By Chris Emma--
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (CBS) -- By now, Jay Cutler must be used to the losing. He's seen plenty during his eight seasons leading the Bears.
Still, accepting the losses isn't ever easy for a competitor. The Bears had six drives when down 22-16 to the Giants on Sunday, but Cutler and the offense couldn't change the scoreboard. That was the final margin as the Bears fell to 2-8 on the season.
"Those are the ones that kind of keep you up at night," Cutler said.
So long, Mr. Fourth Quarter?
With the Bears looking to rally back in the final two minutes, Cutler's plant foot slipped on second-and-29 and his throw toward the first-down marker was well short of the intended target, picked by the Giants' Landon Collins.
Game, set and match, another tough loss for the Bears. Cutler yanked off his helmet and returned to the sidelines for Eli Manning's two plays in victory formation.
Then came news later Monday that Cutler's season could be over after he suffered a shoulder injury in the loss, as Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune first reported. Bears coach John Fox told his weekly show on WBBM Newsradio 780 that the team will know more on Cutler's status by Wednesday.
While the Bears continue to develop their young roster for better days, the team's brass has conducted its detailed scouting work into finding the next Chicago quarterback. The team's lack of faith in Cutler became clear when Fox delayed his return from a thumb sprain and instead started Brian Hoyer for six weeks. Cutler is on his way out, and a new quarterback is coming.
Cutler has been paid in full his $54 million of a seven-year, $126.7 million deal signed in the 2014 offseason. His trade value is very high, especially as the year-to-year price compares fairly to the league's average for a starting quarterback.
General manager Ryan Pace and his trusted team of scouts have been busy at work, scouring the nation this fall in search of the Bears' next quarterback. While there will be some intriguing names available this offseason -- perhaps Tony Romo, Jimmy Garoppolo, Sam Bradford -- Chicago's next quarterback will likely come from the draft.
On Oct. 29, Pace traveled alongside front office counterparts Josh Lucas, Champ Kelly and Sam Summerville to Notre Dame and watched Fighting Irish star DeShone Kizer square off with Brad Kaaya of Miami. This matchup presents a fascinating quandary for the Bears -- do they take Kizer, Deshaun Watson of Clemson or Mitch Trubisky of North Carolina with their first-round pick or wait until Day 2 for a player like Kaaya or Luke Falk of Washington State?
Pace traveled out to Clemson on Oct. 7 to see Watson. A week later, he was in Ann Arbor to watch Jabrill Peppers and the Wolverines.
This weekend, the Bears sent out 28-year team scout Jon Shiver to watch Kizer battle a tough Virginia Tech defense. Meanwhile, they had representation to watch Falk face 10th-ranked Colorado and Cal's Davis Webb square off with Stanford.
Kizer, Watson and Trubisky are considered the top three quarterbacks in the field, though scouts see things differently from each other. Pace, Lucas and Kelly make up a promising young team, but their arguments over prospects are constant, like in any other front office.
The Bears must be firm in their convictions in the coming months. Pace's roster overhaul has converted an old team into one of the league's youngest, and despite the Bears' record, there have been individuals blossoming. Still, there are plenty of voids to fill on the depth chart.
Perhaps the Bears could benefit from taking dominating defensive end Myles Garrett out of Texas A&M or Alabama cornerback Marlon Humphrey, each of whom could transform the defense. Peppers is considered a potential star in the making with his great awareness in the secondary.
But taking a defensive player comes at a risk. Pace and his team have to be completely sure in their second-round opportunities or have a plan to move back into the first round to get their quarterback.
In drafting the future of the franchise, every box must be checked. The Bears will have their say at either Kizer, Watson or Trubisky, as it seems they should pick in the top five.
Kaaya, Falk and Webb are each talented quarterbacks, but Kizer, Watson and Trubisky are believed to be the best of this a quarterback class that isn't the strongest in recent memory. Their standing could always change, of course.
Eagles rookie quarterback Carson Wentz wasn't widely viewed as a top pick until the Senior Bowl, when the North Dakota State product got his chance in the spotlight. There could be another Wentz who rises up the draft boards. Oklahoma State's Mason Rudolph is a potential riser. Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly could've done the same, but he suffered a torn ACL and meniscus two weeks ago, then photos were released of him smoking marijuana.
Evaluating quarterbacks can be a difficult process. Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, the potential Rookie of the Year and maybe an MVP, was skipped by until the fourth round last spring. The Bears had three picks in that fourth round and went with three defensive players -- Deon Bush, Nick Kwiatkoski and Deiondre' Hall.
Prescott's name could haunt 31 front offices, including the one at Halas Hall. Tom Brady and Russell Wilson, each Super Bowl champions, did the same. Derek Carr is another mid-round steal becoming a star.
But it would be a major risk for the Bears to select their next franchise quarterback after the second round. Going defense with their top pick would be understandable, and that likely means a quarterback is coming in the second round.
First comes moving on from Cutler, whose identity as a quarterback is known. Cutler never became the player whom Jerry Angelo sent the farm for, but he's made a career as a quality quarterback. In a league where there are below-average quarterbacks starting all over, Cutler will draw interest.
Options are in place for the Bears, but they are likely to enter 2017 with the veteran presence of Brian Hoyer, the young upside of Connor Shaw and a rookie quarterback who they hope is their future.
More losses are likely coming for the Bears in this season of misfortune. Their troubles will be rewarded with a chance at selecting a franchise quarterback.
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