Just how bad are the Chicago Bears?

Bad enough for their opponent Sunday, the Oakland Raiders, to be favored for the first time in 27 games. As a road team.

Of course, a lot of that has to do with the Raiders riding a 2-game winning streak into Soldier Field, just their third 2-1 start since Oakland went to the Super Bowl in 2002.

A lot of that also has to do with the Bears (presumably) not having their starting quarterback – one Jay Christopher Cutler – for the second straight week. As has been obvious since he left early against Arizona in Week 2, the Bears offense is completely lifeless without Cutler.

Which, in today’s offensive-driven NFL, has rendered the entire Chicago Bears team completely lifeless. Kind of ironic, isn’t it?

The guy who most Bears fans use as an excuse for sucking when he’s healthy is also the guy who most Bears fans use as an excuse when he’s not healthy.

Welcome to Chicago.

This isn’t about how good or bad Jay Cutler is, though. We’ve all had that discussion way too many times. This is about how bad his team is whether he’s the starting quarterback or not.

Including the Bears, three NFL teams played without their starting quarterback last week. All three had tough matchups.

But the Cowboys (vs. Atlanta) and Saints (at Carolina), taking the field with Brandon Weeden and Luke McCown instead of Tony Romo and Drew Brees, managed to look like competitive NFL teams.

The Bears, on the road against Seattle, did the exact opposite in their snooze fest. Even Seahawks fans were bored by the 4th quarter.

Forget Jay Cutler and forget Jimmy Clausen. The Bears are quite possibly the worst team in the league, and it has very little to do with the quarterback position.

Seriously, you know the Bears are really bad when fans are using the absence of JAY CUTLER as a defense mechanism.

“Yeah, but if we had Jay the game would have been different..”

As someone who’s taken plenty of shit for siding with Cutler during his time in Chicago, all I can do is laugh. And the punchline is the uninspiring Bears roster, nearly devoid of impact talent.

Without Romo (and Dez Bryant), Dallas leaned on their All-World offensive line and third-year running back to build a big lead on Atlanta. Their mediocre defense blew the lead, but that’s irrelevant.

The Cowboys might have more talent on that offensive line than the Bears do in general.

Without Brees, the winless Saints almost beat the undefeated Panthers behind Luke McCown, Mark Ingram, and their defense. If it wasn’t for Josh Norman, New Orleans would have won the game.

At this point, neither the Saints or Cowboys are legit Super Bowl contenders. Yet, both teams lost better quarterbacks than Jay Cutler and performed respectably last week. It’s those respectable performances that bring to light how awful the Bears really are.

Which, at the end of the day, might not be a bad thing. As our friend Harvey Dent once said, “The night is darkest just before the dawn.”

Remember how bad the Cubs and Blackhawks used to be? Chicago’s current gold standard for sports organizations, both the Cubs and Blackhawks have seen momentous turnarounds after changes in ownership – with Rocky Wirtz’s Blackhawks clearly a few years (and championships) ahead of Tom Ricketts’s Cubs.

And as I noted last year during the rock bottom of the Marc Trestman era, an ownership change is exactly what the Chicago Bears have needed for a long, long time.

Unfortunately, ownership change in football isn’t nearly as common as it is in hockey and baseball (or basketball for that matter). But admittedly, the Bears franchise did take uncharacteristically decisive action by cleaning house and bringing in Ryan Pace and John Fox.

As fans, we can’t really judge the Pace and Fox era for a couple more years – especially on the Pace side of things – but there should be little question that their job is to rebuild this franchise from top to bottom.

There should also be little question that the Bears are as bad as we’ve seen them in a long, long time.

And after two weeks of Jay Cutler’s absence being used to absolve embarrassing performances, I don’t think there’s much to argue.