By Nick Shook
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Brian Hoyer‘s time as Chicago’s starting quarterback certainly impressed the Bears‘ coaching staff, but his status as the team’s permanent starter was still undetermined even before he suffered a broken left arm against the Packers on Thursday.
Prior to Thursday’s game against the Packers, Bears CEO Ted Phillips told NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport that it was too early to rule out Jay Cutler‘s return as the starting quarterback. Of course, with Hoyer expected to miss a lengthy period of time with a broken arm, it now makes sense that Cutler will reassume starting quarterback duties once he fully heals from a nagging thumb injury.
The information initially came as a surprise because coach John Fox had said if Hoyer continued his run of impressive performances (at least statistically), he’d likely remain the starter, even if Cutler was healthy. Hoyer has strung together four straight games of 300-plus yards passing and has a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 6-0. Sounds good enough to be the starter, right?
But with Hoyer, his ceiling always is in sight, it seems. He’s not a quarterback who can make every throw. He’s been one meltdown away from catastrophe in the past. And he’s 31 years old.
On the flip side, Cutler is 33 years old and is due to make $16 million in base salary in 2016. With the addition of a roster bonus in the offseason, that number becomes $15 million in 2017, and only increases as the years go on.
But there is reason for optimism for Chicago. Cutler’s guaranteed money is almost gone, so the Bears can move on if they so desire. The Bears‘ management, headed by general manager Ryan Pace, has never been sold on Cutler, and almost traded him away a couple of years ago, Rapoport reported. That potentially opens the door for a new era under center in Chicago.
That new era will require a bridge quarterback, which Hoyer, currently on a one-year deal, could become if that role suits his desires and if Chicago chooses to retain him before free agency. The second — and more important — part of that new era would require a newly drafted quarterback.
But before we get there, the Bears will have to decide from their limited viewing of Hoyer if he’s worth keeping or if they should keep Cutler under center in Chicago.