A nightmare-inducing season for the Chicago Bears has brought more frightening news to coach John Fox.
Jay Cutler is undergoing tests for a shoulder injury sustained in Sunday's loss to the New York Giants, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported, via a source informed of the injury. The starting quarterback is expected to miss time, per Rapoport. The team will know more Tuesday, with one source acknowledging the possibility that the injury could be serious in nature.
The Chicago Tribune first reported the development.
As NFL Network's Mike Garafolo pointed out, Fox told reporters there were severals reasons Cutler couldn't take advantage of the Giants' defense stacking the box. A shoulder issue would certainly qualify as one of those factors.
This is Cutler's second injury of the season. He missed five games in September and October with a sprained thumb. The Bears have already lost quarterbacks Connor Shaw (broken leg) and Brian Hoyer (broken arm) to major injuries, leaving journeyman third-stringer Matt Barkley as the lone in-house replacement for Cutler.
A fourth-round draft pick by the Eagles in 2013, Barkley has appeared in five games over four NFL seasons, completing 36 of 65 passes (55.4 percent) for 381 yards (5.9 YPA), zero touchdowns, six interceptions and a meager 34.2 passer rating.
As if the quarterback woes aren't debilitating enough, the Bears are also without the services of tight end Zach Miller (broken foot), No. 1 receiver Alshon Jeffery (four-game suspension) and 2015 first-round pick Kevin White (broken fibula). The offensive line even lost its most decorated member with Pro Bowl guard Kyle Long undergoing surgeries on his shoulder and ankle.
Factoring in Cutler's disappointing, turnover-heavy performance this year, Barkley is still a severe downgrade across the board in terms of athleticism, arm talent and experience.
Considering his own limitations as well as the in-season personnel losses, it's fair to suspect Barkley will lead the NFL's least effective offense as long as he's under center in Chicago.
In an ironic twist, Barkley can help the Bears position themselves to find Cutler's successor by serving as a competitive liability and enhancing the team's chances of landing a top draft spot.