CHICAGO -- When the Chicago Bears lost Jay Cutler last season they couldn't recover, dropping all but one of their remaining games. Now that Cutler is sidelined, uneasy Bears fans want to know if it's déjà vu all over again ... if their team is in danger of another self-immolation ... and they've come to the right place for an answer.
And the answer is no.
No, they won't pull another el foldo. No, they won't miss the playoffs again. And, no, they won't frantically flounder looking for someone, anyone to serve as a leader for an offense that desperately needs one.
Look, I don't know what Cutler's future is, but I do know what the Bears' future looks like ... and they're better, much better prepared to face life without Cutler than they were last season. That's because they got smart in the offseason and addressed the setbacks that cost them a playoff run last year, signing free-agent quarterback Jason Campbell and running back Michael Bush.
Campbell was the safety net for Cutler, Bush was the safety net for Matt Forte, and both are invaluable insurance policies against a 2011 encore. If you remember, it wasn't just Cutler the Bears subtracted the second half of last season; it was Forte, too, and while they may have overcome the loss of one, they couldn't overcome the loss of both, going 1-5 in their last six starts to finish .500.
That's not going to happen again because Campbell is ready to take over if Cutler is out. I know, he didn't look scintillating Sunday night, but tell me a quarterback who did. Cutler stunk. Houston's Matt Schaub stunk. And Campbell ... well, he was OK. The wet and windy conditions had plenty to do with that, but so did the defenses -- with Houston outplaying the Bears.
But forget about the Texans. My concern is Chicago and how it fixes itself if Cutler is sidelined indefinitely ... and it fixes itself by handing the ball to Campbell. He's won as a starter before, and he will win as a starter again.
Which is precisely why Chicago signed the guy.
It wasn't a difficult decision. Instead of Caleb Hanie the Bears hired a backup who was 20-35 with Washington and 11-7 with Oakland and who's been around eight years. Granted, he won't put up the numbers Cutler might and he's not instinctive, but he won't sabotage you, either. He's an athletic quarterback who's an accurate passer, once going eight straight games in Washington without throwing an interception.
That was 2008, or the last time the Redskins had a pulse.
"If [Campbell] has to go," said coach Lovie Smith, "we feel very confident. That's why we brought Jason here. I'm hopeful, but I'm not ruling Jay out by any means."
I'm not, either. And I'm definitely not ruling out Chicago of anything. I know the Bears travel to San Francisco to play the 49ers next Monday, and I know the 49ers are always a tough out. But they have issues of their own, with starting quarterback Alex Smith suffering a concussion in Sunday's tie with St. Louis. That means there's a chance ... and let me emphasize a chance ... that it's Campbell versus Colin Kaepernick, and, given the choice, I'll take the veteran.
I know what I have in Campbell, and so do the Bears. He can get the ball downfield, as he did with that 45-yard shot to Brandon Marshall. He will make sound and reasoned decisions. He won't commit the fatal mistake. He can run. He can lead. Most important, he can win ... and with Green Bay pulling itself together for a run at the Bears nothing is more important for Chicago now.
As one scout told me, the key is not so much Campbell as it is Forte and Bush. Because if rhe Bears can run the ball, Campbell can sell the play-action -- which is his strength. Plus, as he pointed out, the issues with Chicago's offensive line aren't as much a factor with Campbell at quarterback because of his ability to flush the pocket. No, he's not RG3, but, if necessary, he is good enough to make first downs with his legs.
"Jason Campbell is more than capable," Marshall said. "I think he came in [against the Texans] and did an amazing job and had control of the offense ... really got us into some good situations and made some great checks. I think the guys around him need to step up, myself included. We let him [and the team] down, and that won't happen again.
"I understand what Jason Campbell is. I understand how he leads. Like I said, he's more than capable, and I'm so glad we have him in situations like this."
He should be. Everyone in and around the Bears should be. Jason Campbell is here to prevent another collapse from happening ... and he will.