It was perhaps the quietest potential season-ending injury ever reported in the history of the National Football League.
The Chicago Tribune’s Vaughn McClure first broke the news when he said via Twitter a team source mentioned a broken thumb on the former Vanderbilt QB’s throwing hand. A source told McClure the Bears are planning to move on without Cutler this season “for a while.”
It’s important to remember this isn’t a death sentence to the future of Cutler. It’s not like this is an ACL tear where he could be out for the next calendar year, and it’s certainly not to the degree of Tommy John surgery.
A broken thumb on the throwing hand is a tough blow, however, as the estimated recovery time is six to eight weeks. Given the best-case scenario, he would first be ready to return for wild-card weekend.
It’s very likely that since the NFL trade deadline is long and gone and there’s no sense in signing a free agent just to provide depth, that the Bears will turn to backup quarterback Caleb Hanie.
Hanie, 26, has appeared in six NFL games with the Bears throughout his entire four-year career. In regular-season play, Hanie is 8-of-14 for 66 yards and an interception.
Bears fans will also remember he made an appearance in last year’s NFC Championship game. Cutler suffered a knee injury right before the half and was ruled out shortly thereafter for the rest of the game. Todd Collins was inserted as Cutler’s replacement, but was shortly pulled eight plays later in favor of Hanie.
Hanie completed 13 of 20 passes for 153 yards and a touchdown and nearly led the Bears comeback against the Green Bay Packers before eventually throwing a pick-six interception to Packers defensive lineman B.J. Raji that proved to be the game-winner. Minus his two picks, it was a very impressive performance given the circumstances and pressure-filled situation.
Hanie deserves a shot to prove himself by filling in for Cutler for the team’s final six games.
But for the sake of argument, assume the Bears feel it's in the organization’s best interest to sign a free-agent veteran to add to the depth chart just in the case of another playoff “emergency.”
Who would be a likely candidate to sport the navy blue and orange uniform for the Monsters of the Midway?
Here’s a list of five possible, and realistic, QBs that Chicago could ponder about bringing in to fill Cutler’s roster spot.