Not since the days of Kevin Butler has the No. 6 been capable of meaning so much to the Windy City.
Despite the fact that Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels has disputed publicly the idea of trading their Pro Bowl star, mere claims will not remove Cutler from the wish list of fans in every city that a quarterback-rattled franchise calls home.
And with Jerry Angelo recently proclaiming the need for solid signal-caller to line up under center for the Bears, you rest assured that the Chicago faithful will hold him to his word.
Angelo is obligated to consider all options pertaining to filling major teams needs. If quarterback is, in his words, their "Achilles' heel" under his watch, then the possibility of acquiring Jay Cutler must be evaluated regardless of the odds.
But how would acquiring or passing over Jay Cutler impact the near future for the Bears?
Compensation for Cutler?
Lets take this hypothetical scenario: In exchange for Jay Cutler, the Bears give their 2009 first- and third-round picks to Denver, as well as a 2010 pick to be determined by Cutler's performance.
This type of compensation would not be out of the ordinary for a player of Cutler's caliber, and would give Josh McDaniels and GM Brian Xanders a great foundation to build on. With at least eleven picks to work with, Denver's new regime would have the opportunity to mold the team however they see fit.
Jay Cutler's arrival in Chicago would give an immediate boost to the fanbase and provide the team with a quarterback who already has a respectable track record. But with no first or third-round picks in the draft, the Bears would be forced to neglect either the wide receivers or offensive line, both of which are in major need of repair. Additionally, defensive needs would potentially be put off until day two.
Compensating Denver with the first-round pick in 2009 and the second and fourth-round picks in 2010 may make more sense for Chicago's immediate draft needs, but less sense for Denver's gain. But regardless of compensation, quarterback is the most difficult position to solidify in the NFL. By moving Cutler, McDaniels and Xanders would potentially be digging themselves into a very deep hole.
Backed into a Corner
So, what if nothing changes? What if Cutler remains the starter in Denver, and Kyle Orton remains the starter in Chicago?
While critics of Jerry Angelo and Lovie Smith are busy blogging about the lack of a "splash" in free agency on the part of the Bears, a perfect storm is rolling across the midwest and could hit Chicago in 2010.
Consider the 2009 elements. Kyle Orton is entering a contract year with a lot left to prove. Lovie Smith is taking control of the defensive playcalling. And Jerry Angelo is in need of churning out a top-flight draft class. Should any one of them fail, the other two could easily fail as well.
Contrast the recent firings of Eric Mangini and Mike Shanahan with the quick success of Tony Sparano and Mike Smith. Coaches in the NFL today are on a shorter leash than ever. It wouldn't take much for the Bears to go into the 2010 offseason with a new coaching staff at the helm. A third-straight season without a playoff appearance could be the straw that breaks the camel's back for Lovie Smith's job—and possibly for Angelo's as well.
A new staff could also be the ideal incubator for a new quarterback, especially given the expectations of those who will be entering the draft following their senior year.
Two Roads Diverged in a Yellow Wood...
Perhaps there is a slim chance that Jay Cutler will be wearing orange and blue in a different city next season, but he likely will never walk out of the northwest tunnel at Soldier Field and take up position the home team's sideline.
But regardless of what does or does not take place, rest assured that 2009 will decide which path the Bears will take in the decade to come.