Dennis Wierzbicki/USA TODAY Sports

Josh McCown on Chicago Bears QB Jay Cutler: "I hope he continues to play"

Former teammate Josh McCown believes Chicago Bears QB Jay Cutler can still play at a high level, although he'd understand if Cutler decides to retire early.

The end is near for Jay Cutler and the Chicago Bears.

Following eight relatively disappointing seasons in Chicago, and with very little guaranteed money remaining on his contract, the Bears will almost certainly release Cutler at some point this off-season.

GM Ryan Pace will try to trade Cutler but it's doubtful he'll receive any reasonable offers for a soon-to-be 34-year-old quarterback with just one career playoff appearance and a long history of injuries.

The writing has been all the wall for months. Say what you will about Cutler, he's not an idiot. He's an 11-year veteran who understands very well the business side of the NFL, so he surely knows his time will soon be up in Chicago.

As such, rumors began swirling yesterday about Cutler potentially considering retirement.

Josh McCown, his former teammate and close friend, spoke on SiriusXM Radio this morning to discuss Cutler's current situation.

"The thing I know about Jay and the thing I respect the most is that he’s going to do what he wants to do and what he feels is best," McCown said. "I think, No. 1, he’s going to consider where he’s at as a family and put that first, and what they want to do moving forward. I know he’ll think long and hard through it.

"I still believe he can play at a very high level. He had a rough [season] this year dealing with a lot of injuries but, obviously, as we’ve said for a long time, the skill set is there. With a quarterback-driven league and often times a quarterback-needy league, you have to think there are going to be opportunities. So it’s just finding the right one that matches his skill set and finding the right people, if he wants to continue playing."

McCown, a 15-year veteran who will soon hit free agency, said he hopes Cutler remains in the league.

"Everybody is different," said McCown. "You’ve got to follow your heart and what you feel like doing and not worry about anybody else. As a friend and a football fan and a guy who appreciates quarterbacks, I hope he continues to play. I hope he finds a good spot where he can go play good football because I believe that is still in his future. It’s up to him. We’ll see what he decides."

If Cutler is waived, he may have to compete for a starting gig elsewhere, which could result in him playing in a backup role for the first time in his career.

McCown isn't sure if that's a role Cutler would be willing to accept.

"Every guy, especially guys who have played a long time as starters, as he has, and not just Jay but other guys, it’s not an easy transition for several reasons because you’re stimulated by the process, by being the guy getting the reps," McCown said. "Obviously, to this point too, there’s a financial component where you go, man I don’t necessarily have to be a backup. So, all of those things considered, that’s a hard transition for a lot of guys.

"I just know from a lot of guys that I’ve been around that making that transition is not easy because you enjoy being the guy and getting the reps and being stimulated every week by the challenge of playing. It’s a different transition. Certainly, having spent most of my career as a backup and some as a starter, I understand and get how that would play out, especially if you had been a starter for a number of years, like Jay has or anybody else. It’ll be an interesting decision, one guys are faced with at different points in their career and it may be one he has to make, we’ll see."

If the Bears do part ways with Cutler, it's likely the team will invest an early-round pick in his potential replacement during the 2017 NFL Draft.

For those top quarterback prospect, McCown had some worthwhile advice heading into next week's scouting combine. 

"For a college guy, it’s important, especially if you have dreams of playing in the NFL, not to take away from what you do as a college offense, but as an individual, if you know you you’re going to be a prospect as a junior or senior, I think it’s important to go out and do five- and seven-step drops from under center. Start doing things and start looking at pro games and looking at the throws they make and go, can I make those throws?

"Because that’s what happens when we put a kid in a huddle and say, 'call this play, run this play and read this play.' Can he do it? Can he physically do it? A lot of times what you find out is, man this guy has never been asked to do something like that. Sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s bad.

"There’s a certain transition that happens and I think if a lot of these guys would take a little time in their off-season, I know it’s hard with school and everything, but if they’d just take a little time to do some of the stuff the pro guys do, they’d sharpen themselves. I think it’s hard to say, cram it in in January and February and get yourself ready for the combine and look like a pro quarterback. I think guys need to be a little more proactive."

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