Rozner: Keeping Cutler hardly feels like fresh Bears start

After 119 games played as an NFL quarterback, Jay Cutler has thrown 183 touchdown passes and turned the ball over 175 times through interceptions and fumbles.

In technical football terms, that's known as, “Bad.”

The 11th pick in the draft in 2006, Cutler began as an enigma and has schlepped through nine years of professional football, confounding along the way nearly every coach and executive who has taken on this project, certain each would be the one to fix the problems under the helmet.

And the scrapyard is stacked high with the careers of so many who have tried.

Now comes a new group, led by GM Ryan Pace, coach John Fox and offensive coordinator Adam Gase, who are probably as we speak being seduced by the golden arm and athletic ability, believing they can change the behavior of a quarterback that thus far has been in-game intransigent.

It's understandable. It's happened to all of us at some point or another. If it happens to them, they won't lack for company on the long list of those with embarrassing regret.

Conventional wisdom, however, suggests the Bears will keep Cutler for at least one more season for several reasons, not the least of which is that they won't find a better option to play the position in 2015.

There is, of course, the small matter of his seven-year, $126 million contract — complete with a $54 million guarantee — signed only 13 months ago.

Cutler's base salary for 2014 and 2015 became guaranteed last March, to the tune of $38 million. That money is already spent. Gone. Written off, much like the 2014 campaign when the Bears lost to Miami and fell to 3-4.

Cutler gets another $10 million guaranteed on March 12 and the final $6 million would be locked in around the same time next year.

The supposition is they have no one else to play the position, so the Bears might as well spend $10 million more for the second year, when they've already spent $38 million for the first year.

Or — if math isn't your thing — $48 million for two years sounds so much better than $38 million for one.

Go ahead, you might as well laugh if the alternative is weeping.

While you're pondering the genius of Phil Emery for handing that deal to Cutler, and George McCaskey and Ted Phillips for approving it, what do you really gain by spending that next $10 million?

Yeah, see? This is where the trouble begins.

Pace and Fox will start to believe that if the team has to spend more money on a quarterback, they might as well use Cutler. After all, how bad can it be, right?

And besides, just because no one else could fix him, it doesn't mean they can't fix him.

In the meantime, he'll hand the ball off, throw short slants and quick screens and — in theory — stop offering the football to opposing teams.

And with handcuffs firmly in tow, Cutler will mope to the huddle, mope to the line and mope to the locker room, displaying his boredom and generally Cutler all over everyone and everything, as the team struggles to win six or seven games.

Any of this sound familiar?

Cutler will say he's buying in and maybe this time he will. But he won't enjoy driving 55 mph in a 65-mph zone.

He won't have a choice so maybe he'll even make it work. Maybe the Bears will win seven or eight games. Maybe the new brass will be fooled into thinking that they might as well give him that $6 million for 2016.

Sure, it could all work out quite nicely for the new management team while they groom the QB of the future.

The other possibility is they won't be able to fix Cutler and wind up benching him by the middle of next season.

Cue the circus music and send in the clowns.

Even if the Bears can manage a season — or two — of Cutler, getting something for their money in the process, is it worth the possible downside?

Is it worth having that personality around the team for another year?

Is it worth the possible dissension in the locker room, of players quietly criticizing play calls and schemes?

The arguments for keeping Cutler are understandable and pragmatic, but so are those calling for a fresh start, a clean break from the disappointments of the past.

If Cutler isn't going to be here when the Bears win a Super Bowl, there's no grand upside to keeping him around now.

As expensive as it sounds, it's also the unfortunate reality.

• Hear Barry Rozner on WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.

  Keeping Jay Cutler hardly feels like a fresh start for the Bears, says columnist Barry Rozner. John Starks/
  Keeping Jay Cutler hardly feels like a fresh start for the Bears, says columnist Barry Rozner. Mark Welsh/
  Keeping Jay Cutler hardly feels like a fresh start for the Bears, says columnist Barry Rozner. Mark Welsh/
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