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If Jay Cutler quarterbacks the Bears this coming season, it means only one thing. It means the Bears are another season further away from a championship.
And if a general manger or coaching candidate tells George McCaskey that he can be the guy to get the most out of Jay Cutler, that guy should be removed from consideration immediately.
We have seen enough of the 31-year-old signal caller from Santa Claus (Ind.). These last few years, all of the excuses were addressed: the offensive line was solidified, serious receiving weapons were deployed and most importantly, an offensive-minded head coach was hired. That coach and Cutler had more than enough time to put together their best possible scheme.
The result was a true, epic, fail. With the benefit of hindsight, it all seems so clear. Fans never know for sure how an athlete will react to a big contract extension but if there was ever a guy more likely than Cutler to get the big money and then lose motivation to work and improve, well, I can't think of him.
And yet there are still plenty of voices out there who say "Cutler may be the Bears' best option this year." Their best option for what? Their best option for lessening the damage? Their best option for finishing 7-9 instead of 5-11?
There are, of course, financial considerations. Cutler is guaranteed $15.5 million next season no matter what. But the killer is, if the Bears still have him on their roster on March 12, they aren't just on the hook for next season, they are on the hook for $10 million guaranteed in 2016.
And there are some indications there may be at least a little bit of a trade market for Cutler.
That seems highly, highly unlikely - unfortunately all teams have access to all Bears game films - but if the Bears can trade him before March 12, more power to them. If they can't, he still has to go. Take the financial hit for a season. Then sign a player like Jimmy Clausen, who struggled the first time he started at quarterback in the NFL but may be better the second time around. Take another look at 2014 draft pick David Fales in the preseason and draft another quarterback this time around.
And hold a quarterback audition in the preseason. Another team in the NFC did just that a few years ago and it worked out remarkably well - more on that in another paragraph or two.
There is also the chance the Bears have planted the stories about Cutler being an option in 2015. This is where a team needs to be convincingly disingenuous. If teams think the Bears are actually considering Cutler as their quarterback next year, they'll know they have to offer something to get him. This is also where it helps Bears management that they don't have the reputation of being the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree. Hopefully there will be draft-pick compensation but heck, the Bears might have to give another team a low-round selection if that team is willing to take on Cutler's contract. And that would still be a great deal.
In 2012, the Seahawks started training camp with their quarterback position up in the air. They had signed longtime Packer backup Matt Flynn as a free agent, they had drafted undersized Russell Wilson in the third round. and the incumbent was Tarvaris Jackson. In the previous year they had also considered longtime backup Charlie Whitehurst, though he was quickly ruled out.
Do you remember how that turned out? Wilson took the team to the playoffs as a rookie and to the Super Bowl at the end of his second year. The Seahawks have a great chance to repeat as champs this year in part because of historically good defense and in part because Wilson is not only good but is also still cheap (in the third year of his four-year, $2.9-million rookie contract - no quarterback has ever been a better deal for a team).
There almost certainly isn't a Russell Wilson in this year's draft. But the Bears would do well to try to create a similar scenario to what the Seahawks did, just without the incumbent.
One final note on the Bears: Football commentators from ESPN's Adam Shefter on down have suggested that candidates like Chris Ballard (general manager) and Dave Toub (head coach) should be extra appealing to the Bears because they have experience in the organization - Ballard as a longtime scout and Toub as special teams coach.
Those commentators have it exactly backward. If ever a team needed a complete outsider to come in and totally clean house, that team is the Bears. Surely people have to know at this point that experience in the Bears organization is an absolute net negative.
And it pains me to say that about Toub, who did a great job with the Bears (although it was much easier to be a great special teams coach when a team employed Devin Hester in his prime . . . OK, OK, Toub has been good with special teams in Kansas City the last few years as well). Oh, and there is the fact that it worked out pretty well for the Bears the last time they hired a special teams coach to be the head coach. What was that coach's name again?
Jim "Coach" Coffman is our man on Mondays. He welcomes your comments.