’t necessarily always at fault for what transpired in his failures with the Bears also never evolved his game from the surly, inefficient and inconsistent gunslinger that dragged him down. Cutler received chance after chance but now wasn’t suddenly going to be allowed to again hold onto the reins of a franchise attempting to turn the corner.
Concern yourself with the “narrative” surrounding Cutler all you want - which is an interesting pejorative and crutch fans want to fall back on - this was inevitable and needed to be done. If the current Bears still bury themselves and find no success in the Pace era, which is certainly always possible, it won’t come on the back of everyone’s favorite punching bag. Their success or lack thereof will be put in the hands of someone they choose and invest in.
Ah, the timeless and endless pressure on a quarterback in Chicago. It can’t be beat.
And make no mistake, this is the official end of Cutler’s tenure in Chicago. The Bears aren’t testing the waters and then pulling him back on their line.
Halas Hall - which would sooner leak out nuclear or trade secrets before anything of substance seeped out - made sure to leak this in a controlled report. The Bears are making every last ditch effort to salvage what they can from Cutler, even if its a late round pick. If they can’t for some probable reason unload him to a desperate team in what is unfortunately an irregular quarterback market that may feature Jimmy Garoppolo, Tyrod Taylor, Tony Romo, and more, then the ol’ ball-and-chain is being cut loose either way. Expect the release to happen before the new league year starts on March 9th which in turn will also give the Bears some “flexibility” to boot ($14 million in cap space, approximately).
Even Cutler was actually informed of this shaky ground he stands on in Chicago in mid-January, back when the Bears formally began their offseason evaluations - as reported by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. When Pace said back on January 4th, that “he (Cutler) and his agent will be the first to know,” regarding his future with Chicago, he wasn’t lying. “Everything is on the table” meant everything and everyone but Cutler.
Unnamed “sources” note that when Cutler was asked of his feelings on the Bears’ plans with him back then, he simply “shrugged them off” (not really, although who knows).
You’d be hard pressed to figure that Cutler was in any way shocked by this meek revelation too, because he was no doubt looking for a fresh start of his own. Trust in the notion that at least this one time, the notorious nonchalant Cutler did, in fact, care.
Where his career takes him from this point on, no one can know for certain.
Perhaps a tearful reunion with his best buddy, Brandon Marshall on the Jets? Maybe they’ve made up. Resent does subside with time. Marshall did comment back in 2016 that he was the only one with the “huevos” to hold Cutler accountable in his tenure with the Bears. If you’re an optimist, another shot for chemistry isn’t out of the question. The two would make headlines in the Big Apple again, that’s for sure.
But now for the first time in almost a decade, say it to yourself again and again as a reminder: Cutler’s future and where and how he plays won’t be of concern to the Bears. It’ll no doubt take some time to sink in. All of the very happy memories from mistimed routes and interceptions, rocket arm touchdowns, and even cursing out his offensive coordinator on a live microphone, to which Cutler explained, “things happen”, gone, but not soon forgotten.
However, remember that you never truly move on from an ex.
The Bears will always have “Smoking Jay” close to their heart as he will with them.
Robert Zeglinski is the Bears beat writer for the Rock River Times and is a staff writer for Windy City Gridiron and Second City Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski.