I guess… Jay is our quarterback.
That was the message sent from Bears General Manager Ryan Pace and head coach John Fox when they introduced new defensive end Pernell McPhee at Halas Hall. The new Bears hierarchy is bringing along a part of the past as they try to rebuild for the future.
Signed to a massive seven-year $126.7 million offer ($54M guaranteed) by the old boss, the new boss found him nearly impossible to trade. And despite what they say, he tried. Combine his inconsistent play, nonchalant demeanor, whispers about being difficult for coaches and teammates to work with and you get a few shoppers, but nobody is buying. What makes the lack of interest in Cutler so telling is the weak corps of draft picks and free agents at the position. Teams looking to upgrade the most important position on the field with nowhere else to turn still had no interest in Cutler.
Pace’s announcement seemed like a captor reading his own ransom letter, rather than a general standing behind his troops.
“We went through a process of thoroughly evaluating the roster. We're moving forward with Jay Cutler as our starting quarterback.”
Not exactly a ringing endorsement and it shouldn’t be. Jay is “signed” through the 2020 season, but the Bears can release him after 2016 with minimal damage. With 18 interceptions in 2014, Cutler led the NFL tied with longtime nemesis Phillip Rivers. He showed an inability to recognize and avoid pressure. The improvement to Cutler’s game simply hasn’t been what it should be for a player of his skill set entering his 10th season.
The money isn’t the problem with Jay. Play at the quarterback position around the league is at a pretty low level. With the old guard of Manning and Brady coming to an end and nobody but Andrew Luck t fill that hole, there are a plethora of teams that could use a top 15ish quarterback. Most of those teams would be willing to pay the $15-16 million a year for a three year try.
It’s the attitude and demeanor that has opposing GMs keeping him at a Grinch’s distance (39-and-a-half-foot pole). Jay is not a leader. It’s not in his makeup to be the vocal leader and at his age that isn’t going to change. And forgive the abundance of military clichés, but that’s the mindset of the guys building rosters. They want the quarterback to be the field general, the leader, the heart and soul of the team. They want the quarterback that will raise the level of play of the guys around them. And there’s good reason. All the most successful quarterbacks in NFL history carry those traits. Jay sadly does not.
So the Bears are stuck with Jay for another year. And they are stuck with a bit of the old culture lingering around the clubhouse. But there’s a salary cap in the NFL and the Bears really can’t release him and eat the money without it having a negative impact on improving other positions. If they eat Jay’s money, then they are paying him and another starter. That other starter is a defensive lineman or linebacking depth. It’s a safety or extra help on the offensive line. That’s a trade the Bears can’t make no matter how indifferent they are to Cutler, especially if they want to truly rebuild this roster.