Chicago Throws Clausen to the Lions : #CHIvsDET
It’s the first rule of mass media: give the people what they want. The Chicago Bears have done just that, benching sourpuss quarterback Jay Cutler for Sunday’s game (1:00 PM ET, FOX) against the Detroit Lions. Jimmy Clausen will get the starting nod instead. It’ll be Clausen’s first start since 2010, when he was a rookie with the Carolina Panthers.
And there was much rejoicing. But as unpopular as Cutler has become in recent years, Clausen isn’t expected to lead the Bears (5-9 SU and ATS) to victory. Before the announcement of Cutler’s benching, the Lions (10-4 SU, 7-7 ATS) opened as 7-point road favorites at –115 juice. That betting line was taken down after Clausen’s promotion; the spread could reach as high as 9.5 or even 10 points by Sunday’s kickoff, depending on how much money comes in on Detroit.
While long-suffering Bears fans will be happy to see Cutler go, he still might be the best quarterback the team has ever had, which isn’t saying much. Yes, Cutler leads the league in interceptions (18) and fumbles (12, six of those lost), but he’s also thrown the ball a lot more often this year; Cutler’s 3.4% interception rate equals his career mark. Meanwhile, he’s thrown a career-high 28 touchdown passes and posted a career-high 89.5 quarterback rating. Not eye-popping numbers by any means, but pretty impressive considering the injuries the Bears have suffered this year.
The advanced stats agree that Cutler is at worst an average NFL quarterback. His passing DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) at Football Outsiders is minus-0.5%, which actually ranks above Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson’s minus-0.6%. In terms of Total DYAR (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement), Cutler’s plus-442 DYAR puts him just barely behind the quarterback the Bears will face on Sunday, Matthew Stafford (plus-455 DYAR).
Clausen, on the other hand, was incredibly bad after taking over for the injured and ineffective Matt Moore early in the 2010 campaign. The former star quarterback at Notre Dame only managed three touchdown passes to go with nine interceptions in 13 games. Carolina went 1-9 SU and 3-7 ATS in Clausen’s 10 starts. His passer rating on the year is 58.4. Clausen’s minus-48.0% passing DVOA was No. 44 out of the 46 quarterbacks who threw at least 100 times that season.
So why is Clausen being thrown to the Lions, who rank No. 2 in the league in defensive efficiency (No. 3 pass, No. 1 rush)? Perhaps to save head coach Marc Trestman’s job. If the noted “Quarterback Whisperer” can get the same performance out of Clausen that he did last year working with Josh McCown (109.0 passer rating) while Cutler was injured, Trestman might get a new lease on life in Chicago. It is the season for miracles, after all.