The 2014 off season began with a few re-signings. None more significant than that of QB Jay Cutler. The polarizing Quarterback had an up and down 2013 campaign as he struggled to stay on the field through a groin injury. He compiled some decent stats on the way to a 5-6 record. Backup Josh McCown performed so well when Jay couldn’t go, he parlayed that into a starting opportunity for ex-Bears coach, Lovie Smith. Phil Emery decided Cutler was his QB going forward and signed him to a 7 year deal, thus stepping into the Bear trap.
I had mixed feelings at the time. The contract basically breaks down to $54 million dollars guaranteed over the first 3 years of the deal. The Bears can walk away after that for no further loss. The puzzling thing was, they chose not to franchise Jay if he chose not to agree to a shorter term deal. Me personally, I would have offered a 1-2 year extension. If Cutler didn’t like it, then I would have used the franchise tag. I believe this error in judgment set the Bears on the course they are currently on today.
I have three major flaws in Cutler’s game that would have given me pause.
- Turnovers. 122 interceptions and 52 fumbles lost in 113 career games. That’s not good. That puts a lot of pressure on the offense and defense.
- Doesn’t throw receivers open. Jay typically waits to see if a receiver is open before firing the ball.
- Doesn’t seem to ever have a sense of urgency. This is partially on the coach. There is never a change of pace on the offense, even when down.
Once Phil Emery and the Bears locked into Jay as their QB, it sent a message to the rest of the team: Jay is here to stay, at least for the next 3 years. Cutler has probably been one of the most over scrutinized players in the last few years. Sometimes unfairly so. Emery kind of compounds the mistake by not getting a solid #2 QB to “keep Jay honest”. Look no further than last year’s Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks. They were not afraid to start an unproven rookie QB over their $26 million dollar free agent QB Matt Flynn. This sends waves through the organization and lets players know there is no security to matter how much you are paid. This is not a small detail that goes unnoticed.
Once in the Bear trap, you have two options: Sit there and wait for bad things to happen to you, or cut your losses and move on with your life. Literally and figuratively. We shall see what the Bears will do in this unenviable position.