Stevie Sunshine is here to wish you a happy Boxing Day and to bring you the gift of, well, sunshine.
I have found the upside of the Bears’ joke of a defense. No lie.
I have unearthed the one positive from the historically pathetic run defense. True fact.
I have discovered the one faint bit of optimism from the linebackers and safeties (and if you switched them, would it matter?).
And that ray of sunshine is this:
Jay Cutler is forced to prove his worth when it matters.
He didn’t come close to proving anything in Philadelphia. With a playoff berth begging to be clinched, Cutler completed 20 of 35 for 222 yards, a TD and a pick, and a quarterback rating of 73.8.
At one point in the first half, the Eagles had 149 yards and Cutler’s offense had four. Yes, four.
The happy and potentially revealing by-product is Cutler’s opportunity to prove it against the Packers with the NFC North title and a playoff spot still at stake.
Be clutch or be gone.
If he stinks against the Bears’ biggest rival the way he usually does, then the Bears should have serious concerns about using even the franchise tag, not to mention spending Tony Romo-Matthew Stafford-Unmet Potential money.
But if Cutler gives the Bears the game they need in a situation they must have, then their Hope-O-Meter pushes into plus territory.
This season always has been about Cutler. He was coming out of contract as he was walking into a new offense constructed by a quarterback whisperer. Could Marc Trestman develop Cutler into the franchise quarterback that general manager Phil Emery believes he is.
He is a stock. An IPO with a cannon arm. Is he worth the price?
Cutler has never had this kind of coach and these kinds of weapons entering a game against the Packers. He should fare better. He should be terrific, in fact. That’s the idea.
But if he isn’t, then why bother going further, especially at that price?
Remember, too, Emery believes playoffs are a regular expectation. He fired a coach because he failed to reach the postseason regularly. It follows that re-hiring a quarterback at an elite cost would involve that criterion, as well.
The defense isn’t going to magically improve. The Bears remain a team forced to outscore its own defensive ineptitude. That starts with Cutler.
That’s what Sunday’s game is all about. In many ways, Bears-Packers for the division crystallizes an important aspect of Cutler’s value. This is the kind of game that gets you paid.