All you really need to know about Jay Cutler’s future beyond the torn groin muscle, beyond even 2013, was very clear on Monday when general manager Phil Emery gave his assessment of Cutler’s 6.5-game season:
“I thought he’s had a good year,” Emery said. “I thought he’s improved as a player. I’ve said it in the past: I’m a Jay Cutler fan. I continue to be. I think he’s improved as a player. I think his overall demeanor and his calmness have improved. I think he’s certainly gotten the ball out faster. I think he’s hitting more targets.”
And most significantly: “I think he’s been a key part in our leadership in leading us to victory.”
As CSNChicago.com has noted previously, Cutler will be the Bears’ quarterback in 2014. The only question is price — whether he agrees to a multi-year deal or the Bears use the franchise tag — and it likely has next to nothing to do with what the Bears do in the draft, which is a virtual lock to bring in a quarterback.
Here are the breadcrumbs:
* Emery and the organization began this year with a default setting on Cutler that at worst the team has been a 10-win team that past three seasons with him starting. Put another way, they liked the “old” Cutler. Emery used the word “fan” once before and again this week.
* With Emery’s selections of head coach and talent, Cutler is better now than at any time in his career (including 2008, because of ball security). The Bears like him even more now than they already did.
* NFL teams have used 45 different quarterbacks through seven weeks. The likes of Brady Quinn are being signed. The likes of Brett Favre are getting phone calls. Emery had the Bears far ahead of the curve by having Josh McCown in place and Jordan Palmer in camp and effectively their No. 3 on speed dial rather than the roster.
Put another way, the likely 2014 depth chart will be Cutler-McCown-draft pick. That is no reflection on Palmer, more a case of Emery and Trestman/Aaron Kromer/Matt Cavanaugh having a plan, which would have included a young quarterback this past draft had the Bears owned a third-round pick.
Injury prone? Not really
From 2009-12, Cutler missed eight games. Ben Roethlisberger missed nine. Tony Romo missed 10 (all in 2010). Matthew Stafford missed 19.
Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Joe Flacco, Philip Rivers, Aaron Rodgers are paragons of durability. They are arguably the exceptions in the current NFL.
The Bears should no more be moving on from Cutler than the St. Louis Rams should be from Sam Bradford or the Detroit Lions should have been from Stafford. They won’t be.
The solution, which the Bears have effectively implemented, is to have win-capable depth behind Cutler. They had McCown in 2011 and arguably would have salvaged the playoffs from the 7-3 start if they’d gone to McCown before Caleb Hanie.
Add a young, quality arm to the pipeline in the 2014 draft and the depth chart effectively forms for the next several years. No. 1 will be in place, with McCown and the new kid 2-3, or 3-2 (could a rookie ask for a better situation than working with McCown and Trestman/Kromer/Cavanaugh?).