LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- A pair of accomplished and respected Chicago Bears players told ESPNChicago.com on Wednesday night that a portion of the locker room feels "confused and uncomfortable" over how coach Marc Trestman handled Jay Cutler's benching compared to the minor discipline offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer received last week.
But while noting that a faction of Cutler detractors exists inside Halas Hall, the general belief is that the respective punishments for Cutler and Kromer are gravely inconsistent, after the Bears offensive coordinator received "basically a slap on the wrist" for his public indiscretions when he tearfully revealed in a team meeting Dec. 8 that he was the anonymous source cited in a published NFL Media report that was highly critical of the quarterback.
Kromer coached the Bears from the sideline during Monday night's 31-15 loss to the New Orleans Saints and is expected to finish out the season.
This further magnifies the distrust between Trestman and the locker room, an ongoing issue during much of the Bears' disappointing 5-9 season, according to the players.
Trestman spoke publicly about the decision to bench Cutler after Thursday's practice.
ESPN NFL analyst Jon Gruden, who coached alongside Trestman in 2001 in Oakland, called for the Bears to bench Cutler during Monday night's broadcast.
"Jon certainly has the right to his opinion," Trestman said. "Each and every week we go through evaluations all the way around. But as I said, Jon has a right to his opinion."
Trestman did acknowledge his failure to coax the best out of Cutler, who leads the NFL with 24 turnovers (18 interceptions and six lost fumbles) in 14 games. Cutler has averaged a turnover every 33.3 snaps, which ranks as third worst among all qualified players in the NFL, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
"I think that's evident I haven't up to this point," Trestman said. "Am I working at it? Yes. We've seen moments, but we haven't done it on a consistent basis. I can't hide from that.
"We haven't been able to do the things that we want to get done," he added. "We're working toward that. But the answer to that is obvious. I'm trying to give you the most truthful answer, and that is, we've seen moments of it, but it's not where we need to go. It's not where we need to be. But it's not all about Jay. It's about our entire offense, working together to get it done."
Cutler is the highest-paid offensive player in the NFL this season at $22.5 million and signed a seven-year contract after last season. ESPN.com's Mike Sando talked to quite a few people in the league about trading for Cutler, and reports that several said they think Cutler would be worth a seventh-round pick.
Cutler's contract could be a big reason for the quarterback's benching, according to ESPN NFL Insider Mark Dominik.
The deal calls for Cutler to be paid $15.5 million in 2015. A $10 million guarantee kicks in on March 12, the third day of the 2015 league year, if Cutler is on the Bears' roster. If Cutler is injured at that time, the Bears will owe him $10 million in 2016.
By sitting Cutler the final two games of the season, the Bears guarantee he won't get injured and will have the ability to cut him or trade him after the season, basically saving the team $10 million.