By Dan Bernstein- senior columnist

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(CBS) If you were among those pining all last week for the return of the unfairly ousted Lovie Smith and/or the beloved Josh McCown, I’d be interested to know how that looked to you.

Actually that’s not true. I’m not interested at all, because you’re an idiot.

Nobody is saying Jay Cutler is reliable or great or worth his enormous contract or something other than the very symbol of everything the Bears both are and are not, but he’s better than whatever that was from the 35-year-old mediocrity who came into the game with a career passer-efficiency rating of 78.0.

The absences of both McCown and Smith had fans’ hearts growing fonder to the point of absurdity, somehow projecting an idealized alternate football universe in which the misery of the current season is replaced by only good things: the small-sample size passing performance of last season replicated exactly and extrapolated, and Smith’s paternal connection to the locker room bringing out more from the team than Marc Trestman’s professorial drivel.

It’s a loser’s game, and it’s just wrong.

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In the dark gray and damp of a rare Chicago day in between unseasonable polar blasts, the Bears proved superior to the mess that the Buccaneers have become under Smith – that unenviable combination of bad and stupid.

After an excruciating festival of punting and penalties from both teams, the Bears had their best quarter of the year coming out of halftime, scoring 21 unanswered points by forcing the overwhelmed McCown to take increased risk in escaping the pocket and attempting contested throws into coverage. The resulting turnovers ended anything truly competitive, despite a late drive facilitated by a 20-yard Pat O’Donnell punt. Cutler was asked to do little, which is just fine with everyone.

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At 5-6, the Bears remain technically alive, but for what we have no idea. Comatose patients are alive, too, but are similarly unexpected to wake up and then run out of the hospital and win the Super Bowl.

It’s enough for the looniest optimist who wants to find a foothold, and I’m sure that guy is out there. If that 204 yards of offense can inspire, so be it. Same goes for the consecutive victories over underdog opponents.

If nothing much else positive came from Sunday’s soggy tussle in the rain, it’s enough that the McCown myth was so thoroughly exposed. That’s an outcome unto itself, after so much strange fantasy has been conjured up by a city that purports to be a knowledgeable NFL market. By kickoff, he had become a mysterious contradiction: both the romanticized anti-Cutler and the missing element of Cutler’s previous success. That Lovie Smith was on board to pay him $10 million over the next two seasons should do much to dispel any second-guessing about him, too.

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With victory comes some weak fodder for those last few dead-enders hoping to retain the services of Trestman and Mel Tucker for another run at this next year, and the assumption is widely held due to precedent that the nebulous upper management of the Bears would only love the chance to not fire expensive people.

That possibility has put some Bears fans in a cognitively dissonant place, truly believing that the team would be closer to winning a championship by losing enough right now to make it impossible for the suits not to see. While some were ecstatic watching the Bears roar out of halftime to seize the day, others lamented both the continuation of both false hope and its potential effect on the retention of these coaches, who have a history of ownership inertia on their side.

Did I say something about a loser’s game?

I think we just watched it.

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Dan Bernstein is a co-host of 670 The Score’s “Boers and Bernstein Show” in afternoon drive. Follow him on Twitter @dan_bernstein and read more of his columns here.