|Chicago was on a five-game winning streak before Cutler went down. They're 0-3 since. (Getty Images)|
By Ryan Wilson
Jay Cutler hasn't played since he broke the thumb on his throwing hand in Week 11, a 31-20 win over the Chargers that took the Bears to 7-3 and second place in the NFC North. Now, nearly four weeks later, Chicago is 7-6 (0-3 with Caleb Hanie), and seventh in a six-team playoff race.
The Bears' remaining schedule: Seattle, at Green Bay, at Minnesota. To have a shot at the postseason they'll need to win out, and clearly, Cutler, who was riding a five-game winning streak when he was injured, gives them the best chance to do that.
But to paraphrase Rick Pitino: Jay ain't walking through that door … at least not this week. Cutler appeared on “Waddle & Silvy” radio show Wednesday and said he might return for the Packers game in Week 16.
"I'll say outside," he said, via CBSSports.com Rapid Reporter Gene Chamberlain. "I wouldn't say it's good or definite or a real possibility, but there's always a chance."
Yep, he's telling you there's a chance.
Cutler also said that last week in Denver he threw a football for the first time since having surgery on his thumb.
"It’s kind of like trying to relearn it," he said. "The ball was a little foreign in my hands. It’s a little bit stiff. And those pins in there, that adds a little bit of a shooting pain. In the next few weeks we have to figure out once all the swelling’s going whether I can manage with these pins or we’re going to have to pull them."
If Cutler doesn't play, then Hanie will be the starter. And while he's had a rough go of it in that role (the nadir, without a doubt: losing to Tyler Palko and the Chiefs in Week 13), Hanie showed improvement during the Bears' overtime loss to the Broncos last Sunday.
Offensive coordinator Mike Martz agrees.
"[Young quaterbacks] just get in there and there's a sense and they just go," he said of Hanie's overtime performance," he said according to Chamberlain. "When you mix (runs) in a little bit here and there for an inexperienced quarterback, it's harder on them until he gets a better feel for the game. And it's going to be that way until he plays more."
Here's a thought: maybe Martz' game plan should highlight Hanie's strengths -- not just in overtime but from the first series. Revolutionary stuff, we know.
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