With their embarrassing loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, the Chicago Bears not only found themselves officially eliminated from playoff contention, but they also have been left asking themselves a simple question:
After all, this team is going into the offseason with an incredible amount of salary cap space, some huge question marks at some key positions, and with the possibility of saying goodbye to some of the team’s longest tenured players.
With all of those questions needing to be answered, one area that may be overlooked is what to do about the team’s future at the quarterback position. Jay Cutler has had a really solid year for the Bears, doing a better job of taking care of the football and seemingly finding a comfort zone in Adam Gase’s offense. He also comes with a hefty price tag for next season, and with those things in mind, it’s almost certain that he will be the starter again in 2016.
But what about after that? The Bears can’t realistically look at Cutler as the definitive solution at quarterback for the next five years, so they’re eventually going to have to bring in his eventual replacement, to groom him for the rigors of playing the position at the NFL level.
With that in mind, there is one strategy that the Bears need to genuinely consider in the final two weeks of the season: giving David Fales a start at quarterback.
Once again, this is not an indictment of Cutler’s play. He has certainly earned the starter’s job for next season, and unless he’s traded away, that’s exactly where he’ll be. The big question the Bears have to ask themselves is whether or not Fales is going to be the guy that could eventually take over for Cutler as the starter, and that evaluation begins with giving him an opportunity to show what he can do against an actual NFL defense with a full week of preparation to help him out.
This strategy is lended even more credence by the fact that the Bears opted to cut Jimmy Clausen loose during the season in order to save Fales from being signed off of their practice squad. That move could have been a practical one, with Clausen showing little to no ability to run Gase’s offense in limited work, but more likely it was a decision by Ryan Pace to hold onto an unproven commodity with the idea of seeing what he can do if given the chance to play.
That chance starts with giving him a start, likely against the Detroit Lions in the final game of the regular season. John Fox and the coaching staff would be smart to explore that option, and if they’re serious about evaluating the talent that’s on this roster going into an offseason that will see a ton of personnel turnover, they might as well see if Fales has what it takes to potentially develop into the quarterback of the future in Chicago.