The Chicago Bears may not have won the NFC North, but they had a rather promising season in 2013. They came within reach of a playoff berth but fell short to the Green Bay Packers on a last-minute touchdown. Still, it's clear the Marc Trestman era is off to a good start, and that pretty much all begins with their quarterback, Jay Cutler.
The Bears got off to a hot start in 2013, largely because of Cutler. They began their season at 4-2, and Cutler was phenomenal during that stretch. He had a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 12-to-3 and also averaged a 97.2 passer rating in that time.
What made this more impressive is that these weren't against fluff teams, they were against the likes of New Orleans and Cincinnati. Cutler was having one of the better seasons of his career until he got injured and things began to spiral.
Josh McCown played well in his place, but it was clear he was never the franchise quarterback they needed. Cutler's last few games this season weren't astounding performances by any means, but showed enough for the Bears to believe in him. Cutler is set to become a free agent, and it will be imperative for Chicago to re-sign the veteran gunslinger.
In fact, they don't have much of a choice.
Now, Cutler is no Peyton Manning, but he's the best available option for the Bears. There's no telling whether or not McCown will be able to replicate his numbers from before, and the Bears don't have a high enough pick in the draft to select a guy worth starting from day one. This is a franchise that, if not for some Aaron Rodgers magic, would be in the playoffs; starting over with a rookie just doesn't make any sense.
Besides that, Cutler knows the system better than anyone they'd get off the street and already has chemistry with his receivers. Let's also not forget it's just his first year under Marc Trestman and there's still a ton of room to grow, although he's already done a pretty good job of picking things up.
Cutler even has the support of his fellow players.
2013 was Cutler's most efficient season as a quarterback (89.2 rating) and foreshadows a bright future, so why not give him another shot to quarterback this team? I understand Chicago's trepidation with signing Cutler to a long-term, big-money deal, but they could probably work out some sort of mutually beneficial and economically smart contract.
Worst comes to worst and they can't figure a long-term deal, then slapping on the franchise tag would provide a buffer for them through the 2014 season to get things figured out. The bottom line is that the Bears need Cutler in order to keep up what they have going on.
*All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference*