By Tim Baffoe–
(CBS) I made chili Sunday. Lots of chili. Delicious chili to sustain me for a week.
The Chicago Bears were playing while the ingredients came together in sloshy, splattery goodness, and soon both were a tale of two — two separate pots of chili and two quarterbacks.
Out of the kindness of my warm heart, I made some for my brother. The problem is he has an aversion to beans, whereas I want them in my chili. Hence the two pots. Maybe people who dislike beans have a texture issue and the beans just don’t feel quite right. They make the whole thing bumpier, and there’s certainly more gastrointestinal effects involved. But with beans it’s a heartier, more flavorful meal to me.
It’s like having Jay Cutler at quarterback. He’s the beans. With him you’ll likely get more farts — some may even be explosive — and he’ll never be the right texture to everyone, be it his punch-me-face walking off the field or his punch-me-face at the podium. But with Cutler behind center, consuming a game just feels like a fuller experience, warts, beans and all.
Brian Hoyer is bean-less chili. He’s my brother, who’s a good dad and does dad stuff like giving me his old patio set in exchange for the chili. I prefer Cutler and his terrible parenting.
Hoyer is completely serviceable. The batch isn’t exactly ruined without the beans, but it’s lacking at the same time. Hoyer is still chili, but it’s a lot more meh. I want farts because farts come from exciting stuff having passed the palate first.
In concocting the separate pots of chili, I think I showed my English teacher skills and messed up the proportional math of my recipe. The bean-less batch seemed a bit watery, so as not to be shamed in presenting a soup instead, I added some flour.
Bland-as-heck flour. Flour that hasn’t thrown any interceptions. Creating a thicker 100 quarterback rating chili that on paper looks the part. But now the spiciness was offset in the bean-less batch. I had gelded the peppers in that pot. My chili had suddenly veered toward boring, which is an infinitely worse chili foul than wateriness.
It’s like having Hoyer out there on a 1-5 team whose season is now in the toilet. For now, it’s out of necessity with Cutler recovering from an injured throwing thumb. And Hoyer has filled in admirably being the best Brian Hoyer he can be. And it’s not enough to win. And it sure as hell isn’t enough to be entertaining.
The NFL battling lost viewership this season is something beyond a bad Bears team playing a bad Jacksonville Jaguars team, but watching games with Hoyer quarterbacking is like having an insurance policy explained to me. It’s incredibly weak chili.
Dinks and dunks, throwing underneath, making Cameron Meredith a name on the weekly stat leaders crawl on the bottom of the screen. Being thick but bland. And still not winning. Nah, no thanks.
The boringness of the Bears on Sunday had me keeping an eye more on the chili than the game most of the time.
“The Bears are winning. And kicking field goals. How about that?” (Continues scraping and stirring the charred gunk on the bottom of the pots.)
Then after simmering and bubbling fairly inertly for a few hours, the game was just … over. The Bears had lost in very Bears-like fashion, giving up all 17 Jaguars points in the fourth quarter, capped by a late 51-yard touchdown to Arrelious Benn, who retired three years ago but nobody told him. Chicago finished with 16 tasteless points and another 300-yard game by Hoyer. The most notable action occurred after the game outside the stadium with drunks.
Would the Bears have scored more with Cutler? Probably. I assume they average better than 18 points in Hoyer’s four games if it’s Cutler instead. I bet Alshon Jeffery gets noticed at the end of the loss to the Indianapolis Colts. And I guess there’s a better chance of the four opponents’ defenses scoring, too. That’s the watery fartiness you get with Cutler. It’s also spicier and more engaging.
This is an issue because as Cutler grows closer to being able to play again, coach John Fox in his Orwellian coach-speak keeps hinting that the job is not Cutler’s when he returns.
“It’s performance-based,” Fox said after the Bears beat the Detroit Lions two weeks ago. “So anybody that’s performing well, I don’t think we’re going to be likely to change.”
Is Hoyer playing “well?” He’s not losing games individually, but he’s not winning them either.
“We’ll evaluate it just like we do every position on the football team,” Fox said. “I think Jay has played a lot of good football. In fact, in the cutups watching Detroit in last year’s two games, I thought he played pretty well. We’ll evaluate it like everything. Right now, I don’t like getting into speculation and predictions.”
It’s no secret that Fox has never been very flattering of Cutler, and it’s understandable that a coach shouldn’t want to speak of his backup filling in as a lame duck, but a healthy Cutler not starting seems especially dumb. With Hoyer, the Bears are 16-for-49 on third down. That’s a big part of why they have one win in the middle of October. So is the lack of finding the end zone.
“We got to score a (bleeping) touchdown,” receiver Alshon Jeffery said after Sunday’s loss. “That’s it. Touchdowns win games. We see what three points gets us.”
(Note: Three points is a crapshoot with Connor Barth kicking, too.)
Brian Hoyer isn’t about touchdowns. Jay Cutler, for all his bad decisions, creates touchdowns. It would seem to be easy math then, but one need only pay attention to Fox’s clock management to see that maybe he, too, is also more the English teacher when proportioning his chili.
What would Fox be trying to see out of Hoyer that isn’t relevant to Cutler? Neither guy is this team’s future, both are on the wrong side of 30 and both may not be in Bears uniforms after this season.
The Bears didn’t draft a quarterback before this season … again. That’s something we were reminded of as rookie Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott went on the road to Green Bay on Sunday and owned the Packers. If there was a prospect on the Bears roster, by all means put him in for the duration of a lost season. But there isn’t, so benching a healthy Cutler not only seems to minimize your chances of winning, it creates a controversy that doesn’t need to be there.
Which means subsequent questions to an increasingly ornery Fox — who ad hominems the media for daring to ask valid questions — and to Bears teammates who would rather talk about anything else. Cutler is also a team captain, as voted on by the players. You see the frustration without him in Jeffery, and he’s not alone.
So Fox doesn’t seem to gain much in the locker room by sticking with Hoyer when decision time comes. And whether I’m watching the game isn’t Fox’s concern, but I’m severely disinterested in Hoyer starts. Give me the Cutler possibility of spectacular great plays and equally spectacular bad decisions, and then you have my attention.
“It’s not a lack of heart, lack of trying — our guys battled,” Fox said Sunday. “We just don’t play well enough right now and that’s on all of us.”
Well, that’s Hoyer best, which isn’t bad, but it isn’t well enough to win games either. Worst of all — the biggest party foul if you’re not winning — it’s boring as all get out.
On Thursday night, I’ll probably eat more of my chili as the Bears take on the Green Bay Packers on hardly needed short rest. There will be beans. And gas. And flavor. On the field? I can’t yet say.
Give me the chili that might be a bit watery and bumpy and explosively farty but has a lot more kick and flavor. When he’s able, give me Jay Cutler.
Tim Baffoe is a columnist for CBSChicago.com. Follow Tim on Twitter @TimBaffoe. The views expressed on this page are those of the author, not CBS Local Chicago or our affiliated television and radio stations.