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Bears Bench Cutler? Bears Bench Cutler

By Benjy Lipsman in News on Dec 18, 2014 3:00PM

Photo credit: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images.

Is the Cutler Era in Chicago drawing to a close? The Bears confirmed Wednesday evening that the embattled QB will sit Sunday when the Bears host the Detroit Lions and backup Jimmy Clausen will get the start instead. Apparently, even Bears management can't stand to watch Cutler play anymore.

There is no way that this move can be viewed positively for Cutler. When the team's supposed franchise quarterback gets benched, it's a big deal. When the NFL's highest paid player this season get benched, it's a big deal. When that quarterback is in the first year of a $126 million contract, it's a big deal. When the understudy getting a look is a 27-year-old journeyman, the fact that Cutler's being benched is a big deal.

Clausen started 10 games as a rookie for the Carolina Panthers in 2010, going 1-9 in those games. In the past four seasons he's thrown exactly one NFL pass. Clausen's resume, coupled with Cutler's performance after signing his extension, suggests rumors of buyer's remorse might be more fact than fiction, even after offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer apologized for making such comments to the media.

This move is the exact opposite of a vote of confidence for a quarterback as head coach Marc Trestman and GM Phil Emery try desperately to cling to their jobs. The Bears are currently a disappointing 5-9 with two games remaining. Handing the reins of the offense over to a quarterback who hasn't started an NFL game since 2010 can't be seen as the easiest way to try and win their last two games.

Is this move a big "fuck you!" from Marc Trestman, who wants to show Phil Emery and everybody else that he can win with backup quarterbacks just fine, and that Cutler really was the problem? Josh McCown looked like a Pro Bowler when he stepped in for an injured Cutler last season. Does the Bears head coach think he can save his job if Clausen looks better out there than the $126 million man?

Or does this benching suggest that the Bears really are finished with Jay Cutler? While widely reported that his deal guarantees $54 million, some suggest the Bears are only on the hook for the $15.5 million owed in 2015—which would bring the total to $38 million. And his contract has offset clauses, so whatever any other team pays Cutler in 2015 gets subtracted from that total. That's provided he isn't injured. And that may be the crux of his benching. Keep Cutler (who was sacked seven times Monday night) healthy to minimize the financial hit when they cut him. Because good luck trading him and his contract! While there may be teams interested in his services, they're never going to pay what the Bears did.

But if Trestman, Kromer, Emery, et al. depart Chicago, the Bears will need to lure new coaching talent to the Windy City. And given how Cutler continues to refine his reputation as a coach killer, why would anybody want to take the job if they inherit him as their QB? If the Bears really want to move past this low point in the franchise's history, they need to really clean house no matter the cost. And it appears maybe even the cheapskate McCaskey family realize that.