By Adam Hoge-
SOLDIER FIELD (CBS) — Talk about it all you want. It’s not happening.
As long as he’s healthy, Jay Cutler will be the starting quarterback of the Chicago Bears for the last three games of this season.
Josh McCown was magnificent Monday night, throwing for 348 yards and four touchdowns, while running for another, as the Bears routed the Dallas Cowboys 45-28.
But he’s still the backup.
He knows that. His teammates know that. And you should know that.
“There’s no change in the plan,” head coach Marc Trestman said after the game. “We’ll see where Jay is this week. He’ll have to be released by the doctors and when Jay’s ready to play, he’ll be playing.”
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Trestman did not receive an update on Cutler, who was expected to be evaluated by doctors at Soldier Field before Monday’s game. The status of the quarterback’s left ankle will determined over the next two days to see if he’ll be cleared to practice in full and take the reps as the starter when the team holds its next practice Thursday. If he is, Cutler will start against the Browns Sunday. It’s that simple.
“The team knows who the starting quarterback is and I know my job is the backup,” McCown said after posting a 141.9 passer rating Monday night. “And so, I want to play efficient football, play winning football and keep us in contention while the starter is not healthy. As long as Jay is healthy and ready to go, I don’t think that’s any question.”
It’s not. And yet it will be a question asked incessantly across the country this week on every media platform.
But it won’t be asked inside the walls at Halas Hall.
The ideas exploded on Twitter mid-game Monday after McCown helicoptered his way into the end zone in the second quarter.
Let Jay go. Sign McCown cheaper. Draft a quarterback to develop behind him.
Nevermind that with every game Cutler misses, his value becomes more friendly for the Bears. Nevermind that he was having his best season in a Bears uniform before he got hurt. Nevermind that with every 90-plus passer rating McCown posts (which is every game he’s played in this season) his value is inflating beyond what the value for a 34-year-old journeyman should be. Nevermind that the Bears have so many glaring weaknesses on defense they can’t afford to use a first round pick on a quarterback to develop. And nevermind that quarterbacks drafted in later rounds fail much more frequently than they succeed.
But McCown is more accurate and doesn’t turn the ball over as much as Cutler, right?
Just make sure you forget the two interceptions the Cowboys dropped and another that was called back by a defensive holding penalty. Also, make sure you ignore that Cowboys’ defense ranks dead last in the NFL.
By the end of the game, some were even suggesting that McCown is a better quarterback than Jay Cutler.
That’s right, everyone must have been wrong about McCown the last 12 years. He’s never started more than 13 games in a season and only started more than six in a season twice. But clearly, the Cardinals, Lions, Raiders, Panthers and even Bears the last two seasons were wrong all along. McCown is better and should be starting over Jay Cutler, even when healthy. Right?
That’s just not reality. You may think that way, but the Bears don’t.
Just like what Cutler was experiencing before he went down, McCown has found a perfect situation with a good offense and a plethora of offensive weapons.
“You always wonder how it would be if you operated in the right kind of offense with the right players and so on and so forth,” McCown said Monday night. “For me, it’s just being able to be in the right situation right now with these guys and this offense and these coaches. And just allowing me to play within the system and with the guys who are around me.”
Granted, the situation isn’t going to change anytime soon, but it applies to Cutler too — who happens to be younger. And better.
So is it reasonable for the Bears to ignore McCown’s 109.8 passer rating in seven games this year and commit to Cutler as the starter even though his passer rating is only 88.4 in eight games this season?
“It’s completely reasonable, because like I’ve said before, I’m the backup and Jay’s our starter,” McCown said. “So if Jay’s healthy, Jay should be the starting quarterback. So that’s really it.”
That really is it. Because Cutler is better. And the guy the franchise wants to continue to build around.
Adam Hoge covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.