Brian Hoyer's play produces Cutler trade rumors...and a Bears win

Brian Hoyer's play produces Cutler trade rumors...and a Bears win

When Brian Hoyer signed on with the Bears last offseason, he came in with the full knowledge that he was the understudy to quarterback Jay Cutler. He may still be, but leading the Bears (1-3) back from the abyss with a 17-14 win over the Detroit Lions vaulted Hoyer into some conversations that a couple of months ago may have seemed beyond unlikely.

Against the Lions (1-3) Hoyer completed 28 of 36 passes for 302 yards, two touchdowns and a passer rating of 120.1, the second-highest in his career. He ran his string of 2016 passes without an interception to 97 and in the process played his way into a problem coaches typically crave: being forced to choose between two good players for a position.

Indeed, Cutler-or-Hoyer may be the ultimate embodiment of what GM Ryan Pace and coach John Fox sought this past offseason when they built competition at myriad positions. What Fox needed was a leader to pick up the flag and order, “Follow me!” and Hoyer did that against the Lions.

Cutler’s future in Chicago is problematic, whether this week, this season or whenever. And that was open to question even before Hoyer demonstrated that the Bears may have the second coming of Josh McCown sitting on their depth chart.

Rumors started even during Sunday’s game that Cutler was the object of trade talks between the Bears and Miami Dolphins, who have a quarterback problem of their own but who also have Adam Gase as head coach. That would be the same Adam Gase who brought out the best in Cutler last season before the Dolphins hired him away and who lobbied hardest to stay with Cutler in the 2015 offseason. confirmed later Sunday that nothing of the sort was in the works. But the speed with which the chatter arose was suggestive of how fluid the situation is perceived to be.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Fox did not dismiss the possibility of Hoyer winning and keeping the starting job last week when he said, regarding whether Cutler coming back from his thumb injury was a given to remain the starter, that there are no givens for a team in the Bears’ situation.

Fox essentially passed on the opportunity to end the discussion. Again, instead of stating that Cutler would start when healthy, Fox left the door open for Hoyer: “We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it,” before opting to enjoy the moment of just his second win in Soldier Field as Bears coach.

And perhaps that decision already has been made, considering that few NFL coaches start into a week with any huge unknowns, particularly at one of the single most important positions in sports.

A quarterback question does have some chance of creating discord in locker rooms. Cutler was voted a co-captain by teammates and he has earned the respect of players. But Fox and coordinator Dowell Loggains will not be making the decision based on who likes Cutler vs. who likes Hoyer.

A mistaken notion is that players can’t lose their jobs because of injury. They don’t; they lose their jobs because their replacement played better than they did, including at the quarterback position. Case studies: Tom Brady for Drew Bledsoe in 2001; Jim Miller for Shane Matthews, also in 2001.

The decision will not turn on purely on tangibles, like arm strength or other talents. It will come down to the “best chance to win” determination, and Sunday afternoon it was difficult to argue against Hoyer.

“He played great,” said wide receiver Eddie Royal, who caught all seven passes Hoyer threw him, for 111 yards and including one for 64 yards and another for four yards and the Bears’ first-quarter touchdown. “Being accurate with the ball, getting it out on time and doing all the little things, converting on third down. Those things are key and he did a great job today.”

“Those things” are absolutely the key, and those are things that make offensive lines’ jobs easier, running backs more effective, sustaining drives – all axiomatic to the style of football Fox demands.

The belief inside Halas Hall is that the Bears erred in not staying with McCown when he demonstrated in 2013 that he was better suited to run Marc Trestman’s offense than Cutler. But management dictated that Cutler resume starting when back from two injuries that season. The decision this time will rest solely with the coaches, who have no vested, ego or financial interest in who starts, beyond best-chance-to-win.

“He’s played great,” said tight end Zach Miller, who has caught 13 passes from Hoyer, three for touchdowns. “His communication is very good. He’s leading in the huddle, taking care of the football, getting the ball out. Everything he can do, he’s doing.”

Which is pretty much what teams like players to feel about their starting quarterback.

Mike Trout says Browns will win more games than Bears in 2018

Mike Trout says Browns will win more games than Bears in 2018

Los Angeles Angels superstar Mike Trout is quickly becoming an icon in American sports. The two-time American League MVP is enjoying another dominant season batting .335 with 23 home runs and 48 RBI.

On Tuesday, he took a swing at what Bears fans may consider a shocking NFL prediction.

“I’ve got the Browns having a better record than the Bears,” Trout told a radio reporter, according to the Los Angeles Times. Trout's comments were made in response the reporter "talking up" Chicago.

Both the Browns and Bears have had productive offseasons that involved headline-grabbing acquisitions on offense. Cleveland drafted QB Baker Mayfield with the No. 1 overall pick, traded for WR Jarvis Landry, signed RB Carlos Hyde and drafted a backfield mate for him in Georgia's Nick Chubb. They added potential lockdown corner Denzel Ward with the fourth overall pick, too. Add all that to a motivated Josh Gordon ready to contribute for a full season, and there's good reason to be excited in Cleveland.

Still, it's hard imagining Trout can be that confident in a team that's won only one game over the last two seasons. And let's not forget what GM Ryan Pace has done this offseason, one that's been praised by analysts from all corners of the NFL universe. From new coach Matt Nagy to free-agent WR Allen Robinson and all the skill players in between, the Bears are ready to make a legitimate run in the NFC North.

Trout doesn't strike out much in the major leagues, but this prediction feels like it could be a back-straining whiff.

Is Matt Forte pushing for a coaching job with the Bears?

Is Matt Forte pushing for a coaching job with the Bears?

Is former Bears star Matt Forte going to be the team’s new running backs coach?

For now, that’s Charles London’s job, who was hired to head coach Matt Nagy’s staff earlier this year.

But on Tuesday night, Forte tweeted that he would like a coaching spot with Chicago sometime in the near future.

Serving as evidence, the now-retired running back responded to a tweet from ESPN’s Adam Schefter, which announced the Broncos’ hiring of former linebacker Demarcus Ware as a “pass-rush consultant on a part-time basis.” Forte tweeted at the Bears, saying that he is “available” to take on a similar role to Ware’s new Denver gig.

Forte’s tweet was relatively cryptic, and he never specified exactly what type of job he would want with the Bears. After finishing up a storied career this past season and solidifying his name as a Bears legend, Forte has proven that he could easily coach young running backs or even wide receivers at some point.

But isn’t this all just a joke?

Forte silenced the doubters by tweeting “I wasn’t joking” as a response to an article saying that his desire for a new occupation with the Bears was simply a gag. The former workhorse was also intrigued by a fan’s tweet asking “Coach Forte??”

The mere thought of having Forte back in Chicago with the Bears’ coaching staff sent fans on Twitter into a frenzy. In April, Forte came back to Halas Hall to ink his name on a one-day contract, successfully allowing him to retire as a Bear. Now, Forte wants a lengthier stay in the Windy City.

Ware’s role with Denver is not extensive by any means and, according to Schefter, he will work a pretty scattered schedule with Broncos players. What Forte’s role would look like with the Bears is completely unknown if his plan to coach becomes a reality.

Forte has the running back credentials to take on a coaching position. In eight seasons with the Bears, Forte racked up a combined 8,602 rushing yards, second to only the great Walter Payton. Forte’s 4,116 receiving yards as a running back, 12,718 yards from scrimmage, 24 games with 100 rushing yards and 25 games with at least 150 yards from scrimmage also ranks second behind Payton.

Maybe this will be a new development in Chicago’s offseason plans, but there is no real talk of bringing one of the team’s all-time leading rushers back to the team as of right now.

Last month, NBC Sports Chicago announced Forte will be joining the network as a Bears game day studio analyst for the upcoming 2018 NFL season. And we're not joking about that.