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SportsMonday: Let The Cutler Countdown Begin

Hauling in a fifth-round pick for Brandon Marshall has to give the Bears confidence they can get something for Jay Cutler.

Something that is, other than dumping his albatross of a contract.

All signs point to Cutler being out of here and let me offer up just one quick "Hallelujah!" It could happen as early as Tuesday, when the annual NFL free agent period begins. And it should happen before March 12th, when the league officially starts its 2015-2016 year. If March 12th passes without Cutler agreeing to re-work his contract (for someone else I would think - I don't think he'll be renegotiating with the Bears), he will be guaranteed $10 million in 2016 on top of the $15 million he is already guaranteed in 2015.

Cutler could muck things up by playing hardball with a contract re-negotiation, but I think he has to know that the Bears are ready to dump him in order to avoid that 2016 guarantee and that if he wants to have any say in where he goes in a trade, he has to be reasonable about the dollars. If not, well, that would be one more jerk move from a guy who many people believe specializes in them.

I think Cutler wasn't as bad a guy as many portrayed him for much of his tenure with the Bears. But Good Lord he was a terrible quarterback, especially this past season. Leading the league in turnovers at age 30 with an offensive line built to protect and an embarrassment of riches in terms of receiving targets and at running back?

I will never understand how the hell that happened, other that the fact that, despite his amazing arm, maybe Cutler just stinks no matter what.

And then the Bears can get to work trying out new potential signal-callers. They signed one this past week - last year's backup Jimmy Clausen. Clausen showed some skills and leadership in his one, brief, injury-marred start last season and he has to be fired up to work with one of the best young offensive minds in the NFL coaching ranks, new Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase.

But considering what a terrible job "one of the best offensive minds in the NFL" Marc Trestman did last year, we aren't going overboard with our excitement over a coaching hire.
Last year's draft pick, David Fales out of San Jose State, is also still on the roster and will get a look from the new coaching staff. Draft another signal-caller in the third or fourth-round - surrounded by defenders in the first couple rounds and maybe a speed wide receiver in the fifth - and now you're getting somewhere.

It has become apparent the Bears don't truck with the idea that Cutler is their best option. He is their best option from improving from 5-11 last year to maybe 7-9 next season but I'm thinking John Fox and Co. are aiming higher than that.

We are moving closer and closer to a Seahawk-style, pre-season 2012 quarterback competition. Let three or four signal-callers show you what they've got during the, what, first three or four weeks of training camp? Then make one the starter and move on. Everyone you bring in has the potential to take the opportunity and run with it, i.e., improve as they go along. Cutler is long since past improving.

Once the Bears dump their former starting QB, this week will be about who they can get in free agency. If this were a sport other than football, a sport where there are oftentimes slower turnarounds back to success after a bad season or stretch of seasons, you might see the Bears go totally young. But they won't. Given injuries and a host of other factors, NFL teams always have to give themselves a chance to win.

In the 2012-13 campaign, the Seahawks were coming off a multi-season run of bad to mediocre football. They began with a completely untested rookie quarterback (Russell Wilson!) drafted in the third round out of a school (Wisconsin) more known for running the football than virtually any other major college team.

But the Seahawks played great defense, limited mistakes on offense and eventually made the playoffs. It set the stage for the last two seasons of Super Bowl-qualifying football.

If the Bears do half as well (a Super Bowl in their new quarterback's second or third year rather than second and third), their fans will be ecstatic.

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Jim "Coach" Coffman is our man on Mondays. He welcomes your comments.

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