The search for a new head coach to replace Lovie Smith will involve a variety of names and backgrounds. But one name hangs like a thunderhead over the entire process, and ultimately over the foreseeable future of the franchise:
Cutler has gained the dubious identifier of coach killer after having been the final starting quarterback coached by Mike Shanahan in Denver and Lovie Smith in Chicago, and coordinators Ron Turner and Mike Tice in Chicago. Jeremy Bates stints as quarterback coach in Denver and Chicago ended with mentoring Cutler (Bates presumably will not be retained in the re-formed Bears staff).
Mike Martz was hired only after he was sent to Nashville to be interviewed by Cutler, not the other way around.
Why this looms as the cloud over the Bears process is that the single biggest specific reason for (most recently) Smiths and Tices exits was a non-functioning offense, which obviously starts with Cutler. Given the precedent of the Martz hiring, one wonders if the new coach will be put on a plane to be cleared by Cutler, with Brandon Marshall sitting in. Martz was in the role of supplicant from the beginning and he only worked as long as Cutler liked what he was hearing.
More important, in terms of small-group dynamics, will Cutler take coaching at this point of his career? The push-back under Turner, Martz and his position coaches was friction that did no one or the offense any good.
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Cutler turns 30 just after the 2013 draft. He just finished his seventh NFL season. He is what he is. Formed.
The top early candidates, because the unstated mission statement is to bring in a coach with credentials on offense, are Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy and Tampa Bay offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan. Keith Armstrong is on the list, from the Atlanta Falcons and a former Bears assistant.
Does anyone really envision Cutler (and Marshall) going along with ideas they dont agree with from assistants who have less time running NFL offenses than they have?
The bigger problem
And if Cutler is part of another destructive taffy pull, what do the Bears do?
Cutler has one year left on his contract. If GM Phil Emery and the new coach are satisfied that Cutler is the future, great. Extend him.
But if it doesnt work between Cutler and the new head coachoffense, where does that leave the Bears? They are expected to select a quarterback in this years draft. But finding Kirk Cousins, Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, Andy Dalton or another starter-grade quarterback is problematic to say the least.
But a failed Cutlernew guy situation would mean going into 2014 starting over at quarterback, with the defense already ticketed for needing massive restocking.
Cutler may indeed be the future of the Chicago Bears offense under another coach and coordinator. It could happen. But if the coach-quarterback fit is not absolutely perfect, missing the playoffs may be the least of the franchise worries.