The greatest, and most controversial, quarterback in the history of the Chicago Bears has likely played his last snap with the team. Fittingly, what could be his last play was a game-ending interception. Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune is reporting Cutler could miss the remainder of the year with a shoulder injury.
Biggs cites multiple sources saying Cutler injured his shoulder during Sunday’s game against the Giants, although he stayed in the game. With the end of his season likely comes the end of Cutler’s Bears career. He has four years left on a seven-year, $126.7 million deal, but the team can cut him this offseason and only take a $2 million cap hit in 2017.
The story of Cutler’s time with the Bears will always be one with mixed emotions. Statistically, he is the best quarterback in the history of the franchise. However, given his exceptional arm talent, he never quite lived up to expectations.
Cutler never was the leader the Bears needed on the field and he only won one playoff game in his time with the team, something that seems impossible for a team that had the talent to contend in the NFC, especially at the beginning of Cutler’s career.
After leaving the NFC Championship Game against the rival Packers in 2011, his toughness was questioned, but that criticism was unfounded. He was among the toughest players in the league during his time with the Bears, consistently fighting through injuries. However, he was rarely able to fight through adversity.
Cutler never handled the media well and didn’t seem to care. His standoffish attitude never endeared him to the fan base or the media, two of the groups he would have done well to please, at least early on in his Bears career. His talent and occasional flashes of brilliance served to keep the fan base at bay for a while, but the consensus among Bears fans is now that the 33-year-old is a lost cause.
With this news comes speculation on two separate fronts: where does Cutler go after Chicago and where do the Bears go after Cutler? The aging signal caller would appear to have value to teams ready to compete and in the need of an established quarterback. Meanwhile, the Bears are in limbo and will likely have to go young at the position in the hope they find a franchise player in the coming years.
Where Cutler Goes From Here:
Even though he will turn 34 before the start of the 2017 season, quarterbacks with Cutler’s overall talent don’t come around everyday. A team will give him the chance to start next season, but who represents the best fit?
A few teams that could make sense include: 49ers, Broncos, Jets, and Browns.
San Francisco is still a ways off from contending, but with a competent quarterback, they at least start to look like an average team.
It remains to be seen whether or not Denver would actually seriously entertain bringing back Cutler, who demanded his way out of town en route to arriving in Chicago. This team is still good enough to win a title with a solid quarterback, though, and Cutler would represent an upgrade from their current stable or signal callers.
New York has been searching for a quarterback for some time and without any sure-fire quarterback prospects coming out of the draft in 2017, the Jets might be content giving Cutler a two or three-year contract and hoping for the best.
Meanwhile, the Browns couldn’t possibly have a worse quarterback history, so if they’re not sold on Robert Griffin III, who has missed this entire season with an injury, they could turn to Cutler, who will likely be the top quarterback free agent on the market.
Where the Bears Go From Here:
Cutler will have an easier time finding a future employer than the Bears will have finding an employee to fill his shoes. In all likelihood, the team will go with backup Brian Hoyer as the starting quarterback over the next year or two while they wait for a player they draft to develop.
A couple quarterbacks the Bears could be interested early in the first round, where they will be drafting include: DeShaun Watson, DeShon Kizer, and Brad Kaaya. Among the signal callers entering the draft this season, the team appears to be most interested in Kaaya out of Miami (FL), according to Erik Lambert of NFL Mocks/FanSided.
Kaaya has all the arm talent in the world and is being coached by Mark Richt, who tutored a similar quarterback in Matthew Stafford when the two were at Georgia together. He seems to have the highest ceiling of the three top projected quarterbacks, but he also could have the lowest floor.
If the Bears have their way, they may elect to take Kaaya and have him sit behind Hoyer for a year or two until they’re ready to give him the reigns to the franchise and see if he can be the quarterback to lead them where Cutler was never able to.
[Featured Image by Bill Kostroun/AP Images]