If you think the timing was convenient in Chicago when it comes to Jay Cutler being medically cleared just as Brian Hoyer was put on the shelf for at least two months with a broken left arm suffered against Green Bay last Thursday, you’re not exactly going to be labeled the most cynical person on the planet.
Bears coach John Fox had no intention of going back to Cutler anytime soon, especially if Hoyer continued to play at an acceptable level, but the sudden injury forced Chicago’s hand because third-stringer Matt Barkley was overmatched when forced into action against the Packers.
Cutler returned to practice Tuesday and it’s hard to imagine that would have been the case if Hoyer emerged from the Green Bay game with a clean bill of health. The Vanderbilt product understands his opportunity to get back on the field is born out of necessity.
“(Fox) doesn’t have a choice, I guess, at this point,” Cutler admitted. “Brian is out, so I’ve got to go. I’ve had good conversations with Foxy this week, last week, the week before. There’s never been any strain in our relationship. We’re both very open and honest, and we’re on the same page. We just want to win football games.”
Winning hasn’t been happening all that much for the Bears, who are a dismal 1-6 after their 26-10 defeat to the Packers in Week 7. They are the only team in the NFC North under .500.
Cutler, meanwhile, is obviously not in the long-term plans of either the coach or the organization, but then again there is no guarantee that Fox is going to be around in 2017 if the bottom continues to fall out on his team.
“It is what it is,” Cutler said of his lame-duck status. “Anytime you have a backup quarterback—and to Brian’s credit, he played well. I think as a team, we wish we would have won some more of those ball games. But Brian went in there and did a great job. My discussions with everybody that I have relationships with in here were positive, and whenever I was ready to go, I’d be ready to go.”
The Bears have plausible deniability with Cutler’s thumb injury because everything was left open-ended and no definitive timetable was ever really laid out.
“There was never any discussion regarding (getting the starting job back) with me,” he said.
Cutler has been around long enough to do the savvy thing here, especially in front of a microphone, but being wanted and being needed are two totally different things.
The Bears need Cutler to put a passable product on the field, but don’t want him in the long-term. So, the veteran is looking toward his teammates for motivation as he tries to finish out the season and perhaps his career in the Windy City on a positive note.
“I’ve got great guys in (the quarterback’s) room, got great guys in the locker room — that’s just what you rally around,” Cutler said. “That’s what you build for, those relationships. So that’s kind of where I’m at.”
The omission of Fox when talking motivation was likely calculated even though the coach tried to back off his previous assertion that the starting QB job was going to be decided on performance once Hoyer entered the lineup and played well.
“Some things that I say go somewhere that I wasn’t really intending,” the coach claimed when asked about refusing to commit to Cutler. “I don’t know that there was a competition to speak of.”
No one was buying that, least of all Cutler, who was dumped in a public fashion and is now being asked to forget that Fox wanted to see other people.
The Bears’ next test is against 5-1 Minnesota to close out Week 8 at Soldier Field on “Monday Night Football.” While the Vikings suddenly look vulnerable due to their offensive line issues, it’s hard to imagine Fox’s inartful handling of this situation paying dividends.
-John McMullen is a national football columnist for FanRagSports.com and TodaysPigskin.com. You can reach him at [email protected] or on Twitter @JFMcMullen — Also catch John each week during the NFL season ESPN South Jersey, ESPN Southwest Florida, ESPN Lexington, KDWN in Las Vegas, and check @JFMcMullen for John’s upcoming appearances on SB Nation Radio, FOX Sports Radio, CBS Sports Radio as well as dozens of local radio stations across North America