End of Jay Cutler era is on the Bears

CHICAGO -- You can imagine the scene here on Wednesday.

Thousands of Chicago Bears fans checking their smartphones on their train ride home, or stewing in late-afternoon traffic, or getting dinner ready for their kids, and realizing the moment they never thought would happen had already happened.

ESPN Insider Adam Schefter had the news: "Stunner from Chicago: Bears starting QB Jimmy Clausen this week, per source."

Fathers called sons. Bartenders poured shots. Radio lines were open, then jammed. Lots of people blinked and refreshed their Twitter feeds. Is this another Schefter fake account?

Nope, it was real.

Where were you when Jay Cutler was benched?

Bears head coach Marc Trestman getting fired? That's expected. General manager Phil Emery getting canned? Sure, makes sense.

But Cutler? I thought he'd never leave. If we had a zombie apocalypse, he'd find a way to get $20 million.

"Well, he's really good at firing rocks at zombies," the rebel leader would say with a shrug.

The Bears finally benched Cutler after nearly six seasons, 81 games, 129 touchdowns, 93 interceptions, four offensive coordinators, two contract extensions, two head coaches, two general managers and about 60 million tweets debating his value, personality, moxie, toughness, face, head, hair, heart and arm.

We've parsed every bit of Cutler's being these past six years, and the only thing we've learned is Cutler isn't The Guy. He's just a guy. Another failed quarterback for a franchise bedeviled by the position.

He was or, I guess, is better than the collection of backups that have populated the Bears' roster over the years, but he's not the starter they envisioned when Jerry Angelo traded a slew of draft picks for him in the spring of 2009.

He's just a massive disappointment -- a flawed football player and a magnet for negative vibes and attention.

A week after offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer told the offense he was a source in an anti-Cutler story -- a truly bizarre situation -- Cutler found out the franchise-shattering news in person on Wednesday morning at Halas Hall.

I can't imagine he thought this moment would happen like that, if ever. After a horrible season by the Bears, one in which Cutler has regressed, I assumed he would survive another coach firing and welcome another offensive coordinator, if only for the two more years in which the Bears owed him a truckload of money.

At this point, you had to figure the 31-year-old Cutler wasn't going to change. He wasn't going to "get it" in Year 10.

I figured the Bears' general manager, whether it was Emery or someone else, would draft a quarterback this year and Cutler's exodus would come naturally.

Maybe that's still the case. There are so many questions and possibilities, depending on other moves that might come in the next few weeks. But how could Cutler, a man so proud he demanded his way out of Denver, stick around here after this embarrassment?

Let's say Trestman is fired, as most expect. You can't ask a new coach to start his tenure with Cutler as his starter. At this point, no coach would take the job.

Imagine Trestman stays -- and this can't happen, but if it did -- then Cutler can't stay, right?

But hey, at least the Bears didn't guarantee him $54 million after last season, during which he was basically outplayed by Josh McCown.

Oh wait, Emery did that. How's that working out for him?

I was for keeping Cutler -- hey, it's not my money -- but I didn't think he'd have 24 turnovers after 14 games and that the Bears would be 5-9 looking at total regime change.

Now that we're here, there's no way for the Bears to spin this one Thursday. The team will look to trade him in the offseason, maybe release him, which will be difficult because of the money owed to him in 2015.

As for a trade, the question is, what coach has the ego to think he can be the one to reach Cutler? Jeff Fisher in St. Louis? Fisher wanted to draft Cutler for the Titans in 2006, but his then owner, the late Bud Adams, wanted Vince Young.

Maybe Ken Whisenhunt in Tennessee can be the next coach to "fix" Cutler, who lives in Nashville in the offseason.

When you get benched for Clausen, who went 1-9 as a starter in 2010, your next stop should be your hometown high school coaching staff, but Cutler will get another job somewhere.

Can the Bears release him and eat the money owed from his guaranteed contract in 2015? Sure. But the Bears owe him $15.5 million next year. According to ESPN Insider Mike Sando, Cutler's contract has off-set language so that his next team's salary would be deducted from the contract, but that would still leave the team on the hook for a franchise quarterback's salary.

On the other hand, Cutler's 2016 contract becomes guaranteed if he's on the roster in early March. Better to suffer now than keep suffering for the next two seasons.

Getting rid of Cutler is likely to be a pricey proposition, but divorces are often expensive.

Trestman met with the media at Halas Hall earlier on Wednesday, after giving Cutler the bad news, but didn't see fit to share that bit of information.

Hey, we all have different news judgment.

Trestman did say this, about not getting the best out of Cutler so far:

"I think that's evident I haven't up to this point. Am I working on it? Yes. We've seen moments, but we haven't done it on a consistent basis. I can't hide from that."

Trestman, who is presiding over one of the worst seasons, top to bottom, in modern Bears history, is likely done as the head coach of the Bears after two seasons -- a 8-8 start with promise and this 5-9 disaster-in-the-making. This season's disappointment isn't solely on Cutler, as the defense is god-awful again, the special teams are an albatross and the entire team -- not the individual players, but the team -- seemingly is infected with a careless, amateur attitude.

Is this Trestman's "going out in a blaze of glory" move or an organizational directive to save Cutler for an offseason trade?

Who cares? It happened. Cutler is no longer the Bears' quarterback.

Almost no one is left on the Bears' roster from Cutler's first season as the franchise-appointed franchise quarterback.

He never realized his potential here, and there's no one reason for that. Cutler getting benched in his sixth season as the starter is an organizational failure. Maybe this is a wake-up call for team chairman George McCaskey that his family's "business as usual" ways aren't cutting it.

The Bears need an overhaul of their franchise. Getting rid of Cutler is a start.