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Jay Cutler and Chicago — A marriage made in seven

Updated: February 4, 2014 10:28AM



Seven years. Is it something we said, Phil Emery?

Jay Cutler has signed a contract that could keep him with the Bears through 2020. Man, that’s a lot of Jay. A lot of scowls, sweet passes, maddening decisions, displays of toughness and mumbled answers.

Those of you who hate him will find him no more likable.

Those of you who like him will continue to like him, though true love is likely out of the question.

All of us are stuck with him, for better or for worse, until homicide or suicide do us part.

So, deep breath. Seven years, possibly.

“We have a quarterback that we can win with,’’ Emery, the Bears’ general manager, said Thursday. “And we have a quarterback that, when we’re behind, can be the reason we win.’’

We can get all full of ourselves and declare that Cutler now must hold up his end of the bargain, but those are empty words. He held up his end enough to get a $126 million contract, with $54 million guaranteed. Emery likes Cutler just the way he is or he wouldn’t have given him that kind of money.

At first glance, the length of the contract seems excessive. It looks like a big “how’s that feel?” from the franchise to the portion of the fan base that thinks Cutler is the Antichrist. Seven years seems to be saying, “You’ll eat what we ladle out to you. And like it.’’

But the length of the deal is a salary-cap decision more than anything. The more years, the less impact the contract has on the cap, giving the Bears more money to address their atrocious defense.

“[The contract is] fair for both sides, so hopefully we can continue to get players that are going to help this organization win,’’ Cutler said.

If you think you’re getting Cutler for the short term, know this: The McCaskey family does not give anyone $54 million with the idea of losing him after three years.

The Bears believe they can win a championship with Cutler. Whether that’s real or a result of their mind playing tricks is up for debate. I don’t happen to believe they can win a Super Bowl with him running the offense. He’s too reckless on the field — too many rash decisions, too many footballs thrown toward windows the size of peepholes.

But — and this “but’’ is as big as B.J. Raji’s butt — the Bears had to sign him. Emery needs to focus on getting the defense right, and this is no time to be looking for a quarterback. Sorry, Josh McCown fans, your guy is not the short- or long-term answer. A Cutler-led offense with Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Martellus Bennett and Matt Forte isn’t the problem.

I used to be on the side of signing Cutler only if you think you can win a Super Bowl with him. But circumstances and a record-setting defense (not in a good way) slapped me out of that thinking. There isn’t a better alternative to Cutler.

“Can [Cutler] make all the throws?’’ coach Marc Trestman said. “Does he have mobility? Is he a quick decision-maker? Jay has all that. He can do all those things. But what’s most important is, is he mentally tough enough? Can he fly the plane and not be on autopilot? And I think during this process . . . that he’s proven that he can do that.’’

Well, maybe. What we can say with certainty on a big day for the Bears and their future is that there is no mystery here. Everybody knows what he’s getting with Cutler, who is 30. He’s unlikely to go backward under Trestman, but the chances of him turning into Peyton Manning are zero.

Seven years. By the way, Cutler said Monday that there had been no contract talks to that point. So that was some progress the team and his agent made in three days on a seven-year contract. Something tells me there might have been some “groundwork’’ done in the weeks and months leading up to the announcement.

Whatever the case, here we are, Chicago and Cutler, with a long time to regard each other. Has there been one athlete who has brought out such industrial-strength mixed emotions in this city?

Offhand, I can’t think of one.

Seven more years of Jay, possibly. The football observer in me says to the Bears, “It’s your funeral.’’ The columnist in me says, “Thank you.’’



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