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Drafting an insurance QB for Jay Cutler would be smart business for Bears

Discover Orange Bowl - Northern Illinois v FloridState

Discover Orange Bowl - Northern Illinois v Florida State

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Updated: February 24, 2013 11:45PM



INDIANAPOLIS — If general manager Phil Emery is as prudent as he seems to be and coach Marc Trestman is as smart and forward-thinking as he seems to be, the Bears will be looking for a quarterback in the 2013 draft.

Not at No. 20 in the first round. But not at No. 178 in the sixth round, either.

‘‘Absolutely,’’ said Jim Miller, the former Bears quarterback who’s now an analyst for Sirius NFL Radio and Comcast Sports Network. ‘‘Because if it doesn’t work out with Jay Cutler, you can’t be left holding the bag empty.’’

This is a make-or-break season for Cutler, who’s entering the final year of his contract. After four unfulfilling seasons, the Bears would be silly to make a franchise quarterback investment in Cutler until he proves he can rise above the muck of a typical NFL season and lead the Bears into the playoffs and beyond.

While the Bears are looking for upgrades everywhere else on their roster, the $64,000 question for the 2013 season is clear: Is Trestman finally the guy who can get through to Cutler?

‘‘Put it this way: If he can’t, it won’t be Marc Trestman getting run out of town. It’ll be Jay Cutler — I’ll guarantee you that,’’ Miller said. ‘‘Because look at what’s already happened with Jay Cutler: Ron Turner’s been run out of town; Mike Martz has been run out of town; Mike Tice has been run out of town. Those three guys don’t suck as coaches. It will be Jay Cutler before Marc Trestman that is run out of town this time around.’’

Cutler is 34-22 as the Bears’ starting quarterback. But at this stage of his career, his one playoff victory in seven NFL seasons trumps his win-loss record. The litany of excuses for his inability to reach his potential are becoming a defining part of the Cutler era. Whether or not it’s his fault, at some point the Bears might have to find a quarterback who has better luck.

With an accomplished quarterback maven in Trestman as the head coach, the Bears are better equipped to start looking right away — just in case. Even in Brett Favre’s prime, Green Bay Packers general manager Ron Wolf was always looking for quarterbacks — and found Mark Brunell, Matt Hasselbeck and Aaron Brooks. Even after Favre threw for 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns in 2004, Ted Thompson drafted Aaron Rodgers in the first round of the 2005 draft.

The Bears are unsettled behind Cutler. Jason Campbell and Josh McCown are free agents. Matt Blanchard is a developmental quarterback who spent his rookie season on the practice squad.

‘‘You’ve always got to cultivate another young guy,’’ Miller said, ‘‘and there are a couple of young guys in this draft — everybody says this is not a good class at QB — but if you can get a second- or third-round guy, why wouldn’t you? That’s what Denver did with Brock Osweiler. You’ve got to be cultivating that guy.’’

Miller’s guy in the 2013 draft is Florida State’s EJ Manuel, who has an intriguing profile. The 6-5, 240-pound Manuel has size, a big arm and escapability and, like Russell Wilson, has huge hands that allow him to throw accurately on the run.

Manuel is downgraded for his mechanics, but he has intangibles that often get overlooked or under-evaluated. He was 26-4 as a starter (for a high-profile program that was 27-21 in the previous four seasons), with a knack for being at his best when it counted. He was 4-0 in bowl games. He was the MVP of the Gator Bowl as a freshman. He was the MVP of the Senior Bowl. He’s a natural leader. It’s important for him to make his teammates better. He’s not afraid to fail. He’s projected to be drafted in the second to fourth round, but he thinks he’s the best quarterback in the draft.

Those are attributes Emery is looking for in a quarterback. The big question is whether or not Emery is looking for a quarterback. If he’s not, he should be.



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