LAKE FOREST – After eight years, the era of Jay Cutler behind center in Chicago has come to an end.
Per a report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Bears will release the quarterback on Thursday at his request.
Bears are releasing QB Jay Cutler, per sources. Cutler asked for and was granted his release this morning. Now a free agent.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 9, 2017
The Bears have yet to confirm the move.
This release ends a long and sometimes unusual road for the quarterback who was acquired by the Broncos in a trade back in the spring of 2009. Kyle Orton along with the Bears’ 2009 and 2010 first round draft picks were apart of the package to get the franchise quarterback who grew up a fan of the Bears in Santa Claus, Indiana.
“It’s a dream come true,” said Cutler at his introductory news conference at Halas Hall on April 3, 2009.
It wouldn’t end up being a dream ride for Cutler who ended up an even 51-51 for his Bears career, one that featured numerous offensive coordinators and offensive line combinations along with tons of criticism from fans who never saw the quarterback reach his full potential.
Some of that was the quarterback’s fault while a fair amount of blame goes to the franchise during an era of inconsistent leadership.
In the end Cutler ended up completed 61.8 percent of his passes for 23,443 yards with 208 touchdowns compared to 146 interceptions
The high point for Cutler came in 2010 when he led the Bears to the NFC Central Division Championship for the first time in four years as the team finished the regular season 11-5. In the Divisional Playoff against the Seahawks at Soldier Field, Cutler threw for 274 yards and two touchdowns as the Bears won their only playoff game his era 35-24.
Against the Packers in the NFC Championship Game the following week, Cutler sprained his MCL in the first half and didn’t return. The Bears lost the game 21-14 with Cutler taking heat for not returning to the game as he stood on the sidelines as Todd Collins and Caleb Haine tried to lead a comeback.
The following six seasons brought a mixture of ups and downs for the quarterback but never sustained success for himself or the franchise. A promising 2011 season was derailed in the Bears’ 10th game of the year against the Chargers when Cutler was lost for the season with a broken thumb. It cost the Bears a shot at making the playoffs, which happened again in 2012 despite a 10-6 record.
Head coach Lovie Smith was fired after that season and Marc Trestman was brought in but once again the Bears fell a game short of the playoffs, losing the division to the Packers on a last-second play in the regular season finale.
That didn’t stop Bears general manager Phil Emery from signing Cutler to a seven-year, $126 million contract that included $59 million in guaranteed money. Yet 2014 was perhaps the roughest year for the quarterback despite throwing for a career-high 3,812 yards and 28 touchdowns. Plagued by 18 interceptions and nine fumbles, Cutler was actually benched in favor of Jimmy Clausen in the second-to-last game of the year against the Lions before starting the finale against the Vikings to end a 5-11 season.
Under new head coach John Fox and offensive coordinator Adam Gase, Cutler saw marked improvement in his consistency in the 2015 season. He cut his interceptions down by seven and his fumbles by three while improving his quarterback rating to 92.3, yet the Bears finished just 6-10. Injuries played a major role in Cutler’s final season with the Bears as he was lost for over a month with a thumb injury against the Eagles in Week 2 and then lost for the season after suffering a torn labrum against the Giants in November