It’s time to part ways with Jay Cutler

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Alex Camp, Sports Reporter

If you are a true Bears fan, you would know what it was like growing up with alleged quarterbacks like Cade McNown, Chad Hutchinson, Johnathan Quinn, and the remains of Kordell Stewart. Incompetency with Bears Quarterbacks went hand-in-hand as well as Leadership Lived does with UIS.

I could honestly go on and on (I’m looking at you, Rex Grossman, Craig Krenztel, and Henry Burris), and because of that, I reveled when the Bears picked up Jay Cutler in the 2009 off-season. By now, it is anything but apparent about the fact that the mystique of Cutler’s eight seasons in Chicago has been as peculiar as it has been polarizing; that said, it’s set a divide upon a contingent of fans, teammates, coaches, experts whose assessment of the man has ranged from good to bad.

For a Bears fan like me, he’s the greatest signal caller the franchise ever had. He is the all-time franchise leader in nearly every passing statistical category. With a gifted arm strength and decent agility to boot, Cutler has brought adequate stability in comparison to those before him – a trait the team had lacked for decades on end.

But criticism has been warranted during that span, so much so that it certainly will dampen his accomplishments to the eyes of many when his time in Chicago is all said and done.

Since being within one game of the Super Bowl in his second season with the Bears in 2010, Cutler has failed to bring the franchise back to the postseason, having one winning season in the process. Overall, from the time he joined the Bears in 2009 to this current campaign, Cutler has had a passer rating of just 85.4.

According to ProFootballReference.com, 19 quarterbacks with at least 50 games played during that time have had higher ratings. In his 99 starts, he is 50-49, with only two winning seasons – the aforementioned 2010 and 2012 – about as borderline middling as you can get. Three quarterbacks have had more interceptions in that time than Cutler and only one, Ryan Fitzpatrick, had a higher interception rate (3.45 percent to Cutler’s 3.33 percent).

While the numbers are less than exceptional to say the least, it’s the character qualities, or lack thereof to critics, that come into question when evaluating Cutler. In a recent sit-down with ESPN’s E60 program, former Bears tight-end Martellus Bennett lambasted Cutler’s leadership abilities.

“Some people that you want to be a leader are not the guy that’s the leader,” said Bennett. “And everyone in the locker room knows that this is not the leader, but this is what you want the face of the team to look like.”

So many times have I heard from fans or talking caricatures on national media that Cutler is the worst quarterback in the NFL, or even worse, the worst to ever don a Bears jersey; to that end, all I would have to do is simply show “highlights” of Cutler’s predecessors to convince them otherwise.

But with that in mind, it is time for the Bears to move on from Jay Cutler. Cutler is well into his 30s, and the way the offensive line has been as of late only accelerates the aging process. Cutler has been sacked 242 times in that eight-year span – the fifth most in the league. With a rate of just over four sacks a game, only Alex Smith of the Chiefs has been sacked at a higher rate.

Couple this with the realization that the Bears, at 1-5, aren’t going anywhere this season, and from the looks of it, the seasons to follow.

The Bears are a last-place team in a tough division that is getting to the toughest stretch of their schedule after Sunday’s game with the Jaguars. The recent play of journeyman backup Brian Hoyer – who got the starting gig after Cutler tore a ligament in his thumb on his throwing hand in the second game of the season – has been good enough to the point that if he keeps it up the starting spot will be permanently his.

If the consensus for head coach John Fox is to ride the hot hand in Hoyer and not deem Cutler of use in the short-term, what good is the in the team’s long-term plans, given the current trajectory? When Cutler signed a seven-year, $127 million contract in 2013, the notion among fans and critics alike was that Cutler would be here to stick around, for better or for worse.

However, it’s year three of the contract, and most of the money was frontloaded in the early part of the restructured deal. The Bears stand to lose just $2 million in cap money should they trade or let Cutler go in the offseason, according to a recent report by ESPN’s John Clayton.

Given the little financial hit the team faces should they part ways with Cutler, the stagnant sentiment that the maligned QB hasn’t necessarily changed, the currently direction of the team, and the acknowledgment of the Bears scouting top QB prospects like DeShone Kizer and Deshaun Watson, the writing on the wall that the Jay Cutler era in Chicago is coming to an end becomes more apparent with each passing week.