There is a prevailing mainstream narrative that purports that Jay Cutler is a below-average quarterback and that the team is better off moving forward with journeyman backup Josh McCown as the franchise QB. Unless if Cutler’s price tag is in the Joe Flacco range, then letting Cutler walk would be the most illogical thing for the Bears to do. Throughout the season, the one thing that has kept this team afloat is the offense, as the defense has been poorly coached and is filled with sub-standard starters. The safety duo of Major Wright and Chris Conte has been one of the worst in the NFL, and the run defense has been one of the worst in NFL history.
The coverage breakdowns and poor run defense plagued the Bears in their most important game of the season, as they lost 33-28 to the rival Green Bay Packers and have been eliminated from the playoffs. They gifted Aaron Rodgers with an easy game-winning touchdown pass to Randall Cobb, they couldn’t cover Jordy Nelson, they gave up three critical fourth down conversions, and they allowed James Starks to run rampant. I’ve seen worse performances this year from the Bears defense (last week, for instance), but the Bears completely broke down when all the chips were on the table at the end of the game.
In the same vein, Jay Cutler was excellent in critical junctures, and the Bears could have still won this game had Alshon Jeffery taken advantage of a few great plays from Cutler, who was simply stunning in the second half. Cutler finished with a meaningless hail-mary interception, averaged a whopping 9.4 yards per pass play, and had an ESPN TQBR of 88.8 and a QB Rating of 103.8 (it would be 20 points higher if you didn’t count the desperation pick).
Those are eye-popping numbers, and I thought Cutler outplayed Aaron Rodgers in his first game back. While Rodgers was solid and shook off the rust as the game went on, Cutler was the better quarterback yesterday and destroyed the “Cutler can’t play well against the Packers” narrative. Sure, the Bears lost, but it definitely wasn’t Cutler’s fault.
It wasn’t all Cutler on offense, though, as guys like Matt Forte and Brandon Marshall had phenomenal games. If you want to know why Marshall deserves to be in the Pro Bowl over Alshon Jeffery, just take a look at what he did yesterday. Marshall came up big with six receptions for 74 yards, consistently making plays for the offense. His spinning touchdown reception was a thing of beauty, and there is little doubt that he and Cutler share one of the best QB-WR connections in the NFL.
Forte is the heart-and-soul of the offense in some ways, and he finished with 110 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries, in addition to catching all four of the passes thrown at him for 47 yards and a TD. But all these great performances on offense against a weak Packers defense (minus Clay Matthews, so it’s not surprising that Cutler had a very clean pocket) were put to waste, as the Bears defense had another subpar game and screwed up in critical moments. The personnel isn’t exactly good, but it seems clear that Mel Tucker’s days in Chicago are numbered.