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Benching Jay Cutler hardly solves Bears dilemma with 'uncoachable' QB

Top coaching candidates averse to taking Bears job if Jay Cutler doesn't go.

If nothing else, Erik Kramer should stay atop the Bears' record book for single-season passing yards and touchdowns.

There will not be any more hollow statistics for Jay Cutler to accumulate in a season gone wrong after the quarterback was benched Wednesday in favor of Jimmy Clausen, who hasn't started an NFL game since he went 1-9 as a rookie starter for the Panthers in 2010.

One question left to ponder is whether Cutler will be gone at the end of the season as coach Marc Trestman and his staff likely will be fired following the Dec. 28 finale at Minnesota. It's probably only a matter of how many folks go with them.

But — and this is the only qualifier — if the Bears offense, minus wide receiver Brandon Marshall, is able to emerge from the wreckage and perform Sunday at Soldier Field against the Lions' No. 1-ranked defense, the blame game will become very interesting.

Trestman's stunning move, one he didn't hint about during a media session Wednesday afternoon, is the latest bombshell in a spectacularly fiery ending to the franchise's most disappointing season in recent memory. It shows the Bears are holding Cutler accountable for his poor play even if the move comes late. He leads the NFL with 24 turnovers and 18 interceptions and Trestman admitted it is "evident" he hasn't gotten the best out of the quarterback.

Cutler was particularly bad in Monday's 31-15 loss to the Saints, who entered with the NFL's 31st-ranked defense. The offense didn't move inside the Saints' 40-yard line until the fourth quarter when the game was out of hand. Cutler is 6-11 as the starter since returning from a high ankle sprain late last season after the offense showed punch with another backup, Josh McCown.

It's impossible to say if Trestman and his staff can coax productive results out of Clausen, who was out of the league last season as he recovered from shoulder surgery. The NFL Network reported, after Ian Rapoport's private conversation with offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer that Kromer publicly revealed, that the coaching staff considered benching Cutler when the Bears trailed the Buccaneers 10-0 at halftime last month at Soldier Field.

Multiple coaches from previous staffs — and Cutler has gone through a long list of offensive coaches — have labeled him "uncoachable" and perhaps Trestman, in a fit of desperation, is acknowledging the same thing. Or maybe the Bears hope that a career-first for Cutler will force him to change his ways, take more culpability and improve his approach from A to Z. Maybe a wake-up call can turn around the career of the 31-year-old.

Cutler's contract includes a hard guarantee of $38 million. However, he is guaranteed $54 million in the event of injury, meaning if he were to play and suffer the kind of serious injury that would keep him off the field through the 2016 season, the club would owe him $54 million.

As it stands, the Bears have paid Cutler $22.5 million this season and must pay him $15.5 million in 2015 whether he is on the team or they release him. If he's on the roster March 12, the third day of the NFL league year, a $10 million guarantee for 2016 kicks in. So, the stakes rise in another three months. ESPN reported there is offset language in the contract that would reduce what the Bears owe. For instance, if the team released him and he signed elsewhere for $5 million, the Bears would owe him only $10.5 million, still a hefty bill for a player not on your roster.

Trading Cutler will be a monumental task if the Bears go that route. Yes, he's a better option than some teams have, but he would come with a big price tag and his history of going through coaches is going to scare some clubs off.

There is a bigger issue for the Bears than money when it comes to Cutler. If they fire Trestman, the presence of Cutler is going to reduce the pool of qualified replacements.

The agents for two coordinators whose names are being mentioned on all of the lists as top candidates for a job this offseason said Cutler would scare off their clients. See where this is headed?

The NFL announced Tuesday the Bears nominated Cutler as their Man of the Year, putting him in the running for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award. The club has yet to release the information just as the team had nothing to say about Cutler Wednesday night.

At least the benching said Cutler finally is being held accountable.

bmbiggs@tribpub.com

Twitter @BradBiggs

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