There are many Bears fans out there who were happy to see Jay Cutler get injured. They have wanted him gone for a while, although I have never understood who they want to replace him with. Above average quarterbacks are not readily available. It’s not like you can just go grab a Manning, Rodgers, Brady, Luck, Wilson or Rivers out of nowhere.
Yes Jay Cutler was 23rd in QBR in 2014. One of the guys worse than him was Josh McCown, one the guys people thought was a better option than Cutler. Of the 22 guys who finished ahead him, only two switched teams this offseason, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Nick Foles. Foles was traded and the Bears wouldn’t have had the pieces Philly wanted, so Fitzpatrick was the only other possibility. Fitzpatrick is 32, in his 11th season, playing for his 6th team (and 4th in four years). Two of the previous four (Houston and Buffalo) don’t exactly have answers at QB right now. His highest QBR in a given season that he played most of the games was 56.7. Cutler hasn’t been all that much better, but it’s hard to see Fitzpatrick being any sort of major upgrade.
When Cutler went down a couple of weeks ago he was replaced by Jimmy Clausen, a prime example of a “readily available QB” (essentially the kind of guy the Bears could grab at any time). When Tony Romo went down, he was replaced by Brandon Weeden and, then the Cowboys traded for Matt Cassel. Michael Vick came in this week for the Steelers, Matt McGloin played for the Raiders, Luke McCown for the Saints and Kellen Clemens for the Chargers when injuries occurred. Are these the kind of guys Bears fans want instead of Cutler?
For those who think the free agent route is the way to go, there are 28 QBs slated to be free agents at the end of 2015. The aforementioned Fitzpatrick, Clausen, Cassel, Vick, McGloin, Clemens , Luke McCown and Weeden are nine of them. Guys like Kellen Moore, Bruce Gradkowski, David Fales (already on the Bears), Chase Daniel, Dan Orvlovsky and Charlie Whitehurst, Scott Tolzien are career backups. That leaves 13 guys.
Matt Hasselbeck is 40, and probably not close to starting quality anymore. Joe Webb had some brief starting experience with the Vikings a while back. He hasn’t been heard from since. Same for Thaddeus Lewis on the Bills. Both of those guys are on different teams right now that most NFL fans couldn’t accurately name. Tavaris Jackson is still the backup in Seattle, but he is 32 and was unsuccessful is multiple stints as a starter. Matt Schaub couldn’t hold the starting job with the lousy Texans, and is 34.
That leaves 8 guys with even a sliver of chance of upside. Drew Stanton is a backup in Arizona. He is 31, and has played 22 games in 8+ seasons. He showed signs of life last year, and probably wasn’t traded because the Cardinals need a capable backup. Still, he hasn’t been good enough to get a legit chance at starting anywhere. Matt Moore is also 31 and in his 8th season. He has played in 40 games up to this point, and been the full time starter in just one season. He is in year four as the backup in Miami, which is a good indication that he isn’t good enough to go somewhere else and have a shot. The guy Moore tried to replace in Miami was Chad Henne, 30 and also in his 8th season. Henne was actually a starter for like four seasons, but was never really very good in those. He is probably the first guy we have mentioned as a free agent who could possibly start somewhere in the NFL right now.
There are three kind of wild card young guys on the list. One is Austin Davis, who is 26 and in his 4th season. He played in 10 games last season for the Rams and was not terrible. But they dumped him and he is the 3rd string guy in Cleveland right now, none of those things is a good sign. He was replaced on the St. Louis bench by Case Keenum, 27 and also in his 4th season. Keenum played in 10 games over two years for the Texans, but was bumped out there and wasn’t good enough to compete for a job anywhere this offseason. The most interesting name here is Brock Osweiler, who is 24 and in his 4th season as the backup in Denver. There were some who saw him picked as the heir apparent in Denver. He has thrown 30 passes over 10 games in his time there, and has spent all of it watching one of the greatest QBs ever work. The problem is that Manning isn’t going to play that much longer, and if the Broncos think Osweiler is good enough to be a starter, they aren’t letting him go.
That leaves the two guys currently entrenched as starters in the NFL. Sam Bradford and Kirk Cousins. Philadelphia traded for Bradford this offseason. Chip Kelly seems legitimately crazy at this point, so it’s hard to read much into how good Bradford can be. So far he doesn’t look good. He is also fragile as a China doll and that isn’t the kind of QB that has ever worked in Chicago, not that Bradford appears to be any sort of upgrade anyway. Cousins looks solid, but that is also what makes him out of reach. Washington isn’t giving up Cousins at the end of the year if he is a starting caliber QB. Even if he is in the bottom half they (unlike most Bears fans) know that the other options out there are pretty week. So he is either not going to be an upgrade, or staying where he is.
What about trades? The Bears were lucky to get Cutler in a trade but it cost a lot of picks, and judging where the team is now it’s hard to see them giving up a bunch of picks for a QB again. Someone like RG3 might get cut, but he is far from an upgrade.
For those of you who are thinking draft, here is a look at the first round QBs the last three drafts: EJ Manuel, Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater, Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota. The jury is out on these guys, but Bridgewater is the only slam dunk better option from this list. But if you want to look ahead keep an eye on these guys: Cal’s Jared Goff, Michigan St.’s Conor Cook, Ohio St.’s Cardale Jones, Penn St.s Christian Hackenberg and maybe USC’s Cody Kessler.
But realistically know that there is no surefire QB upgrade out there over a veteran guy who is one of the best 15–20 QBs in the league.