Has Jay Cutler played his last snap for the Chicago Bears?

Chicago Bears head coach John Fox is doing very little to quell the growing controversy regarding his quarterback position, even hinting that Jay Cutler's time as a starter could be over.

Chicago Bears quarterback Brian Hoyer looked very good against the Detroit Lions, which has fueled talk about the possibility that Jay Cutler will be benched. 

Cutler has been on the shelf since injuring his right thumb in Week 2, which thrust Hoyer into the starting role, one with which he has plenty of experience. Coming off a 19-TD, 7-INT season in 2015, in which he led the Houston Texans to the playoffs, Hoyer showed on Sunday his competency as a game manager, completing 28 of 36 passes for 302 yards, 2 TDs and no turnovers. 

Hoyer led the Bears to a victory, something Cutler was unable to accomplish in his two starts this season. In fact, Hoyer's numbers are better than Cutler's nearly across the board. 

Brian Hoyer Jay Cutler
69.1 Completion % 60.9
373 Yards 697
4 Touchdowns 1
0 Interceptions 2
103.3 QB Rating 75.7

Hoyer's 103.3 passer rating is 7th best in the NFL and he joins only Carson Wentz, Sam Bradford, Dak Prescott and Jimmy Garoppolo as quarterbacks with two or more starts who have yet to throw an interception. 

“He’s done great. He’s played very well," TE Zach Miller said yesterday. "His communication is very good. He’s leading in the huddle, taking care of the football, getting the ball out. Everything that he can do, he’s doing, so he’s playing very well.”

By almost every measure, Hoyer has outplayed Cutler this season, which has led to widespread speculation that Hoyer will remain the starter even after Cutler returns. 

When asked about that possibility, Fox poured a little fuel on the fire. 

"I think it's performance-based," Fox said today. "So anybody that's performing well, I don't think we're going to be likely to change."

Based on that criteria, if Hoyer continues to play well, then Cutler may have played his last snap for the Bears, although Fox said no decision has been made. 

"I think we'll evaluate it just like we do every position on the football team," said Fox. "We'll evaluate it like everything. Right now I don't like getting into speculation and predictions because we'll know more on Wednesday."

As far as a timeline for Cutler's return, Fox said: "I'd say right now he's day-to-day and really right now it's been week-to-week. So I don't have a timeline."

The Bears don't have to release an injury report until Wednesday, so it's unclear if Cutler will return this week, although it appears unlikely. 

If Hoyer starts, he'll face a Colts defense that ranks 24th in the NFL in yards allowed per game (382.8) and 24th in passing yards allowed per game (277.0). Hoyer could very well post his third straight 300-yard passing performance as a starter, which would only further the rumors of Cutler's demise. 

That said, be weary of reading too much into Hoyer's performance against the Lions' 25th ranked defense. 

"I think Jay has played a lot of good football," Fox said. "In fact, in the cutups watching Detroit in last year's two games, I thought he played pretty well."

Translation: It's not hard to look good against the Lions, especially this year.

The Bears must also take into consideration Cutler's $17 million price tag, as well as his arm strength, which allows offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains to use his entire playbook.

Hoyer benefited greatly from solid protection up front and a rushing attack running on all cylinders. With Cutler under center, the run game struggled mightily and he was sacked eight times in seven quarters. We've seen in the past Cutler's potential when he's given time in the pocket and is supported by a good run game. 

Finally, the Bears defeated a woeful Lions team at home by just 3 points, despite the defense allowing just two field goals the entire game. Would we be calling for Hoyer if the Bears had lost 34-17, instead of winning 17-14? 

Still, Hoyer could claim the starting role if the offense continues to hum under his direction. And if that happens, it would surely signal the end of Cutler's career in Chicago. 

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