The Chicago Bears are facing the unimaginable. After a 3-0 start under new head coach Marc Trestman, the Bears have lost three of their last four, and now they will lose their signal-caller Jay Cutler for at least four weeks, and maybe even longer, due to a groin injury.
The loss of Cutler is huge for the Bears' season, especially with how things have been as of late. They need their playmaker to give the team its best chance to win down the stretch, and for that very reason, Phil Emery and crew cannot let their franchise guy walk away from Chicago next season.
Cutler is in the final year of his five-year contract. No. 6 has faced injury several times throughout his tenure with the Bears, but nonetheless he has been a fighter through some tough years where he just could not receive any protection or time behind an atrocious offensive line.
Under Trestman, the Bears and Cutler have made strides this season. The Bears started the season with three straight wins, the first two including strong fourth-quarter comebacks from Cutler.
More importantly, the numbers are what prove Cutler has progressed significantly under Trestman's system.
|Jay Cutler Through Six Games 2009-13|
|Year||Comp %||Yards||TDs||INTs||QB Rating|
From the data above, it is absolutely clear that Cutler is having a significantly better season. Of course, one could argue scheduling, but Cutler's numbers are much better than the start he has had his previous four seasons.
The most significant improvement is the quarterback rating, which is nine points higher than his previous best overall start, 2011.
Cutler is clearly improving under Trestman, and it would be unfair to both Cutler and the Bears organization to stop something that could potentially be special.
The weapons in this system are also significantly better than what Cutler has had in the past, with wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery accompanied with a stellar tight end in Martellus Bennett. Not to mention, running back Matt Forte has always had good hands, making Cutler's arsenal at four game-changing targets when all healthy.
The other reason the Bears cannot let Cutler go is because their other options just are not anywhere close to the potential of Cutler. Below are the potential free-agent quarterbacks this upcoming offseason.
|Potential 2014 Free Agent QBs|
|Kellen Clemens||St. Louis Rams|
|Jay Cutler||Chicago Bears|
|Pat Devlin||Miami Dolphins|
|Josh Freeman||Minnesota Vikings|
|Rex Grossman||Washington Redskins|
|Chad Henne||Jacksonville Jaguars|
|Shaun Hill||Detroit Lions|
|Tarvaris Jackson||Seattle Seahawks|
|Josh McCown||Chicago Bears|
|Luke McCown||New Orleans Saints|
|Dan Orlovsky||Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
|Charlie Whitehurst||San Diego Chargers|
|Michael Vick||Philadelphia Eagles|
Not a single quarterback above has the same skills as Cutler (besides arguably Michael Vick, but the Eagle is even more injury prone). Even if McCown has a solid season in Cutler's absence, it is still clear that No. 6 is the better quarterback.
Of course, the other option is for the Bears to draft a quarterback in next year's draft. While there are a lot of signal-callers in this year's group, the few that could potentially start right away will be out of the Bears' reach as one could assume Chicago will be picking outside of the top 10.
|Current Top 10 QBs in the 2014 NFL Draft|
|Johnny Manziel||Texas A&M||1|
|Derek Carr||Fresno State||2|
|Stephen Morris||Miami (Fla.)||2/3|
While a lot of the players above have potential, not many of the quarterbacks outside of these top 10 prospects scream first-year starter. Of course, anything can happen, but when you have a talented QB like Cutler, you'd be foolish to roll the dice on a rookie in the first few rounds when so many other pieces are needed across the board.
The Bears' season isn't over, but in the next couple weeks we are going to see what kind of team they really are. Without Cutler, the defense really needs to step up. Of course, the loss of veteran linebacker Lance Briggs doesn't help, but fans can only hope that the backups can pick up the pieces and make a great start into a strong finish.
If Cutler can come back after four or so weeks, perhaps he can earn the contract he was playing for. If not, the Bears should still give him a deal to keep their leader under center for many years to come.