The Chicago Bears quarterback dilemma has devolved into a soap opera.
Bears coach John Fox might have had his fill when it comes to quarterback Jay Cutler. According to the Chicago Tribune’s Mike Mulligan, Fox has told friends he is done with the quarterback.
Unfortunately for Fox, he has no other choice but Cutler at this point. Backup Brian Hoyer is out for the season after breaking his arm last week against Green Bay and third-stringer Matt Barkley proved he’s far from a competent replacement.
Cutler is also coming off of an injury in rather timely fashion. He’s missed Chicago’s past five games after suffering a thumb injury in Week 2. The problem is the Bears haven’t been overly jubilant about his return. Cutler even admitted Fox has no choice but to support him.
“He doesn’t have a choice, I guess, at this point,” Cutler said. “Brian is out, so I’ve got to go. I’ve had good conversations with Foxy this week, last week, the week before. There’s never been any strain in our relationship. We’re both very open and honest, and we’re on the same page. We just want to win football games.”
That isn’t exactly a quote that indicates a great working relationship. The job will most likely be his for the rest of the season, but Cutler’s status in Chicago isn’t guaranteed beyond the 2016 campaign.
The guaranteed money from Cutler’s seven-year, $126 million contract will be paid off at the end of this season, meaning Chicago can cut ties with Cutler with very minimal cap hit on the books. According to Over the Cap, if the Bears release Cutler before June 1 of next season, they will save $14 million in cap room while eating $2 million in dead money. That might be enough of a severance package for the Bears to part ways with the franchise’s best statistical passer.
Of course, the problem then becomes who will the Bears replace Cutler with. Chicago is poised for a top-5 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, but there aren’t any slam dunk quarterback prospects coming out this season. Chicago could try to re-sign Hoyer on a bridge contract or attempt to acquire another veteran on a short deal. But again, those are only temporary solutions.
Time also might not be on the organization’s hands. John Fox’s seat could warm up if the Bears continue to plummet and he’s already a dismal 7-16 in his first two seasons with the franchise. General manager Ryan Pace might be under even more pressure as some of his notable draft picks haven’t shown much since he took the helm in 2015.
The Bears are in a tough spot. A rebuild is the best approach with a roster barren of much talent. Then again, the Bears have a coaching staff that has acclaimed success in past endeavors and play in a market that is clamoring for the team’s five-year playoff drought.
Either way, Cutler’s future with the organization is muddled at best.