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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Football players talk a lot about the importance of "tape."

Tape is where you find answers and tape is where you want to shine. In what might have been his last news conference at Halas Hall, Jay Cutler got some great stuff on tape.

For a guy known for a lack of composure on the field, he continued his impressive streak of keeping it together under duress off the field.

[+] EnlargeJay Cutler and Jimmy Clausen
Joe Sargent/Getty ImagesJay Cutler admitted he did not take the news well when he was told he would be benched for Jimmy Clausen.
In his first comments since his surprise benching by coach Marc Trestman on Wednesday, Cutler impressed NFL people from coast to coast. He was self-effacing, respectful, funny and insightful in talking to local reporters, a group with which he has had an up-and-down relationship.

It was the second straight week in which he looked a lot more professional than Trestman, who has been reduced to a defensive, mournful soul who is likely seeing the end of his professional dream.

There are no winners in the Bears' situation, save for Jimmy Clausen, who gets his first start since 2010 this Sunday against the Detroit Lions. At 5-9, the Chicago Bears aren't just subpar, they're getting embarrassed on a weekly basis. Cutler has been part of the problem, and in this case, he's the scapegoat for the organizational dysfunction that has crippled the historic franchise.

Chicago is used to the Bears missing the playoffs, but we're in rare territory here as the Bears are operating like the Oakland Raiders.

While Cutler's reputation as a sourpuss has been solidified through years of televised grimacing, he has been very good with Chicago media this year in his podium appearances. He even joked about the now-famous miscommunication Monday night when he answered three questions in the postgame media room and left before reporters had scurried over from the locker room.

"Glad you guys could make it," he said. "I missed you after the game."

It figures this happens now. Cutler isn't going to win a Super Bowl in Chicago, but he won the room in Lake Forest. I can't speak for anyone else, but I found him sympathetic Thursday. If he's gone, he's going out, well, professionally.

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What's Next For Cutler?

December, 18, 2014
Dec 18
5:30
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John Clayton talks about the future of the Chicago Bears' offense.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- When Golden Tate heard the news about one of his closest friends, he immediately sent him a message.

In it, he told new Chicago Bears starting quarterback Jimmy Clausen to be safe.

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"I sent him a text saying I’m happy for you, but I’m also nervous for you," Tate said. "Our defense ain’t nothing to mess around with, so for that to be your first start with your new team, it can be nerve-racking.

"But I hope he does well. I hope he stays safe out there. I hope he puts some good stuff on film, but I hope we still beat him pretty bad."

Tate knows Clausen better than anyone else on the Lions. The two have been close friends since their time at Notre Dame together, when Clausen threw passes to Tate during Tate's Biletnikoff Award-winning season in 2009.

Tate said he has wanted to see Clausen get another chance after he was thrown into the Panthers’ lineup as a rookie. Clausen went 1-9 in his rookie year in 2010, completing 157 of 299 passes for 1,558 yards, three touchdowns and nine interceptions. He was sacked 33 times and posted a QBR of 11.0.

"I think it was unfair when he was in Carolina," Tate said. "He wasn’t on a great team, being a rookie. The next year they draft Cam Newton. He sits as a No. 3 [QB] because (Derek Anderson) was No. 2. They wouldn’t let him go, so he couldn’t even get an opportunity to go somewhere else to prove himself.

"Meanwhile, you’ve got tons of other, in my mind, terrible quarterbacks getting drafted in the first round. I’m sure you guys would agree with that, that have proven to be terrible, I’m not going to mention any names.

"That could have been his chance to shine, and then he tore his labrum last year and had to sit out the whole year and then he had to wait for someone to call. Wait for a chance. Gets to Chicago, gets a chance and beats out the No. 2 guy and is the backup quarterback. I believe in him and hope he makes the best of his opportunity for these last two games."

Well, he hopes he does well -- just not too well.

"In a perfect world he would play well and throw no touchdowns," Tate said. "And we would win."
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Despite coach Marc Trestman benching him just 14 games into a seven-year, $126.7 million contract, quarterback Jay Cutler hopes to remain with the Bears, but he acknowledged Thursday "it definitely crossed my mind" that he has possibly played his final game with the team.

Trestman pulled Cutler and backup Jimmy Clausen into a meeting Wednesday to inform the quarterbacks of the decision to go with the latter Sunday when the Bears host the Detroit Lions at Soldier Field.

Cutler said he "didn't take [the demotion] well at the time."

"You sign a seven-year deal, and you think you're going to be here for a while," Cutler said Thursday at Halas Hall. "I'm still hopeful that's going to ring true, that we'll have another shot at this. But after this last game, a lot could happen."

Trestman benched Cutler after the quarterback produced a season-low passer rating of 55.8 in Monday night's loss to the New Orleans Saints while throwing three interceptions and generating a total QBR of 6.8, which registered as his second-worst performance of the season in that statistic (6.0 QBR in Week 10 against the Green Bay Packers). Cutler also absorbed a season-high seven sacks against the Saints.

In leading the Bears to a 5-9 record, Cutler has racked up a league-high 24 turnovers (18 interceptions and six forced fumbles).

NFL Insider Adam Schefter first reported news of Cutler's benching Wednesday night, and the team held a meeting Thursday "to cover up what got out yesterday," according to Bears left tackle Jermon Bushrod


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Inside Edge: Lions-Bears

December, 18, 2014
Dec 18
4:03
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ESPN NFL Insider Mike Sando delivers stats to help you make a pick for Detroit at Chicago.

Bears to start Jimmy Clausen at QB

December, 18, 2014
Dec 18
2:57
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears will start Jimmy Clausen at quarterback this week over Jay Cutler, coach Marc Trestman confirmed at a news conference Thursday.

"I think we need a lift at quarterback. We need a spark," Trestman said, adding that the "weight of the world shouldn't be on the shoulders of Jimmy Clausen."

"He [Clausen] is going to get a chance to play, and I'm hoping that our team, against a very good defense...that there will be some response from our football team," Trestman said. "I'm looking forward to seeing how it unfolds."

Trestman said he personally informed both quarterbacks of the switch Wednesday prior to meeting with general manager Phil Emery, insisting the call to send Cutler to the bench was "ultimately my decision."

"It's a coaching decision," Trestman said. "It's [a] 46-man roster [decision]. Everybody was made aware of the process, and that was finalized with my discussions with Phil last night and with our staff. That decision on the 46 [man roster] is ultimately mine."

Cutler said he was "shocked" at first at the benching and then "disappointed."

"I didn't see it coming," he said. "But any time you lose a lot of games and don't do as well as you hoped, there's a chance that could happen."

Cutler paused for a moment when asked if Trestman's decision was fair.

"There's a lot in that question," Cutler said. "I haven't really thought about it that deeply. All I know is there is a lot of money involved in my contract, which comes with a lot of expectations, and a lot of responsibility. Whenever you're not winning and performing the way you should there's a likelihood that can happen [being benched]."

Trestman said the benching is just for this week at this point and that Cutler would be active and serve as the backup in Sunday's game against the Detroit Lions


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Live blog: Marc Trestman, Jimmy Clausen and Jay Cutler

December, 18, 2014
Dec 18
2:35
PM ET
A day after naming Jimmy Clausen as the starting quarterback over Jay Cutler, the Bears will hold a news conference with coach Marc Trestman, Jay Cutler, Clausen and offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer.

Follow along with ESPN's Michael C. Wright and Jeff Dickerson as they dispatch live updates from Chicago beginning around 2:50 p.m. ET.

Prediction: Lions will beat Bears

December, 18, 2014
Dec 18
1:00
PM ET
CHICAGO -- Chicago Bears head coach Marc Trestman dropped a bombshell Wednesday when he decided to start quarterback Jimmy Clausen on Sunday against the Detroit Lions, instead of Jay Cutler. From a performance standpoint, Cutler deserved to be benched, especially following a dreadful, three interception game versus the New Orleans Saints on Monday night that raised the quarterback’s season turnover total to a league-worst 24.

Clausen is not considered an upgrade. It’s more an act of desperation. Clausen hasn’t played meaningful regular season football since starting 10 games for the Carolina Panthers in 2010, going 1-9. In three appearances as a Bear, Clausen has passed for 42 yards. Keep in mind, Detroit’s defense is No. 1 overall in points allowed (17.0) and No. 2 in total defense. Chicago hasn’t played well since October. The Lions can clinch a playoff berth with a victory. The writing is clearly on the wall.

My prediction: Lions 41, Bears 16

Cutler benching moves line

December, 18, 2014
Dec 18
12:49
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Sports books downgraded the Chicago Bears by less than a field goal after news broke Wednesday that quarterback Jay Cutler would be benched in favor of backup Jimmy Clausen for Sunday's home game against the Detroit Lions.

The Bears began the week as seven-point home underdogs to the Lions, with Cutler as the presumed starter. ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported Wednesday that Clausen would get the start, and sports books immediately began adjusting the point spread.

The adjustments varied, with oddsmakers attempting to gauge the difference value between Cutler and Clausen. Las Vegas sports book operator CG Technology had the Lions minus-9 (-105) Thursday morning, while the Westgate SuperBook and Station casinos were offering Detroit minus-8.5. It's not a large adjustment, but it does move the point spread off the key number of minus-7. A seven-point margin of victory is the second-most common outcome of an NFL game, behind three points.

The last time the Bears have been this big a home underdog was in a Dec. 28, 2009, game against the Minnesota Vikings. Chicago is 1-7 against the spread as a home underdog in the last four seasons. The Bears are 5-9 straight-up and against the spread overall this season.

In his NFL career, Cutler's teams in Denver and Chicago are a combined 45-72-2 against the spread in his starts. That's the worst record against the spread of any established current starter in the league.


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Chicago's Cutler exit strategies

December, 18, 2014
Dec 18
11:00
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The Chicago Bears' move to bench quarterback Jay Cutler sure looks like a prelude to releasing or trading the NFL's 2014 leader in turnovers. It would be an amazing, perhaps even unprecedented move one year after the Bears signed Cutler to a seven-year contract averaging $18.1 million per season. The Cutler deal would go down with Washington's ill-fated contract with Albert Haynesworth as one of the worst in league history, although Haynesworth made it to a second season, at least.

The Cutler contract carries $15.5 million in fully guaranteed salary for 2015. As I wrote Tuesday, that commitment means the Bears are pretty much stuck with Cutler next season unless they're willing to eat that $15.5 million, or unless they can find a trading partner. Benching is not the same as releasing or trading, but it's the strongest indication yet that Cutler could be finished in Chicago after six seasons and a 52.2 total QBR score that ranks 17th out of 29 qualifying players over the past six years. The team has a 44-37 record (plus 1-1 in postseason) with Cutler starting.

The Bears' moving on from Cutler seems unlikely on the surface because of the cost involved -- as I wrote Tuesday -- but if the team decides that's what it has to do, what options are at Chicago's disposal?

Over the past couple of days, three front-office executives from other teams shared their thoughts on potential exit strategies for the Bears, should the team decide to go that route. Two of them suggested the same trade partner -- one that would add another high-profile name to the already long list of coaches who have bet on Cutler. The third executive explained why a trade could be tricky. Another thought benching Cutler could diminish his value, but the move also could shield the team from considerable liability if Cutler is indeed finished with the Bears.

There is much to consider as Cutler heads into Week 16 as the backup to Jimmy Clausen just 350 days after the Bears marked his new contract by saying they were "very excited to have Jay for the long term."

Players: Cutler discipline unequal

December, 18, 2014
Dec 18
10:29
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- A pair of accomplished and respected Chicago Bears players told ESPNChicago.com on Wednesday night that a portion of the locker room feels "confused and uncomfortable" over how coach Marc Trestman handled Jay Cutler's benching compared to the minor discipline offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer received last week.

From a pure performance standpoint, neither of the players, who requested to remain anonymous, objected to Cutler losing his starting job to Jimmy Clausen for Sunday's game versus the Detroit Lions.

But while noting that a faction of Cutler detractors exists inside Halas Hall, the general belief is that the respective punishments for Cutler and Kromer are gravely inconsistent, after the Bears offensive coordinator received "basically a slap on the wrist" for his public indiscretions when he tearfully revealed in a team meeting Dec. 8 that he was the anonymous source cited in a published NFL Media report that was highly critical of the quarterback.

Kromer coached the Bears from the sideline during Monday night's 31-15 loss to the New Orleans Saints and is expected to finish out the season.

This further magnifies the distrust between Trestman and the locker room, an ongoing issue during much of the Bears' disappointing 5-9 season, according to the players.

Trestman spoke publicly


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Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic discuss whether the Bears should hire Mike Shanahan as coach if the team decides to fire Marc Trestman.

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