Should the Chicago Bears Let Go of Jay Cutler?

Discussion in 'Chicago Bears' started by Wolfman, Nov 19, 2013.

  1. Wolfman

    Wolfman Assistant Head Coach

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    COMMENTARY | Chicago Bears fans are in an unfamiliar situation: their team has more good quarterbacks than it has open quarterback positions. For now, with Jay Cutler injured, things are decidedly controversy-free. When he returns, Cutler will rightfully return to his starting position and Josh McCown will temporarily fade back into obscurity.

    There is little doubt which player is better: it's Cutler. When he is healthy, he needs to be playing for the 2013 Bears. Those who argue otherwise are simply overreacting to McCown's recent play. At season's end, however, things get more complicated.
    The 34-year-old McCown has, so far, earned himself an offseason controversy. The Bears are in big trouble with the salary cap and Jay Cutler is due a substantial raise. At this point, Jay Cutler is the 16th highest paid quarterback in the NFL with his $10 million salary cap number.

    There are 17 quarterbacks under contract to earn more than $13 million in 2014 and given the recent market for quarterbacks that made Joe Flacco the highest paid player in history (at least for a while), Cutler is likely to command at least a top 10 salary: this sets the bar at around $16 million for his possible yearly salary on a long-term contract.

    Bear in mind that this does not even necessarily mean that he has to be considered a top 10 quarterback in talent or production, as the market for quarterbacks has gotten much more expensive in the recent past. Also, players like Cam Newton, Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Colin Kaepernick, and Russell Wilson are still on their rookie contracts and not among those top salaries. For example, a team like the Houston Texans could pay Cutler $14 million and save money compared to what they would be paying Matt Schaub if he was kept on the squad. Needless to say, McCown would cost little more than the veteran's minimum, in his case around $1 million.

    This won't mean much to Bears fans without a little context. The team has $80 million committed to just 25 players for next season; the final roster will include 53 players and the salary cap will be around $125 million. Unfortunately, the Bears have a great deal of other prominent free agents: Henry Melton, Matt Slauson, Charles Tillman, Tim Jennings, James Anderson, Zack Bowman, Nate Collins, Roberto Garza, Kelvin Hayden, Devin Hester, D.J. Williams, Corey Wootton, Major Wright, and Robbie Gould are all starting players that are not under contract for next season.

    Just bringing back each of those players back at their current salary would be impossible because of the cap and the cost to fill out the rest of the roster. Cutler's 2013 salary would put that group well over the mark. Of course, some of those players will not return, others will earn more, others will earn less. Nonetheless, it illustrates the magnitude of the problem faced by the Bears. They need to make major improvements on defense and they will likely need to cut Julius Peppers (would save $10 million in cap room) and not bring back Henry Melton and Charles Tillman, at the least, to afford yet another high-priced player like Cutler.

    In the NFL, teams often get crafty to make room for their big contracts. General manager Phil Emery will know more than the public about the ins and outs of the salary cap rules, his current contracts, and his bargaining position with different players. It is within the realm of possibility that the team could keep Cutler without a complete transformation of the defense that involves a great deal of salary cutting to the defensive side of the ball. Given the information at hand, however, that seems unlikely.

    If fans wonder why the Bears might choose Josh McCown over Jay Cutler, this is why. They are under no illusion that McCown is a better football player. He's older, less talented, and with a far worse track record. Nonetheless, at 10% of the cost, Marc Trestman and Phil Emery might reach the conclusion that the team would be better off if they took a hit in the play at quarterback in order to make the aging, horrific defense more competitive.

    Doing so would constitute perhaps the biggest gamble in franchise history. Jay Cutler was costly to get and despite his failure to live up to very high expectations, he has been the best quarterback and only real starting-caliber quarterback since at least the Jim McMahon era. Many otherwise elite teams have seen their chances squandered in Chicago due to unfathomably poor quarterback play. Phil Emery, long before becoming general manager, worked in the front office in those woeful days.

    To let Cutler walk would, in my view, say relatively little about Josh McCown. It would instead be a vote of confidence for Marc Trestman, first and foremost. Keeping McCown as the presumptive starter for 2014 suggests an organizational belief that Trestman is the caliber of coach that can take a quarterback that would be marginal in any other setting and use playcalling and an elite supporting cast to turn him into a very productive player.

    The other aspect that would allow such a plan to make sense is the upcoming draft; it is believed to be extremely deep at the quarterback position. Phil Emery would also be staking his own job and reputation on his ability to draft a quarterback that could take the reins as soon as 2015 as McCown is apt to age or regress quickly. Pressure also falls on Trestman to prepare this young quarterback in this scenario.

    Finally, it would reflect a lack of confidence in the defense. It has been among the league's worst this season in a variety of measures as it has dealt with a plethora of injuries. If Cutler is kept in the fold (and possibly even if not), next year's defense will probably be without Julius Peppers, Charles Tillman, Henry Melton, D.J. Williams, and possibly Tim Jennings. That means potentially four lost pro-bowl players with no apparent replacements waiting in the wings.

    Letting Cutler go would allow for substantial investment in that defense which has already made a Cutler-led offense look insufficient this season. Emery may judge that the defense simply cannot be improved enough to win in the near term if the team has a $15 million quarterback. Given the salary cap and the recently exploding salaries given to quarterbacks, nothing is more valuable than a cheap (and preferably young) quarterback.

    The decision is surprisingly complex and the Bears front office is certainly already beginning to stress about it. A great deal can change between now and the offseason, however. Another injury to Cutler, more heroics from McCown, a playoff run led by Cutler, or a myriad other possibilities exist to convolute or simplify the issue.

    Only one thing is for sure: Phil Emery and his staff are very happy that there at least five more games to be played before this decision has to be made. Right now, the correct choice is astonishingly unclear.

    Jacob Long, a native to the Chicago area, is a writer on the Yahoo Contributor Network. He has experience covering sports and news for WMC-TV in Memphis, TN and owns the film and TV blog The Renegade's Film Journal. Follow him on Twitter @jlongrc.
  2. omc1969

    omc1969 Veteran

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    This shouldn't even be considered and is a total non-issue.
    Just more spew by a talking head I never even heard of just to stir things up. Typical Yahoo !
    C'mon ............ Really ?
    o_O
  3. weneedmorelinemen

    weneedmorelinemen Veteran

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    This writer is an imbecile. "Needless to say, McCown would cost little more than the veteran's minimum, in his case around $1 million."

    How do you know that, stupid yahoo sports writer? How do you know McCown would be the starter here for league minimum, or that he wants to be the starter at all for no extra money than he is making as a backup? How do you know that McCown's agent wouldn't just stick it to the Bears once we cut ties with Cutler? I guess if McCown asked for more the Bears would just dump him too. That leaves us with nothing at QB, but at least we can save that money for FA defensive linemen.

    Why the hell are all these media sports guys just now thinking McCown is someone to now make a make a starting QB is beyond me, and I really like the guy. I've liked him since 2011 and the last Vikings game that year. He's an exceptional team mate, plays hard, isn't rattled in the pocket, and very reliable in the short term. How can two starts, one of which was in a tornado, make a guy no one would touch into a legit competitor for the starting QB spot in the eyes of the media? Jesus, didn't they learn anything from the tales of Cassell and Flynn?

    The idea that Cutler's salary, where ever he goes, will be 14 million or more a year long term and McCown will automatically be only 1 million is just foolishness. We could bring them both back, add a QB in the draft, build on both of their experience with Trestman's system, and make QB a reliable quantity instead of crapshoot scratch off lottery ticket like it's been for the past 20 years.
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  4. Trackguy

    Trackguy Veteran

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    At least his rationale isn't that McCown is actually a better QB, just that the resources can be better deployed. If you want to read true imbecileness....go to any number of Chicago Bear fan pages on Facebook. And we wonder why opponents think our fan base is retarded. They pretty much validate it. lol.
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  5. Wolfman

    Wolfman Assistant Head Coach

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    Come on, it's not that foolish...by all rights and historical evidence, Cutler is going to end up somewhere with a contract over the $10 million dollar mark; it's just the nature of the QB market....and whereas not automatic, its equally unlikely anybody is going to throw big bucks at someone like McCown....forgetting the actual numbers, but there is little question that Cutter's BIG contract vs. McCown's small contract will be a reality next season...
  6. mdbearz

    mdbearz Veteran

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    If Cutler signs for 14 million that would be good.
  7. weneedmorelinemen

    weneedmorelinemen Veteran

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    Ture, but I don't think we can use those resources better by weakening the QB position. If Cutler is worth 14+ million on the open market, then what are we doing hemming and hawwing over that number? If McCown is only worth 1 million on the open market, how can anyone consider him an upgrade by just letting Cutler walk and starting McCown next year?

    I don't see how starting McCown and adding a rookie QB makes up more competitive for 2014. We have a lot of cap room to allocate. It won't break the bank to bring back Cutler. I don't think he will hold up the team for 20 million a year like Flacco, because he doens't have success to stand on in a negotiation like that. By signing McCown in a backup capacity in a system he knows and is doing well in, he can't ask for too much. He might not want to go somewhere else for a little bit more money if we are going to take a shot next year. this is probably the most love McCown has ever received in his career as a successful backup QB for the Bears.
  8. The Benjamin

    The Benjamin George Halas Staff Member

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    In a word....

    No
  9. a_miljan

    a_miljan Veteran

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    i want jay back, but considering his playoff wins and any crucial game wins for us (rare or none) and 'home' discount he promised, i think he should be satisfied with 12-14 mil. that is enough and fair for his services, if he wants more, time to say goodbye
  10. JustAnotherBearsFan99

    JustAnotherBearsFan99 Coordinator SuperFan DBS Writer

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    I'd be fine bringing him back if we have a solid backup. He's fragile. This is his 4th straight year of not being able to play a complete season. It's not his fault that he can't stay on the field, but we do need to prepare for the games he can't play. He's on the far side of 30 now too, so he'll very likely be even more fragile, especially since he's VERY high mileage now (again, not his fault he had to play with a bad offensive line in Chicago).
  11. DaTreeBears

    DaTreeBears Veteran

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    Like the car sales man says "lets see if we can get the numbers to work out."
    Like the game show goes "lets make a deal."

    My bet is Emery will not give him crazy stupid cash only if he pulls a Flacco.
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  12. Bearsinhouston

    Bearsinhouston Position Coach

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    IMO, the argument has merit, but not much of it.

    Honestly there are times that I think McCown can win more games than Cutler (and I know full well that Cutler is a much better QB), and we do need to spend money on the D.

    But the argument does not hold water for a couple of reasons I can quickly think of (at least from where I sit).

    1) After you go and spend the money you saved by not signing Cutler on the D, you MAY be fine for a year with McCown (and that can be easily debated). So what do you do the next year when McCown may be too old to perform well? Bet the house on a QB from the draft? You don't have money to go out into FA and get a franchise QB (as if one would be available) because you spent all your money on the D. Seems like a poor bet. And that is if you allow that McCown can beat the difficult teams (and honeatly, he might be able to...)

    2) Cutler is far more talented and it took us a long time to get him. I really have no problem moving away from him if he can't win a SB for us. (and even if we can, we DO still need to get someone young in here to groom). The real problem is we don't know for sure. We don't have enough data (this is the same reason that I was against getting rid of Urlacher and Carimi BTW (I was wrong on Carimi :() -- we let them go before we saw how they had healed and could play. Before we let go a guy with this much talent that was so hard to get and we gave up so much for (that seems to be FINALLY progressing), I think we need to be sure what we have. I do not think we offer a LT contract at this point, but I think you have to franchise him and also bring a guy on board to replace him. He has been brutalized and probably only has about 4 years left.
  13. Wolfman

    Wolfman Assistant Head Coach

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    Yes, it's a gamble...and agree McCown would simply be a cheap stop gap for a season, if that....but if we have a QB guru head coach, isn't that the gamble we should be taking?

    We have lots of data on Cutler...the problem is it mostly bad or negative data....his fault, Lovie's fault, JA's fault, nobody's fault, after all this time, still claiming we don't know what we have in Cutler is pretty damning in and of itself...at what point do we relies the real Jay Cutler has been standing in front of us the whole time?

    Look, I have nothing against Cutler; I am NOT anti-Jay Cutler...I have argued against those people in the past....

    But to me, Culter has become like a hot girlfriend that you're really not in to....sure, you probably should breakup with her...but damn, she's HOT....and man, it sucks to be alone and she's the hottest girlfriend I've ever had...and truth be told, I've always been kinda of loser in the girlfriend department; no way, I ever find someone as hot as her ever again....I am sure if I just love her more, she'll change for me...

    But any case and bad analogies aside, if we franchise him isn't that just admitting we need replace him; that he's not the long term answer...that we are in fact "letting go" of Cutler? We're just delaying it by a year....if our QB next year is just a place holder, I guess I would rather go with the cheaper option...we are not one season away from the SB; we need to stop acting like we are....
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  14. riczaj01

    riczaj01 DaBears Ditka DBS Writer

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    So a few off the cuff things after reading this:
    If your qb needs a top of the line OL, WR's, RB HC, then why pay him like a qb that doesn't, 16+ mil(btw some team is going to pay more then that imo in FA). I think we all know how I feel about McCown, but he's equalling the output of Cutler, both in the low to mid 60's in comp %, both over 7ypa, both getting about 2 TD's per game. The difference is that McCown is not turning the ball over at just under 2 TO's per game. McCown isn't 1/2 the qb that Cutler is, but w/the quality around him he is performing at the same level....his downfall is that he will not have the ability to have great games like Cutler can. McCown has done 1 thing Cutty hasn't all year, and that's go 2 games w/out a turn over, really 2 and a few qtrs, in todays NFL that is imperative. But at the end of the day, McCown is Alex Smith, a care taker that when he faces elite O's that will put up 30-40 points is not going to stand much of a shot of winning a high powered shoot out.

    Is Cutler capable of playing at such a high level that we don't have key positions filled w/other top talent(see flacco in Balt), so far he's 4-4 this year w/a pretty damn good O, but realy bad D.

    IMO you have 2 real options, keep Cutler via LT contract or FT, and draft a young qb to backhim up(keeping the cost WAY down on the backup qb)

    Or draft a qb early(round 1 or 2) and keep McCown to backup/mentor/start if the rook is a flop, thus keeping the cost of qb overall WAY down

    I still think you have to FT Cutler and see if he can 1 stay healthy, and 2 can get his TD to TO ratio far better(right now he's near 1:1). There is no reason that he cannot, at least, get his ratio better, the health though, 30+ yr old qb that has been beat up, might not be able to keep himself healthy....and that creates a real problem b/c no matter how good he is, if he cannot stay on the field, and/or he cannot go 2-3 games w/out a TO, minimum, then you cannot pay him 16+ mil a year over 4 years.
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  15. MPbears68

    MPbears68 Pro-Bowler

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    I agree with Ric.

    I think we FT Cutler and kick the can down the road another year while we groom a rookie. I think it would be stupid to let him go after only one (incomplete) season with Trestman. I want JM back (as I'm confident he will be) but he's the #2 not an every week starter. On the other hand, I also think it would stupid to sign him to a big LT deal now since he's been hurt an awful lot the last few years and still hasn't proven that he "gets it" with ball security.
  16. JustAnotherBearsFan99

    JustAnotherBearsFan99 Coordinator SuperFan DBS Writer

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    I've finally come to the conclusion that I'm going to trust Emery and Trestman to make the right call regarding Cutler. The Bears swept out Angelo/Lovie and replaced them with guys who are better at evaluating talent in general, and on offense in particular. And Trestman's "claim to fame" is that he is a very gifted developer of quarterbacks. I figure we should chill and just watch what they do here. If they believe the cost/reward is best with Cutler (short-term or long-term contract) or if they walk away from Cutler entirely - I figure they're getting paid to do this correctly, and if they don't it may ultimately cost them their jobs, just like Angelo/Lovie.

    I'm in that "wait and see" mode :-)
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  17. riczaj01

    riczaj01 DaBears Ditka DBS Writer

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    JABF, I'm that way to, but if you, I and everyone else just go on trusting them then this place is going to be pretty damn quite ;p
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  18. Wolfman

    Wolfman Assistant Head Coach

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    I totally agree...while I do find this an interesting debate and academic argument, none of us are going to affect or make that decision...and whatever that decision is, I too will trust Emery and Trestman in whatever decision they make...
  19. JustAnotherBearsFan99

    JustAnotherBearsFan99 Coordinator SuperFan DBS Writer

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    I laughed when I read that one Ric. You are 100% correct :-)
  20. MPbears68

    MPbears68 Pro-Bowler

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    Yeah, this board would suck if there wasn't stuff to bitch and argue about :p
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