The Chicago Bears could bring in Bill Walsh. Wouldn't matter.
They could hire the product of a genetic experiment that spliced the DNA of Bill Parcells, Vince Lombardi and Paul Brown. Wouldn't matter.
They could hire a Super General Manager. Like Superman. Except a GM. Faster than a speeding draft. Wouldn't matter.
There is one truth with the Bears, and it is an obvious truth and constant truth and a truth that this great franchise needs to address. No matter who they hire to replace GM Phil Emery and head coach Marc Trestman, who were both fired Monday, it won't matter until they get rid of Jay Cutler.
"The No. 1 problem is Cutler," said the best analyst on television, Hall of Famer Cris Carter. "If Cutler plays well, the general manager is there and the head coach is there."
Very true. Is it all Cutler's fault? Of course not.
Chicago brought in Trestman to fix the offense. He never came close, and Cutler isn't the only reason. Trestman wasn't fit to be an NFL head coach. He didn't have the personality for it—more like a college professor than a football coach. College professors are awesome, but your average NFL locker room isn't going to respond to the football equivalent of Neil deGrasse Tyson.
The Bears were also undone by a historically bad defense. Consider this:
That's nasty. But Cutler didn't play safety.
No, not all of it was Cutler's fault. Emery's drafts were horror shows, and Trestman wasn't a good coach.
"We all regressed," Trestman told reporters after the Bears' 13-9 loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday. "I regressed. Our offense regressed dramatically for a number of reasons. I don't think any of us got better."
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What Carter said is accurate. If Cutler had played better, paid more attention to detail, studied harder, practiced harder, watched more film…this still could have been a different season and outcome.
I keep hearing how Cutler works hard and studies and blah, blah, blah. But if that's true, then why is he one of the most error-prone quarterbacks in football? If he truly does care and truly does work, then how is it that he continually does the same dumb things over and over and over?
Whose fault is it that Cutler plays his worst games against the Packers, the Bears' biggest rivals? Cutler was getting destroyed by Green Bay long before Trestman. Cutler has been so bad against the Packers, his play led to one of the classic Cutler disses. This from Charles Woodson (via ESPN), when he was in Green Bay, after the Packers beat Cutler and Chicago in 2012:
Heard some talk out of the Bears: Packers secondary not working coverage, bigger receivers ... we heard about it. We understand that Jay is excited about his new weapons, but it's the same-old Jay. We don't need luck; Jay will throw us the ball.
Jay will throw us the ball.
Cutler now faces the possibility of five offensive systems in seven seasons and the reality of three head coaches and three general managers during that span. At least, I think those statistics are correct. It's hard to keep track of Cutler's victims.
Around the NFL, Cutler's reputation with coaches is beyond damaged. I'm no longer hearing the "I can fix him" gibberish that was once common with him. The growing feeling is Cutler isn't fixable. This belief is becoming so strong there's a feeling from agents representing potential head coaching candidates that the Bears may have difficult time finding top-notch candidates because of Cutler.
I'm not necessarily buying that. The history of the Bears is like a pheromone to prospective coaches. But there's no question that a prevailing feeling around the league is that Cutler isn't fixable. That's a fact.
It got so bad in Chicago this year that a frustrated offensive coordinator complained about Cutler to NFL Network. When offensive coordinators are using journalists as therapists, that tells you something.
Before Cutler was benched, in 14 games, he had 24 turnovers. Aaron Rodgers, at Lambeau this season, had 25 passing touchdowns and zero interceptions.
Now, Rodgers is an elite, generational, transformative player. I'm not asking Cutler to be Rodgers. He can't be. Few can. Yet what makes Rodgers great is his decision-making. Rodgers plays with great intelligence. Cutler plays the opposite of that.
If the Bears seriously want to change things, seriously want to do it, there is only one recourse. They need to get rid of the turnover machine.
Yes, it will be difficult. Because of the horrible deal Emery did with Cutler, if the quarterback is released, the Bears would owe him $15.5 million for 2015. There would be significant cap ramifications. Yes, it would be difficult.
But the alternative is to be stuck in Cutler hell. Getting schooled twice a year by the Packers. Shuffling coordinators. Head coaches. GMs. Stuck on that Cutler merry-go-round of putrid decision-making.
Mike Shanahan is being discussed as a Trestman replacement, according to CBSSports.com's Jason La Canfora. Cutler likes the idea. The two had mild success together in Denver. It won't matter. The Bears could pair Shanahan with Tom Landry. It won't matter as long as Cutler is there.
Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report.