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updated: 10/24/2010 8:06 PM

What will be left of Cutler when it's over?

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Jay Cutler was terrible last year.

He was so bad that no measure of excuse would have absolved him of blame.

And maybe he would have been terrible again this year even without Mike Martz.

But in listening to the quarterbacks who have lived to tell tales of the Martz system, nearly every one of them says that the beating a man takes, week after bloody week within the mad scientist's scheme, changes who a QB is and how effective he can be.

And it lasts years.

So brutal is the pounding that courageous men willing to stand in the pocket indefinitely are turned into those who wish merely to release the ball regardless of consequence.

They lose their mechanics, lose their reads and above all else lose their confidence and therefore patience.

They are more fear than loathing, with the added benefit of resigned to their fate.

And that's exactly what Jay Cutler appeared to be Sunday against Washington at Soldier Field, where he threw 4 interceptions in the Bears' 17-14 defeat.

After the first 3, there was little doubt he would toss another on the final drive of the game, and he did just that when he overthrew Johnny Knox.

It was an unnecessary throw and call under the circumstances, and with the day Cutler was having there was no reason to think the play would work.

Beyond the interceptions, in reality 6 more throws were just plain dreadful, including the one off Skins safety LaRon Landry's face mask that bounced all the way back to Bears lineman Chris Williams for the completion of the day.

In fairness, at least 4 more passes should have been picked.

In conclusion, Jay Cutler is just another guy right now.

"He's an NFL player," said Bears coach Lovie Smith, ending that confusion. "You go through some tough times and you just keep working to get back out of it."

Cutler took 8 more hits Sunday to run his season total to 56 in 5 games. With 4 more sacks the Bears easily lead the league with 31 for the season in seven games, after allowing 35 all of last season.

Cutler has 7 picks against 7 TDs in six games, down from last year when he had 10 picks and 11 TDs through six games, before finishing the season with 26 interceptions vs. 27 TDs.

All 4 interceptions Sunday were courtesy of DeAngelo Hall, though Cutler said he wouldn't hesitate to go right back at the Washington cornerback.

"No, not at all," Cutler said with a straight face, which was as sour as usual. "I've played against him before. There's no reason to shy away from him."

Tell me this guy hasn't been hit in the head too many times this year.

"If we had to play them tomorrow," Cutler insisted, "I'd still go after him every time if we could."


With that logic in hand, Cutler and the Bears head into the bye week at 4-3 having lost two straight home games and three of their last four overall, with the only victory in that stretch coming against a shockingly bad Carolina team.

With Buffalo (0-6) playing better, having lost to the Ravens by a field goal in OT Sunday, it's fair to wonder if the Bears can even beat the Bills right now.

Let's assume they can manage that off the bye week, but the rest of the schedule, all eight games, looks daunting at the moment, considering the current state of Bears play.

"We got a lot of football left to play," Smith said. "This one hurts. We're disappointed. But there's a lot of football left to play."

Much more important than the Bears' play the rest of the way in this ugly season is the future of their quarterback, who's been under assault since he arrived in Chicago.

Long term, the Bears have to wonder what they've got at QB, which is the same question the Broncos dared to ask, causing Cutler to have a fit and demand a trade.

It is both fair to ask that question and fair to wonder how a team can invest all they've invested in Cutler both financially and in draft picks and yet provide him with a brutal offensive line, a second-rate receiving corps and a man as offensive coordinator who sleeps just fine at night knowing he gets his QB beaten to a pulp.

"On the bye week, you take the time to evaluate everything that you've done, see the direction you need to go, changes you need to make," Smith said. "We're going to stay with that same plan."

That's what we're afraid of.