RedEye

How much is Cutler worth now and who do you blame?

Jay Cutler was the last of three quarterbacks to get knocked out of a game because of a concussion Sunday, which brings trouble and questions.

How much are Cutler’s capacities diminished? How much is his upcoming contract value diminished?

How much can the Bears afford to gamble on Cutler’s future and who gets the blame?

Blame whoever you want, but make sure the NFL absorbs a lot of the blame.

It appears the league will absorb a judgment for millions in punitive damages for hiding the brain-damaging nature of its game, and it certainly is a co-conspirator in these cases of quarterbacks knocked silly.

Seems to me, the league helped make the concussion problem worse when it began its version of protecting quarterbacks, and here’s why:

The NFL can’t protect quarterbacks while also making them king. Connect the dots, people.

The NFL changed the rules to highlight almost everything quarterbacks do. Chicks dig the long balls.

Because of that, the NFL pays quarterbacks millions. Stars always get paid. Sometimes even Matt Cassel does, too.

One dangerous and perhaps unintended result has seen quarterbacks becoming braver, which has made them more vulnerable.

So, when you combine the quarterbacks’ singular importance in winning as determined by NFL teams and the league’s marketing department, you get the biggest target the game has ever seen.

Which makes it worth the fine to knock out a quarterback.

Whatever happens to Houston’s Tim Dobbins for his hit on Cutler on Sunday night, it’s worth the price. None of the three teams whose quarterbacks were knocked out won their game Sunday. Indeed, it is worth the price. Dirty deeds done dirt cheap.

Speaking of price, the Bears have a situation in front of them: Cutler is due for a new contract, so do the Bears gamble $30 million or so on an extension for a guy who can look like a Super Bowl-caliber quarterback but whose brain might be one pop away from bread pudding?

Cutler has been injured four times of late. His last two years have involved season-ending injuries. Concussions are a mystery, but Cutler could be looking at a third straight season-ending episode, perhaps career-ending when you’re talking about a player with a history of concussions.

There aren’t enough Cutlers to go around the league. The Bears have known that for many, many, Rick Mirer-Chad Hutchinson-Henry Burris-Moses Moreno-Jonathan Quinn years. Mirer cost the Bears money, a first-round draft choice, ballgames, and what little credibility and job security Dave Wannstedt had. The rest of the quarterbacks were picked up at yard sales.

Cutler is the most talented quarterback in Bears history. He will own all the passing records if he sticks around. If he can remain upright. If he can remain alert.

Sorry, but the bet here is he won’t. The trend is your friend. Cutler’s history of concussions suggests more concussions in a game built on concussions.

It would take a lot of guts for someone in Halas Hall to stand up and refuse to make what arguably is becoming a bad investment. Refusing to ante up for Cutler’s new deal would scream “McCheapskates’’ and underscore a laughable business operation.

It also might be the smart move if you were just talking Cutler. But you’re not because you also would need an option. The Bears would have none. The Bears almost never have a smart option. So then, their one option is to pay Cutler. The Bears can’t live without him, even if they can’t trust that they’ll live with him.

Thank the NFL for that. Thank the Bears for being part of the NFL that has pushed that situation forward. The league has made quarterbacks that important. The league also has made the defense’s need to eliminate them that much more critical.

Roger Goodell’s league has put a bounty on quarterbacks’ head. Fancy that.

I don’t know how the NFL undoes this in a game built on jarring the brain on your garden-variety tackle. But I think the courts will give the NFL some trebled reasons to come up with an answer.

In the meantime, I don’t expect anything to change as long as the NFL can bring in more money than it pays out to quarterbacks.

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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