Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler is a lightning rod for controversy. Whenever someone even mentions his name, you are going to have an opinion, either positive or negative. The value he adds to the team, however, can't be understated.
Cutler is dealing with a neck injury he suffered late in the Bears' Week 14 loss against Minnesota. He was not playing well before leaving the game, with two interceptions and one touchdown, but the future is what the Bears have to be concerned with.
Five weeks ago, it seemed like a given that the Bears would be in the postseason. They were 7-1 and leading the NFC North heading into a showdown with Houston. Cutler left that game after just 14 attempts and two interceptions, with a concussion and missed the next game against San Francisco.
Starting with that game against the Texans, the Bears have gone 1-4 and find themselves as the No. 6 seed in the NFC heading into this week's matchup with division rival Green Bay. They are just one game ahead of Washington, Dallas and Minnesota for the final playoff spot.
With so much uncertainty surrounding Cutler and the Bears, this team needs to find some semblance of stability over the final three weeks of the season. Cutler told reporters (h/t Michael Wright of ESPN Chicago) earlier this week that he plans to play against the Packers.
Jay Cutler said he "should be ready to go later in the week." #JayCutlerShow— Michael C. Wright (@mikecwright) December 10, 2012
That is the best news the Bears have gotten since Cutler took his starting job back from Jason Campbell three weeks ago. For all the headaches and mistakes that Cutler brings, he is the only quarterback the Bears have.
We saw last season, when Cutler suffered a broken thumb that ended his season prematurely, just how bad the Bears offense is. Chicago lost five straight games and scored just 68 points in the span. Some of that had to do with Matt Forte also being injured, but Cutler is a huge part of what the Bears want to do.
For all his inconsistencies this season, Cutler is still completing 60 percent of his passes, and when he is on, he is really, really good. Yes, he still makes too many dumb throws, but that is part of the package.
As long as Cutler can use his arm to make the spectacular throw that so few quarterbacks are capable of, you can live with a dumb mistake here or there. He has looked a lot more comfortable this season than he has in previous years, thanks in large part to the addition of Brandon Marshall.
The Bears are fading fast in the playoff race, but Cutler is the piece they need to be healthy and at the top of his game if they want to make it into the postseason and potentially do some damage. He sounds optimistic about his prospects this weekend, which is good, because the Bears need him now more than ever.