by Kent Sterling
The Chicago Bears faced a choice – sign Jay Cutler to an extension, or allow him to leave.
General Manager Phil Emery and coach Marc Trestman debated each option, and decided to make Cutler a Bear for life. What made these two smart guys make the decision so quickly and emphatically?
Let’s take a look at what the worst case scenarios for each option are for the Bear, Emery and Trestman:
Let Cutler walk
The Bears allow Cutler to bolt, and trust the offense to 35 year-old Josh McCown while they groom a young quarterback. The defense continues to suck, and McCown appears to fans to be a cheap alternative at the most important position on the field. The Bears record dips to 6-10, and the rabble on 670 the Score and ESPN 1000 lead the chorus for Emery and Trestman to be shot on Black Monday in 2014.
All seven teams Cutler has quarterbacked have finished with 7-10 wins, so Emery and Trestman know going in that minus a reversal of defensive fortunes, that’s what they will get from a Cutler run offense, and that will keep them covered as they are allowed to continue their careers in Lake Forest.
Here’s a condensed version of the conversation between Emery and Trestman that led to the signing:
- Emery: Cutler wants Joe Flacco money. Is he worth it?
- Trestman: No, Flacco is not worth it.
- Emery: I’m talking about Cutler.
- Trestman: I know. See what I did there? You mean, is he worth it as in “Can we win a championship with him?”
(both laugh at the absurdity of the question)
- Emery: No. If we sign Jay, can you get enough out of him that we won’t ever have a quarterback controversy?
- Trestman: Yeah, he’s good enough to win 10 games during a good year, but will never be elite.
- Emery: The perfect QB, huh.
- Trestman: He’ll buy us another five years if you can cobble together a defense, and fire Mel Tucker. That dolt is gonna get us all shot.
- Emery: So Cutler buys us five years?
- Trestmen: Yep. We’ll be able to pay off our houses on Barberry Lane by the time people figure out this guy is good at best.
- Emery: I’ll do the deal.
All decisions in virtually every business are made based upon whether they can get you fired. Speak privately to a coach or GM, and the conversation always turns to job security. Once a certain level of income and status are achieved, keeping the gig becomes the all-encompassing goal.
Not signing Cutler instantly starts a quarterback controversy, and quarterback controversies almost always derail careers. McCown and whomever the Bears draft would vie for the job, and despite Trestman providing politically correct answers about trusting the veteran the first year, all it would take would be a three game losing streak for the pressure both inside Halas Hall and in the media to become to much to bear.
Signing Cutler relieves any chance of a debate, and thus removes a huge land mine for management.
The Bears made the convenient choice – the choice that allows enough hope among fans to compel ticket and swag sales, and also keep expectations from spiraling out of control if the Bears should find a franchise QB and start winning in bunches. Did I mention that not delivering upon the expectations of media and fans also gets GMs and coaches fired?
Signing Cutler was smart. It was expedient. It was wise. It represents management-think in 2014. What it wasn’t was a move that will bring a championship to Chicago.
Sadly, sports and business aren’t about success these day – unless success is defined as job retention.