Jay Cutler Injury: Potential Long-Term Absence Would Derail Bears' Playoff Hopes

Steven CookFeatured Columnist IVOctober 20, 2013

LANDOVER, MD - OCTOBER 20:  Quarterback Jay Cutler #6 of the Chicago Bears walks off the field after being injured on a play against the Washington Redskins in the second quarter during an NFL game at FedExField on October 20, 2013 in Landover, Maryland.  (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

If Jay Cutler's injury is season-ending, go ahead and close the book on the Bears' playoff chances. 

The Bears quarterback limped off to the locker room and didn't return to Sunday's loss to the Redskins per CBS Sports' Will Brinson, and the groin injury looked to put the former Vanderbilt standout in a considerable amount of pain walking off.

Cutler rolled over awkwardly after being taken down by Redskins defensive lineman Chris Baker for a sack and had to get help from trainers leaving the field. 

The news only got worse for Bears fans Sunday night when NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal reported that one source told NFL.com's Mike Silver that the injury "sounds bad" and an MRI on Monday will likely reveal his fate. 

Such an injury is likely the Bears' worst nightmare, as the embattled gunslinger was in the midst of a career-best season and had Chicago emerging as one of the NFC's best early on. He has 1,630 passing yards with a completion percentage of 66 along with 12 TDs and six interceptions. 

Josh McCown actually came in and played pretty well for the Bears in the loss, as the offense put up 41 points. He finished 14-of-20 passing for 204 yards and a touchdown.

But the 34-year-old hasn't been able to hold onto a starting spot in the NFL for a reason. He's been inconsistent at times, throwing more interceptions (44) than touchdowns (37) in his 11-year career. 

The Bears are his seventh NFL team, not including his 2010 stint in the UFL. 

LANDOVER, MD - OCTOBER 20:  Quarterback Jay Cutler #6 of the Chicago Bears throws a pass against the Washington Redskins in the first quarter during an NFL game at FedExField on October 20, 2013 in Landover, Maryland.  (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Im
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

And Cutler has emerged as the leader of this Bears team, and that's especially true this season under new head coach Marc Trestman. It seems like the coaching change has injected much more confidence into the quarterback.

The main reason why losing Cutler will derail their season is the competition they already faced to get into the playoffs. Right now they're tied for second in the NFC North with Detroit but trail Green Bay by a half-game. 

Neither of those teams are going away, and they just so happen to be the next two opponents on the Bears' schedule.

Should Chicago have to make the transition to McCown as the starter, it'll likely take some time before the team can be expected to win fierce divisional games like that. Green Bay is especially hot at the moment, and the Lions are also surging while Chicago declines.

Plus, there's always either the Seahawks or 49ers—whoever doesn't win the NFC West—who look like a shoo-in wild-card winner along with either Green Bay or Detroit, or a slew of NFC East teams that won't be trying to make a midseason QB change. 

The Bears boast a formidable rushing offense when Cutler is having success in the air, but it lacks any sort of effectiveness without that aerial threat. More than just the passing game relies on Cutler. 

One quarterback who doesn't get enough recognition for the value to his team is Cutler, whom the Bears would be lost without. Unless McCown has his best years ahead of him, it's hard to see them making the playoffs if they lose him for the long term.