In this day and age, if an NFL franchise truly wants to thrive as a legitimate contender, they need a distinguished passer who can not only throw the football effectively but who can also lead his team valiantly both on and off the field. While some may believe that having two remarkable passers is ideal, it is a blessing in disguise. Although the Chicago Bears were fortunate to have an effective backup quarterback in Josh McCown, it ultimately forced coach Marc Trestman to make a difficult decision. Despite McCown’s breakout success, Trestman decided to pass the torch to his previous starter Jay Cutler to see if he can prove his value to this organization.
Before his injury, Cutler was on pace to have one his best regular season performances since he joined the Bears in 2009. In eight games, Cutler completed 63% of his passes and threw for 13 touchdowns. While Cutler’s impressive improvements definitely helped his cause for being the Bears unquestionable starting passer, it wasn’t until his untimely injury that the Bears discovered the vast potential of their back up quarterback McCown. Although McCown has had his fair share of adequate seasons in the past, none of them have even come close to McCown’s breakout season this year. In only seven games, McCown has managed to throw 13 touchdowns to just a single interception (Cutler has thrown eight INT’s on the season). On top of that, McCown’ accuracy eclipses Cutler’s new statistical accolades as he has completed 66.8% of his passes for just over 1,800 yards.
With these numbers in mind, an obvious question arises that contradicts Marc Trestman’s decision; given McCown’s consistent and intriguing production, is it worth giving Cutler another chance? Although it may seem unfair to leave Cutler on the bench, San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh was forced to make this same difficult decision that ultimately led to Colin Kaepernick getting the starting job over long time starter Alex Smith. While it’s difficult to postulate how successful the 49ers would have been if Harbaugh hadkept Smith in as the starter, his controversial decision thus far has led the 49ers to a SuperBowl appearance and has allowed this team to remain consistently competitive in their division this season.
Yet, in Trestman’s case, the decision to keep Cutler in was predicated on a couple of important factors. First off, McCown’s longevity in the league makes it unlikely that he could be the Bears starter for the long haul as he is 34 years old and has yet to play an entire season as a starting quarterback. Along with that, McCown’s migration from one franchise to the next seems to suggest that he will inevitably succumb to his own inconsistencies. While this type of speculation is difficult to validate especially now that McCown is having the best season of his career, it is a calculated risk that this desperate Bears team isn’t willing to take at this time. Luckily, the Bears will have McCown for the remainder of the season to ensure that they can compete even if Cutler fails to perform or gets injured again.
If nothing else, giving Cutler the starting job again will allow these Bears to see how Cutler performs under pressure. With his career on the line, Cutler will have to remain poised and consistent throughout the rest of the regular season. If Cutler can help the Bears win out to clinch a much desired playoff berth, this franchise may have the undeniable proof that they need to retain Cutler as a possible franchise quarterback. However, if Cutler becomes a liability as he has been in the past, the Bears will be confident in knowing that they have at worse a solid backup passer who now knows their offense inside and out.
When all is said and done, the Bears made a wise albeit safe decision to allow Cutler the privilege of getting a second chance to start after being absent for over a month. While this is a great opportunity for Cutler to have a breakout performance of his own, there isn’t much room for error as the Bears are looking to overtake the Detroit Lions for the NFC North division title. If Cutler can’t shake off the rust, the Bears will have a reliable contingency plan in McCown who has made it clear that he is more than capable of leading the Bears to success.