Those who enjoy shocking NFL news -- and really, who doesn't? -- received an early Christmas present on Wednesday with word out of Chicago that Jay Cutler has been benched.
Since we're all about recklessly premature speculation, let's take a look at some teams that would represent a logical home for Smokin' Jay in 2015:
Why it would happen: It was around this time last year that NFL Media's Michael Silver and Ian Rapoport reported Cutler and the Titanshad mutual interest. There's the obvious geographical connection here as well: Cutler was a star at Vanderbilt University and maintains a home in the Nashville area. The Titans will undoubtedly move on from former first-round pick Jake Locker after the season and Zach Mettenberger is a project who'd benefit from competition with an established veteran. Cutler, if nothing else, qualifies as that.
Why it would happen: Familiarity could breed interest here. Bucs coach Lovie Smith was Cutler's coach in Chicago from 2009 through 2012. Smith was dismissed following a 10-6 season, a fate Cutler lamented (in his own way) last month. Josh McCown has fizzled after coming from Chicago as a free agent, and the organization appears to have lost faith in 2013 third-round pick Mike Glennon.
Why it wouldn't: Smith and Cutler had pleasant things to say about each other before a head-to-head matchup in Week 12. That said, the two men haven't exactly fallen over themselves with praise about the good old days. Like the Titans, the Bucs might be more inclined to find their long-term solution in the draft. They are currently in line for the first overall pick.
Why it would happen: The Rams aren't far off from being a power player in the NFC. Yes, this has been a common refrain in the Les Snead era, but the team's rise on defense has strengthened the narrative. What the Rams need is stability at quarterback, and Sam Bradford's knee hasn't allowed that in two years. Bradford remains in the team's plans for 2015, but Cutler might represent a better option for a team poised to make the leap.
Why it wouldn't: NFL Media's Albert Breer reported last week that St. Louis planned to keep Bradford and add another quarterback through the draft. Importing Cutler would be a huge deviation from the plan. Jeff Fisherhas praised Cutler in the past, but he also told Breer that Bradford is one of the primary reasons he took the Rams job in the first place.
Why it would happen: To be honest, we're really not sure how the Bears will proceed after dropping this bombshell, so we just slotted Chicago in the middle here. As Gregg Rosenthal noted, the $15.5 million fully guaranteed to Cutler next season will make trading the quarterback difficult. Still, there are more than a few teams desperate for a quarterback. Also keep in mind the tenuous job security of both Marc Trestman and general manager Phil Emery. If both are kicked to the curb, a new regime could have a favorable view of Cutler. One regime's trash could be another's treasure. Surly treasure.
Why it wouldn't: Well, um, how do we put this: THE BEARS JUST BENCHED JAY CUTLER FOR JIMMY CLAUSEN. This could be very easily be seen as a "no turning back" move for a franchise that no longer believes Cutler has what it takes. You also have to wonder how excited Cutler is about being a member of the Bears after this -- and let's not sugarcoat it -- epic embarrassment. Jimmy Clausen, people.
Why it would happen: To borrow a Shek-ism, the Bills and Rams park their cars in the same garage on this issue. Buffalo has developed an elite defense, as Aaron Rodgers and the Packers will surely attest. Their problem is quarterback: EJ Manuel has seemingly been written off as a first-round misfire, and even Kyle Orton would admit he's a temp worker. If the Bills had Cutler this season, you can make a very strong argument they'd gobble up one of the AFC wild card seeds. And don't underestimate the Sammy Watkins factor: GM Doug Whaley staked his Bills future on the wideout becoming an instant star. Cutler would help on that end.
Why it wouldn't: The flip side of that argument: If Cutler failed to take advantage of weapons like Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Matt Forte, why would that change if he were paired with young playmakers like Watkins and Robert Woods? The Bills need competence at quarterback in the worst way, but Cutler could be seen as throwing money at an issue rather than taking a more nuanced approached to a long-standing problem.
Why it would happen: The funny thing about the Browns: On paper, they should have relative stability at the quarterback position right now. Johnny Manziel is a first-round pick who deserves the opportunity to grow into a starting role. Brian Hoyer is a respected locker room "glue" guy who makes perfect sense in the veteran backup role. But Cutler has a deep Shanahan connection: Mike Shanahan -- father of Browns offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan -- drafted Cutler and quickly turned him into one of the game's most exciting young players. You think father and son won't have a conversation about this development?
Why it wouldn't: Manziel's epic stinker against the Bengals has created a recency bias. #HotTake Nation has already painted Manziel as the latest epic Browns blunder at the quarterback position. If Cleveland is smart -- and intelligence seems to be an attribute of this new regime -- one career start is not the time to panic over a rookie quarterback. Drafting a QB in the first round is typically a three-year investment at minimum. The Cleveland/Johnny Football marriage has just begun. Buckle up.
Why it would happen: The Redskins appear extremely close to moving on from Robert Griffin III. Colt McCoy and Kirk Cousins both failed to make a lasting impact when given the opportunity. In short, the Redskins could be headed toward a complete reboot at the position. Redskins owner Daniel Snyder has never shied away from pulling the trigger on a big-name ticket, and the organization might be gun shy about trying to develop another young QB from scratch. Cutler could be the shortcut to a solution.
Why it wouldn't: Shortcuts usually don't work. And dropping the testy Cutler into the D.C. sports scene -- an underrated cauldron of drama -- could be the recipe for disaster. I'd also worry about Jay Gruden surviving an RGIII-Cutler 1-2 punch. And no, not from a job standpoint -- I mean I'd have legitimate concerns about Jay Gruden coming out of that scenario alive.
Why it would happen: Because ignoring all the warning signs and bringing Jay Cutler and Kristin Cavallari to Gotham is the most Jetsy thing imaginable. John Idzik, Rex Ryan, Geno Smith and Michael Vick could all be swept out in the next few months. The next regime could select a quarterback in the draft and tab Cutler as a short-term solution while the kid is groomed. There are PSLs to sell, you know.
Why it wouldn't happen: Because, if there's a God up there, he knows Jets fans have already suffered too much.