Bears would be smart to let Cutler sit
Bears quarterback Jay Cutler talks with backup quarterback Jason Campbell (2) after Cutler took a late hit from Houston linebacker Tim Dobbins in the first half of Sunday's 13-6 loss to the Texans.
The closest Jay Cutler should get to Monday night's Bears-49ers game is the TV set in his home.
My advice to Jay: Don't play, don't practice, don't even board the team charter for San Francisco Sunday afternoon. Stay home and get well. Play with your baby, get an early start on your Christmas shopping, finalize plans for Thanksgiving dinner. Do anything except play football this week.
The only tackling Cutler should try to avoid over the next week is Kristin's "Honey-Do" list.
Let Jason Campbell play. The Bears aren't paying him $3.5 million just to hold a clipboard and run the scout team in practice. If he can't outperform 49ers' second-year quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who should be making his first NFL start in place of concussed starter Alex Smith, then he's not worth the investment.
They're paying Campbell excellent backup money so he can run the offense without much of a drop-off whenever Cutler can't. (This is where a cynic would point out that there can't possibly be much of a drop-off for an offense that, not counting the Titans game, has scored 3 touchdowns in its last three games, ranks 28th in total yards and 30th in passing yards.)
Even fanatics who prioritize wins and losses over a player's health should be in favor of Cutler sitting this one out. Better to rest the franchise quarterback in a game they're probably going to lose anyway and get him healthy for the final six games. Even if they lose in San Francisco, the Bears are still going to be 7-3 and, at the very least, tied for first place in the NFC North.
Playing Cutler against the NFL's best defense jeopardizes the remainder of the season if he takes another vicious shot to the head. (Cynics would also point out here the likelihood of that happening behind the Bears' offensive line.) Sitting him could guarantee a healthy leader for the remainder of the season.
It's also worth pointing out that the last time Cutler played in San Francisco, a 10-6 Bears loss, he had one of the worst games of his career, flinging 5 interceptions and compiling a passer rating of 33.6.
Players and coaches love to spew clichés about having to win every week. But the Bears could lose the next three games and be virtually guaranteed a playoff berth if they win three of their final four. And those four game include home dates in December against three dome teams: the Minnesota Vikings, St. Louis Cardinals and Detroit Lions.
Beating the 49ers and losing Cutler would be a disaster. Losing to the 49ers and having a healthy Cutler around for the stretch run? Well, considering he's 12-2 in his last 14 starts, it's a good bet there will be playoff football in Chicago.
Can they survive without Cutler down the stretch? Well, we saw what happened last season when the Bears went from 7-3 with him to 1-5 without him. There's no guarantee that Campbell will have any more success than Caleb Hanie did a year ago, but past performance says he will.
Now is the time to find out.
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