Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times writes this mea culpa. But it could have just as easily been me writing it:
“When Jay Cutler was injured in 2011, I made a tremendous blunder in predicting that Caleb Hanie would thrive in his place. While Cutler had led the Bears to five consecutive victories, his performances were hardly off-the-charts. He was replaceable.
“I couldn’t have been more wrong. Hanie was more awful than the harshest critic could have predicted.”
“Two years later, we have another chance to measure Cutler’s value to the Bears. Short of a 158.3 passer rating, 40-plus points per game and five or more consecutive victories, there’s nothing Josh McCown can do to create a quarterback controversy when (if?) Cutler returns. But Cutler’s absence — and McCown’s impressive performance Sunday in relief against the Redskins — gives the Bears a chance to see just how badly they need their franchise quarterback.”
I never thought Cutler was “replaceable” with Hanie. And, in fact, I did express some reservations about him. But I certainly did think Hanie would do better than he did. It’s possible I’m being fooled twice here but I don’t think there’s much risk in saying that McCown will be better than Hanie was.
It’s going to be fascinating to see how McCown does against a good team with a full week to prepare for him. But either way, I agree with Potash in that I doubt anyone whose opinion counts is thinking he’ll “replace” Cutler. They might try to find someone else to do it. But it won’t be McCown, who is a temporary fill in for either Cutler or the new guy at best.
I think this question from Potash is the one I’d really like an answer to:
“And while it was overshadowed by his injury, Cutler’s performance against the Redskins was a disappointment. With nine days between games, Cutler either was rusty or ineffective. Against a defense ranked 24th in the NFL against the pass, Cutler was 3-for-8 for 28 yards and an interception returned for a touchdown for an 8.3 passer rating. The rest of the league has a composite 104.5 passer rating against the Redskins in the first half this season. Why him? Why then?”
Cutler looked an awful lot like the quarterback that collapsed against really good teams on more than one past occasion until he got hurt Sunday. I said in my Game Comments that he didn’t look like he wanted to be out there. I stand by that. It was very disturbing and the Bears can’t afford to sign a quarterback long term who is going to perform like that, even occasionally, when they need him most. Perhaps Steve Rosenbloom at the Chicago Tribune put it best:
“Now the Bears will take this week off and apparently vote whether they want to play the Packers a week from Monday. Interestingly, if you had to vote on which game Cutler should miss for any reason, it would be the Packers. Always the Packers. So, the Bears have that going for them. I mean, nobody on the Packers defense ever said something like ‘just sit there and Josh will throw you the ball.'”
Up until last Sunday, I thought the Bears would re-sign Cutler in the offseason without question. But after only a few possessions in the first and second quarter last Sunday, I’m already very much doubting that assessment. I’d really like to know what causes Cutler to occasionally go into a mental shell like that and whether head coach Marc Trestman can do anything to prevent it. If he can’t, then they need to cut Cutler loose.
Cutler is very valuable to the Bears. Which may be why they’ll eventually need to let go of him.