The Chicago Bears have benched Jay Cutler in favor of Jimmy Clausen, at least according to Adam Schefter and not contradicted anywhere. Yes, Jimmy Clausen: the quarterback who somehow managed to throw three interceptions to nine interceptions in 2010 and pass for fewer than 120 yards per game in his only season as a starter. The quarterback with the most punchable face in the NFL, some of the worst statistics I've ever seen, and game film rivaled only by Blaine Gabbert's in its artistic display of complete incompetence.
That Jimmy Clausen is now starting over Jay Cutler, the anointed franchise quarterback being paid $22 million this year. Cutler has his faults, but that feels like a bit of an overreaction. It's also a likely prelude to his being traded or more probably cut by the Bears, who don't owe him that much in guaranteed money beyond this season.
Given the fact that Lovie Smith was the head coach who initially traded for Jay Cutler in Chicago, and the coach who stood by him over four seasons of up-and-down play, the next step is rampant speculation that he'll bring Cutler to Tampa. The Bucs need a quarterback. Cutler has a history with Lovie. It's easy to connect the dots.
Never mind that the Chicago Tribune's Brad Biggs nixed that option in no uncertain terms back in November.
I'd be stunned if Lovie Smith as a head coach ever has Jay Cutler on his roster again. Smith was put off by Cutler's move in Dallas in Week 4 of the 2012 season when he blew off offensive coordinator Mike Tice on the sideline. You learn to never say never in the NFL, but a reunion for those two would catch me completely by surprise.
There are other reasons to be skeptical, too. We're not entirely sure how much of a hand Smith actually had in bringing Cutler to the Bears in the first place, but it's also pretty obvious that Cutler never lived up the expectations the Bears had of him. He's the same player he's always been: a gunslinger capable of making astonishing plays, while being extraordinary careless with the ball, especially under pressure.
That's just not what a coach like Lovie Smith wants to see in the quarterback position -- inconsistency and the turnovers drive defensive coaches mad. There's also a sense that he mostly held on to Cutler because he was simply the only real option the Bears had -- free agent quarterbacks are hard to come by, and later-round QB picks don't work.
No, I can't see Jay Cutler coming to Tampa. But I can see Lovie Smith reunited with another one of his former quarterbacks: Kyle Orton, who could hit the market if he voids the final year in his contract. That particular journeyman has also been the same quarterback since he entered the league: a competent game manager who can't carry an offense, but won't run it into the ground, either. He's Alex Smith -- and while that's hardly a strong endorsement, that may be just what Lovie Smith will go to if the Bucs are not convinced they can find a franchise quarterback in the draft
Of course, all of this will also depend on who the Bucs will sign as their offensive coordinator. That will be the first step the Bucs will have to take in re-building their offense. Again.