It’s time for Bears to move on from Jay Cutler

The Chicago QB's tools have fascinated for years, but at this point it's pretty clear he's never going to put it all together.

| 8 months ago
(Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

(Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

It’s time for Bears to move on from Jay Cutler

For the sake of the Chicago Bears, it’s probably time we all move on from Jay Cutler and stop waiting for the epiphany that never comes.

10 years into his career, there is no point talking about potential, arm-talent and upside. Cutler is what he is: A QB with immense physical tools destined to never come close to making best use of them. If you want to think of that as unfulfilled potential, then that’s fine, but it’s surely best we stop trying to coax that potential from him. It’s not going to happen.


Much the same way the league ultimately gave up trying to craft a good quarterback out of Jeff George’s arm, it’s probably time Cutler had the same treatment.

After a decent performance on opening weekend against Houston — a game that is looking more and more like some kind of QB accident given the play of Cutler and the Texans’ Brock Osweiler since — Cutler was playing horrendously against the Eagles before being hurt, and this week he sank to even lower depths. He was back to his worst football, orchestrating a disaster against Tampa Bay and having the kind of performance that just gives the team no chance to win the game.

Cutler was directly responsible for nine Tampa Bay points in the game, tossing a pick-six to safety Chris Conte, and then later in the game trying to extend a play inside of his own end zone, fumbling the ball while getting sacked and seeing it knocked out of the back of the end zone for a safety. From that point he had to orchestrate two scoring drives — one of them a touchdown — just to get back to breaking even for the day.

The safety was the second turnover of the game caused by Cutler trying to extend the play with seemingly no feel for the impending contact, and his fourth of the game. He turned the ball over three times in the first half and his biggest play of the day – a 50-yard touchdown pass – was a Hail Mary late in the game that required a lucky bounce to land in the hands of his receiver. His biggest contribution to those numbers was basically being able to throw a ball 50 yards in the air.

Take that play away and Cutler was 15-for-27 for 132 yards and two interceptions. That’s a passer rating of 37.9, or worse than if he had just dropped back and thrown the ball at the ground every play. This at a time when the Bears have discovered a player in running back Jordan Howard who can carry the offense and ensure that Cutler doesn’t have to make miracles happen for them to score points. Against the Bucs, Howard had 100 rushing yards on only 15 carries. That’s his fourth 100-yard rushing performance of the season — in each of the two weeks he failed to hit that mark since assuming a serious workload back in Week 4, he had 15 or fewer carries.

Against Tampa Bay, Howard didn’t have a carry of over 15 yards, and gained 62 of those yards after contact, yet rather than load him up and have him shoulder the burden, the Bears allowed Cutler to drop back and pass 35 times.

Just looking at the first two Chicago drives tells you all you need to know about that dynamic. Chicago began the game alternating between Howard carries and Cutler passes. The first time the Bears had consecutive passes, they were forced to punt. On the next drive Howard gained 15 yards on first down before Cutler was sacked, threw one pass for 13 yards and then tossed an interception. The drive after that lasted one play — Cutler throwing the ball to the Bucs for six points.

When they ran the ball, it worked. When they passed the ball, Cutler happened.


Even after all of that they were just seven points down and it took until the third quarter for the game to get out of hand to the point you would say they needed to chase points and it probably needed to happen through the air.

Usually even the worst Cutler performances are punctuated by impressive throws — the glimmer of potential shining through the layers of crud that keeps coaches hanging on and chasing the prize at the end of the rainbow — but in this game there really wasn’t anything. He had only a handful of positively graded plays all game, and one of those was nullified by a penalty.

This was as bad as Cutler gets, and it’s likely that he won’t play at this level for the remainder of the season, but the Bears were getting better QB play out of Brian Hoyer before he got hurt. They’re likely stuck with Cutler at least until Hoyer is eligible to return from IR — because for all Cutler’s faults, he still isn’t worse than Matt Barkley — but whatever happens over the remainder of the year, they need to be looking for a new signal-caller for the 2017 season.

Cutler is being paid $16 million this season, and an average of $18.1 million per season over his current contract. He is now the 31st-ranked QB at PFF, sandwiched neatly between Colin Kaepernick and Ryan Fitzpatrick, both of whom have been backups at points this season.

Among the QBs performing better than he is right now are his own teammate Hoyer (who is earning just $2 million this season), three rookies, and Eli Manning — who is having his worst season since his rookie year.

Cutler may still have physical gifts, but it’s time we gave up the forlorn hope they will ever be a bigger part of his game than terrible plays. If he had just marginal arm talent, Cutler would have been cast aside years ago as a player who makes too many poor decisions to be a viable NFL quarterback. That evaluation doesn’t change just because he can unleash a howitzer at any moment. He had his chance to develop and weed the poor play from his game, and it hasn’t happened.

QBs that can’t score are problematic for an offense, but not nearly as problematic as those who score for the opposition. It’s time for Chicago to move on from Cutler.

| Senior Analyst

Sam is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus, as well as a contributor to ESPN and NBCSports.

  • Backinmd

    Cutler is as popular in Chicago as Jay Schroeder was with the Redskins ..Schroeder took over after Joe Theisman broke his leg .. Like Cutler, Schroeder had tremendous arm strength and as Cutler would pout on the Washington sidelines if something didn’t go his way ..Schroeder alienated ALL his team mates and the coaching staff before they traded him to the Raiders a few years later after they signed Doug Williams who won a Super Bowl vs Denver ….Schroeder was uncoachable …Broncos were criticized for trading Cutler years ago to the Bears..When you trade a NFL player it’s not who you get in the trade, it’s the player you get rid of …BTW, Doug Williams was awesome in this Super Bowl win against the Broncos …

    • crosseyedlemon

      I think the success of Doug Williams only proves what a great coach Joe Gibbs was. Joe could produce a championship caliber team regardless of who was behind center. Could Joe have won a title with Cutler? We will never know but if anyone could, I’d be inclined to think Gibbs could.

      • Backinmd

        Your right … A NFL head coach has to have good or better leadership , motivation skills to last long in the NFL ..You can have great players but you have to know how to inspire them . That’s what happened to the former HC of the Redskins and San Diego years back …With the Redskins anyway he had a few good players -WR – 1st round pick — comes to mind — but were underachievers year after year …A good head coach either motivates them or gets rid of them ..Cutler never has had the right mind set to play in the NFL ..Too moody … BTW, before the Skins got rid of RGIII , D. Williams couldn’t even coach him up … Mr.Know-it-all wouldn’t listen to anybody ,not even a Super Bowl star, MVP who was well liked by everyone in town on and off the field …Don’t know if Gibbs could get Cutler to a Super Bowl , might have been Mission Impossible …What’s so maddening about Cutler is that he has so much ability to be a great QB .. Has it all from the eyebrows down ….

  • allawash

    The whole offensive line stinks. I don’t know if it’s the coordinator or the players, but they should probably just gut the entire offense and start over. Cutler has his problems, but the line can’t give him more than two seconds to work with before the other team is all over him.

  • Saul Twater

    Jeff George was among the most gutless teammates anyone could ask for. He was the antithesis of a leader. Whenever George failed it was always someone else’s fault. Cutler’s attitude and mental makeup is what limits his tools.

    • Backinmd

      Remember when Jeff George played for the Redskins …From the eyebrows down he was great and had the strongest arm in the NFL— he could throw the ball 88 yards in the air …That’s the good news ..The bad news was he was a KingSize pain in the a@@ with every NFL club he was with ..PFW had a good article about J. George when he was playing ..Said he never fit in with any NFL club he played for .A kingsize head case and never got along with other players or any coaching staff with the eight, different NFL team he was with .. They downright hated him ..Jon Gruden cut him after one year with Oakland.. Too bad to see a guy with so much ability go from team to team …He was the 1st player picked in the 1990 Draft ..

      • zinn21 zinn21

        Nothing exposes serious mental behavioral deficits like the quarterback position..

        • Backinmd

          Right ..CB and QB you have to have the right mental makeup to play the position ….

  • Joe Felicelli

    Cutler is already done in Chicago, so this is just moot. He still makes questionable decisions, downright bad ones, and has moments of brilliance. But it is obvious that he can’t carry this team. Just think for a moment though of all the dead weight that has flowed through Chicago as his roster of offensive coordinators, and how many linemen that couldn’t start anywhere else were his protectors. That should be as big a consideration as his own failures. A franchise QB is a guy who the entire franchise is structured around. The Bears have yet to do that for Cutler, and it is too late now.

  • Bernie Cohen

    Yes! Consistently Inconsistent. Us Bear fans deserve much better.

    • crosseyedlemon

      Cub fans had to wait 108 years for a championship title but I’m guessing it would take Cutler even longer than that to deliver one to us Bear fans.

  • bennings

    The tenure of Marc trestman should be looked at quite differently NOW that everyone realizes what a cluster fuck the QB & the front office is. Trestman went 9-1 with a back-up QB in CHI, let me know the next time they win 9 of 10 games. They should have SACKED Cutler and let Trestman build the team.

    • crosseyedlemon

      I agree with you that the FO is the source of most of the team problems. Unfortunately, the economic realities today give QBs who hold contracts exceeding $100 million huge leverage that they could only dream about having before the days of salary caps. Cutler has gone through a series of OCs and management has so much invested in him that they really have little choice but to acquiesce to his preferences. Trestman is a fine co-coordinator who like many others should probably be left in that role rather than be saddled with the additional responsibilities of a head coach.

      • bennings

        he won 2 grey cups and appeared in another as a HC in Canada (in 5 seasons) – he didn’t get a fair shot in CHI

  • Malachi

    this article is 4 years too late, lol

    • Backinmd

      Right … I was going to say three … Wait to next year gets old …Cutler is a king size head case …And the Denver fans wondered why they traded him to the Bears year ago ….Kinda reminds me of Jeff George who was great from the eyebrows down .. He could throw the ball 80 yards off his back foot ; 88 yards when set …George was with eight different NFL teams …

  • Joe Doe

    Get rid of him? He’s the third winning-est QB in Packers history. Oh wait, he doesn’t play for the Packers.

  • Johnny Hatelak

    Really? Hoyer. Anyone who would rather have Hoyer than Jay is well, and idiot. Those numbers were piled up because that’s what was given him. Soft non impact throws that did little to threaten the defense. When it came down to making a big play, a winning play, he failed.

    Also look at the level of competition he did it against. Not quite as good as the Texans, Eagles, and Minnesota defenses Jay faced. Even the Bucs who have been poor defensively, but have the talent to be real good on that side and like the Bears have struggled with their own injuries there, finally got healthy for the Bears match-up.

    I think Cuter has shown he can win in this league. He doesn’t have many games like the one he had this past Sunday. Way more good than bad. Most other games he performed poorly in can be directly attributed to the awful teams he’s been on. You were right about one thing though, at this point it IS time to accept Jay for what he is and that’s a middle of the pact starter in this league. He’s been ruined by this franchise to evolve into anything more.

    Jay has shown for the most part when he has the support of his team his record is very good and his mistakes are minimal. Most of the time when his mistakes happen it’s when he’s down and has to throw his team back in the game against defenses with their ears pinned back playing pass. Mix that in with poor players around him for most of his career here in Chicago, I.E. a bad offensive line and one of the crappiest WR corp in the league and there really is little chance for success from any Quarterback.

    You can’t just look at the numbers as a whole. That’s poor scouting. You have to factor in circumstances they come in. For example when Cutler’s defense allows 20 points or less he’s 46-8. This game he was awful, but it’s just piling on to make this the I told you statement you’re trying to make. This is why PFF is less than a reliable indicator of anything. All numbers, and nothing else.

    This is not how football works. It’s not the MLB. Metrics is just a small percentage of how you evaluate players in this sport. It has value, but only a small part. You say move on from Cutler, but to what? Brian freaking Hoyer? this my friend is meatball analysis, and dumb problem solving. You saw what he can do against a real defense the week prior. Something Brian Hoyer could never do. This is not to say they shouldn’t draft and develop a Quarterback, but to get rid of Cutler for Brian Hoyer is a dumb suggestion. Sorry Sam.

  • Mike T

    Shit, is someone sticking up for Tressman? Are you fucking kidding me. Those people that are, should think that Jay is the best QB that ever walked the earth. No shit. I can’t believe I am reading this. To all that think that Tressman was good, please try to shake Trump’s hand but he will only shake your Pussy. PLEASE HOLD, I HAVE TO GO AND TAKE A TRESSMAN…..

  • Jerry Sternadel

    First Hoyer suck also, sure he moved the ball, and he did not turn it over, but yards and no turn overs do not put point on the board. The last time I looked you had to score to win. I do not think Hoyer is the answer. The guy (sorry senior moment can’t think of his name)who had his leg broke in preseason maybe the best QB on the team.