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MORRISSEY: Bears need Jay Cutler to be their constant

Jay Cutler might not ever be grebut he’s good enough carry Bears through defensive rebuilding. | Charles Rex Arbogast/AP

Jay Cutler might not ever be great, but he’s good enough to carry the Bears through a defensive rebuilding. | Charles Rex Arbogast/AP

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Updated: January 2, 2014 6:25AM

If your greatest wish is that Jay Cutler’s stay with the Bears lasts only five more games and that you’ll finally be done with his scowls and inconsistency, I have some bad news for you:

He’s going to be here awhile. Probably quite awhile.

You can blame the Bears’ dreadful defense for that. Actually, you can blame the Bears’ defense for world hunger and the War of 1812 and nobody will call you on it. It’s going to take general manager Phil Emery so much time and effort to rebuild the defense that it would be insanity for him not to give Cutler a multiyear contract.

I’ve been on the side of putting the franchise tag on Cutler for next season, but having watched the defense before and after all the injuries, it’s apparent the Bears need long-term continuity on at least one side of the ball. To say we’re not used to having a good offense in Chicago would be an understatement. We’re living in a Bizarro World in which down is up and the Bears’ offense is much better than the Bears’ defense.

Going forward, the constant has to be Cutler, who only will get better playing under coach Marc Trestman. Can he be a great quarterback? I don’t think so, based on what I’ve seen out of him in 4 1/2 seasons.

But he’s one of the best things the Bears have going for them, no matter how much you protest. I’m talking to you, Josh McCown Fan Club members. The things Cutler can do well (throw deep and make the difficult passes) outweigh the things McCown can do well (be mistake-free).

I’m not trying to make a case for Cutler for Student Council President. I’m saying circumstances dictate that the Bears sign him to a multiyear contract and win some games on the strength of his arm while Emery goes about getting the defense right.

My previous stance was that you give Cutler a contract based only on whether you think he can win a Super Bowl. In other words, don’t let a lack of quality free-agent quarterbacks or stud college quarterbacks decide how you proceed with him. Can you win it all with him? It seemed to be the only question that mattered.

But with so much work to do on defense, it makes no sense to start over with another quarterback, no matter how well McCown has played while Cutler has nursed groin and ankle injuries.

The defense can be rebuilt if Emery avoids another first-round draft pick like defensive end Shea McClellin and if he can make every move count, which is what he has done with the offense. He was able to acquire tight end Martellus Bennett and left tackle Jermon Bushrod in the offseason. He used a first-round pick on right guard Kyle Long. Trading for wide receiver Brandon Marshall in 2012 was Emery’s first big acquisition. A month later, he chose wide receiver Alshon Jeffery in the second round of the draft. Turning the offense from the underwhelming attack it was for years into the consistent product it is today was a two-year process.

Figure on Emery needing as much time to rebuild the defense. Assuming Charles Tillman is done in Chicago, the Bears will need a new cornerback in addition to at least one safety (and probably two) and some players, plural, who can rush the quarterback.

If the Bears indeed like Cutler, then signing him to a multiyear contract makes some sense financially. Even though the Baltimore Ravens’ Joe Flacco signed a six-year, $120.6 million contract this year, he counts for only $6.8 million under this season’s salary cap. If the Ravens had franchised him instead of signing him to a multiyear deal, they would have had to pay him $14.9 million in 2013. You have to figure the Bears are looking at the Flacco situation as a guide for paying Cutler and having more money available to sign other players. And by ‘‘other players,’’ I mean “defensive players.’’ The projected 2014 franchise tag for quarterbacks is $16.2 million.

The Bears would be crazy to give Cutler a six-year deal, but teams make crazy decisions all the time. I’d offer him fewer years. There’s a chance he wouldn’t accept anything fewer than five. If so, let him walk.

Then you draft a quarterback in the sixth round who turns out to be Tom Brady. Is that asking so much?

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