The moves on Tuesday were hardly surprising given Chicago’s recent struggles. The Bears (7-8) have lost five straight since Cutler broke his right thumb late in a win over San Diego on Nov. 20, and things took another bad turn two weeks later when Forte sprained the medial collateral ligament in his right knee against Kansas City.
Cutler, who was scheduled to have surgically inserted pins removed Tuesday, threw for 2,319 yards with 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Forte finished with 997 yards rushing and 490 receiving.
The Bears elevated defensive tackle Jordan Miller from the practice squad and signed guard Mansfield Wrotto.
Cutler’s injury sent Chicago into a tailspin, knocking out of contention a team that appeared on its way to the playoffs after last year’s run to the NFC title game. The Bears were mathematically eliminated with a loss at Green Bay on Sunday, but they probably weren’t going to make it by the time they arrived at Lambeau Field.
One reason for that was the lack of a reliable backup quarterback.
Chicago put in a waiver claim on Kyle Orton after Cutler went down, but Kansas City had priority and got him. The Bears wound up signing Josh McCown, who was coaching quarterbacks at a North Carolina high school, and passed on going after Donovan McNabb after Minnesota let him go.
Meanwhile, backup Caleb Hanie struggled in a big way and went 0-4 as the starter. McCown got the nod against the Packers and performed better, throwing for 242 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions in his first NFL appearance since 2009, but the Bears saw their playoff hopes vanish in a 35-21 loss.
A healthy Forte might have made a difference, but his season ended when he took a hit to the knee against Kansas City. It didn’t help that backup Marion Barber committed costly mistakes in losses to the Chiefs and Denver the following week.
He had a touchdown catch in a 10-3 loss to Kansas City called off because he lined up illegally, forcing Chicago to settle for a field goal, and things only got worse for him the following week. Barber got pushed out of bounds on a run near the end of regulation, helping give Denver enough time to tie the game. In overtime, his fumble led to the winning field goal.