His last pass as a Chicago Bear in the 2016 season, and likely for good, was intercepted, by the New York Giants. Somehow it seems an appropriate exit note for quarterback Jay Cutler.
The Bears had been holding out some hope that Cutler would be able to recover enough from a shoulder injury suffered in the game against the Giants. But hope turned to unpleasant reality on Thursday when the Bears announced that Cutler would undergo labrum surgery on his right shoulder Saturday and be placed on injured reserve.
"He's tough and waited the weeks doing a lot of rehab," said coach John Fox. "They are in there doing rehab at all hours of the day. There were some different treatments. I'm not going to get into all the specifics, but he did things you do to try and avoid surgery. They didn't take form like they were expecting, and we're at the surgical mode at this point."
The longer-term impact on Cutler and the Bears remains to play out in 2017. "The offseason is the offseason,” Fox said. “We are not there yet."
The injury removes any chance of Cutler stepping back in this year, meaning that Matt Barkley is the franchise’s starting quarterback for the foreseeable future, backed up by David Fales.
“It [stinks],” said right tackle Bobby Massie. “It’s unfortunate and we’d love to have him out there. But there’s nothing we can do. We can’t go back in time, and Barkley’s playing real well and was that last game. I know Barkley from [Arizona] and what kind of guy he is, so he’ll be fine.”
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The Bears may not be able to go back in time but looking forward in time, into next offseason, is possible, and the Bears will be with Cutler, who did not miss a game due to injury in his first four NFL seasons but has not played a 16-game schedule since the Bears traded for him in 2009.
The Cutler injury history looms as a factor in the Bears’ deliberations on Cutler, and potentially on other teams considering a move to bring him in as their starter.
The injury list:
Cutler was signed to a seven-year contract topping out at $126.5 million after the 2013 season, with then-GM Phil Emery using words like “franchise quarterback” and “elite” to characterize Cutler. The guaranteed money in the contract is done with this season, meaning the Bears have no money committed to him going forward.
The Bears opted to stay with Cutler last year on the strength of support from then-offensive coordinator Adam Gase. Cutler produced the best full season statistically under Gase, who left to become Miami Dolphins coach after the 2015 season.
Cutler regressed this year, from a career-best passer rating of 92.3 last season and a dramatic reduction in turnovers, to a lackluster 78.1 rating in his five games played this season, which finished with 4 touchdown passes vs. 5 interceptions in addition to 3 fumbles lost.
Cutler’s return for a ninth Chicago is a longshot given his failure to reach the playoffs in all but the 2010 season. But decisions in that regard will trickle out and probably not until the Bears have exhausted trade possibilities, such as then might be.
“Like everything else we do, basically we won’t [make a move on Cutler] until that time,” Fox said. “I think right now we have five games left and all our focus for myself, the coaching staff and the players is on San Francisco.”