Apparently Phil Emery didn’t learn from Jerry Angelo’s mistake.
In 2011, the Chicago Bears were 7-3 and cruising to a berth in the NFL playoffs. However, in Week 11 Jay Cutler broke his thumb on his throwing hand and missed the remainder of the season. The Bears inserted Caleb Hanie into the starting lineup, and they proceeded to lose the next five games and were knocked out of playoff contention. The collapse cost Angelo his job.
In 2014, things are pointing up for Chicago. They have an explosive offense under second-year coach Marc Trestman and a healthier defense should be much improved with the additions of Jared Allen and LaMarr Houston on the defensive line. What Emery failed to address was the Bears’ backup QB position.
Last year, Josh McCown was more than capable when Cutler missed time, but he left via free agency to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This leaves the Bears with a collection of Jordan Palmer, Jimmy Clausen and David Fales to back up Cutler, and none of those three have ever had a lick of success in the league.
Fales is an unproven rookie who was drafted in the sixth round last May, Palmer is most known for being his brother Carson’s caddie at celebrity golf events and Clausen hasn’t played in an NFL game since 2010, when he was 1-9 in 10 starts with the Carolina Panthers.
The issue with this particular lack of depth is Cutler’s inability to stay healthy. The last time he started all 16 games was 2009. Even with an improving offensive line, expecting Cutler to hold up for all 16 games is a virtual impossibility.
Playoff spots are at a premium in the NFC. With the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks almost certainly playoff bound from the same division, it leaves only one Wild Card spot remaining. This year, the Bears will be in a battle for the NFC North crown with the Green Bay Packers. If Chicago finds themselves in a losing streak due to a Cutler injury, they will almost certainly lose the division to Green Bay. If that happens, they will find themselves in a very precarious position: battling every other team in the NFC for one remaining playoff spot.
Not addressing the backup QB position will not cost Emery his job like it did his predecessor, but it will cost the Bears a prime opportunity to reach the playoffs in 2014.