Without Cutler, the Bears had to forge ahead with Caleb Hanie and Josh McCown—each as abysmal as the other. If either had been a tiny bit competent, the end of 2011 could have looked a whole lot different.
Never let it be said the Bears can't learn from their mistakes—this offseason, they built up depth at several positions, including quarterback, where they added Jason Campbell.
Campbell is an intriguing player who seems to have gone from bad situation (Redskins under a billion different coaches/coordinators) to bad luck (Oakland just as Hue Jackson decided to trade everything in the house for an aging Carson Palmer).
Some will say he never took advantage of the situations he had. That he just doesn't have the chops to play in the NFL.
The truth is somewhere in between.
Campbell has the raw attributes of a starting NFL quarterback.
He has the starter-caliber arm strength and can make all the throws you want to see a quarterback make in the NFL.
If Cutler goes down, Campbell should be able to fill into the same offense that the Bears are running with little problem in terms of range. He doesn't quite have Cutler's arm, but he can put the ball anywhere on the field.
Campbell has shown tenacity in the pocket and an overall toughness—something he could need behind that offensive line. Hopefully the Mike Tice adjustments bear immediate fruit, but if not, Campbell would need to be able to hang under intense pressure.
The problem is, he may stay and make the throws under pressure, but his accuracy goes spotty. When he has time, Campbell hits his targets, but even then he'll make a throw that has you scratching your head. He can be a bit streaky whether under pressure or not, but there is definitely a degradation of accuracy when he's got defenders frequently in his face.
Again, one hopes the offensive line changes will work out, but if not, it's an area of concern.
The benefit of him coming in now is that he is learning the system Tice is installing with the whole offense, so he's not behind by much. He's had to learn new systems before (frequently) and the fact that it's not Mike Martz's ridiculously overcomplicated scheme will help.
He'll also get some familiarity with the core group of receivers like Brandon Marshall and Earl Bennett, though as a second-stringer, he may get to know rookie Alshon Jeffery better than either of them (fantasy football addicts take note—if Cutler goes down, Jeffery might see a bump if he hasn't already in the starting offense).
There is a lot to like about Campbell, beyond the fact that he is easily better than Hanie or McCown. If Cutler goes down (Bears fans throw salt over left shoulder, cross themselves and sacrifice bobbleheads to the football gods), Campbell has his flaws but is more than capable of holding the fort and making sure that if the Bears are on a course for the playoffs, that they don't implode like in 2011.