Prior to Jay Cutler’s arrival in Chicago in 2009, only two quarterbacks had ever started six straight seasons for the Bears. Despite underachieving, Cutler has the chance to extend his career with the Bears with a bounce back 2015 season.
The two Bear quarterbacks who started for six consecutive seasons were Ed Brown (1955-60) and Hall of Famer Sid Luckman (1939-48). Luckman was a starter for a portion of eight-plus seasons for the Bears.
Super Bowl XX champion Jim McMahon started 61 games from 1982-88, but couldn’t stay healthy enough to ever make it through a full season. Jim Harbuagh followed him, making 65 starts from 1988-93 and was the full-time starter for the last four years.
Cutler enters his seventh season with the Bears and will have his fifth offensive coordinator calling the plays for him. He started with Ron Turner (2009) then Mike Martz (2010-11), Mike Tice (2012) and the now notorius Aaron Kromer (2013-14).
It takes an average of three years to learn an entire offensive playbook in the NFL and it will take some time to acclimate to new offensive coordinator Adam Gase’s methodology.
Behind Cutler, the Bears have Jimmy Clausen, who was brought back on a one-year, $1.125 million deal this off-season. He enters his second season in Chicago and with his previous familiarity with head coach John Fox, Clausen is likely locked into the No. 2 spot until further notice.
Battling it out for the No. 3 spot, second-year San Jose State product David Fales and undrafted rookie Shane Carden. Pat Devlin signed with the Bears on May 11, but was cut on Jun. 18, so barring an addition they will have four quarterbacks at training camp in Bourbonnais.
Here’s an Inside Look at the current Bear quarterbacks in the ninth installment of this series. You can read the previous story about the running backs.
Projected starter: Jay Cutler
Cutler – The 32-year-old Vanderbilt product owns a career record of 44-38 in his six seasons with the Bears. Over the past two years under Marc Trestman, Cutler went just 10-16.
Can he be fixed in his 10th NFL season?
Anything is possible. Especially under Fox and Gase, who both seem to simplify things on offense. Gase will use a run-first mentality with the Bears’ offense which should take pressure off Cutler and help open up the passing game. The only real positive from Cutler’s 2014 season was the fact that he was healthy all season, starting 15 games. He totaled 30 touchdowns (28 passing, two rushing), the most in his career.
“I’m comfortable with these guys,” Cutler said via the Sun-Times on June 16. “I’ve known some of these coaches throughout my career. They’ve had a lot of success in this league and they’re trying to bring it here. I feel good about it, but I think we have a great group of players on the field right now offensively, guys that mesh together. We’re just trying to put it together.”
Cutler seems to always look solid during training camps, but this is a make or break season for him as he enters Year Two of the seven-year, $126.7 million deal he signed last off-season. He knows that and likely won’t be given the benefit of the doubt under his third head coach in his time with the Bears.
Clausen – The sixth-year Notre Dame product beat out veteran backup Jordan Palmer for the No. 2 spot in 2014. He has less competition this season, so it’s basically his job to lose. In four games, one start (Week 15), Clausen completed 26 of 48 passes for 223 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
The start was his first since his rookie season, 2010, when he made 10 for Fox in Carolina. The two are back together and you can bet Clausen is very happy about that. He doesn’t have the biggest arm or the ability to put up a huge passing game, but Clausen showed late last season in his spot start that he is a respectable backup.
Will he be able to win games if Cutler goes down?
That remains to be seen, but the Bears have had much worse backups and even weaker starters over the past 10 years. Barring a veteran addition, Clausen will win the No. 2 quarterback job.
Fales – The 6-foot-1, 228-pound Fales enters his second year in the NFL after being selected in the sixth round in 2014. Although he didn’t appear in any regular season action a year ago, Fales could be given a shot to stay on the roster again with his lone competition being Carden.
“I can tell he [Fales] talks to him, even when Jay is doing his reads, I just see him following him every step learning the offense,” Bears second year wide receiver John Chiles said via Chicagofootball.com.
For what it’s worth, Fales completed 18 of 31 pass attempts for 214 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions last preseason. He should see more chances throughout camp and the preseason. If he keeps putting the work in he could eventually develop into a solid backup if he keeps putting the work in. He has plenty of upside.
Carden – The last guy on the quarterback depth chart, Shane Carden was a three-year starter at East Carolina. He completed 63.5 percent of his passes for 4,736 yards with 30 touchdowns and 10 interceptions as a senior.
In the spread offense that the Pirates ran, Carden excelled, but he could need a lot of time to acclimate to the speed and schemes in the NFL. He is be better suited as a practice squad player in Year One.
Cutler is the top guy until further notice and Clausen is his backup until the Bears add someone else or say he doesn’t deserve to be. Fales and Carden could both make the roster if the Bears want to keep a No. 3 guy and then a practice squad player. It is rare, but you never know how they feel about either one until the preseason is over.
The Bears need Cutler to stay healthy and be effective. He needs to be smarter and limit his mistakes. Obviously all of that is easier said than done considering his past, but he has the ability to be a top-10 quarterback and could surprise many under Gase’s command.
If Cutler suffers an injury, the Bears won’t be winning many games. In his short time in the NFL, Clausen hasn’t proven to be anything more than a backup. The bottom line is that the talent and experience behind Cutler isn’t very impressive, but then again it really hasn’t been since No. 6 joined the Bears.
Next up: Special teams
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