The decision to pull Josh McCown in favor of the medically-cleared Jay Cutler was certainly one that created a monumental debate of differing opinions among Chicago Bears fans and media alike. And to begin their game against the Cleveland Browns today, the McCown supporters definitely seemed to be right.
On the Bears’ first drive of the game, Cutler led them down the field, but underthrew Brandon Marshall in the end zone. It was tipped by the defender and picked off by the safety; that interception led to the Browns first score with a field goal. In the second quarter, Cutler again targeted Marshall who was open down the field, but it was overthrown just a bit and tipped up in the air and picked off. That one was returned for a touchdown.
Suffice to say, it wasn’t looking pretty. However, evidenced by how the rest of the game went down, No. 6 just needed to shake off the rust of not playing for about five weeks to get going.
The rest of the game after that throw, Cutler threw three touchdowns and no interceptions. He finished the game 22-of-31 for 265 yards, three TDs and two INTs. He completed just over 70 percent of passes and finished the game with a passer rating of 102.2 – and against the eighth best pass defense in the NFL. Comparatively, the defenses McCown faced in his time starting were only 24th in the league on average.
Cutler proved that he deserved to be in there and should still be the starting quarterback for the Bears. And the Bears needed every bit of offense in this one, edging out the Browns 38-31. Granted, 14 points were given up by the offense via two defensive touchdowns by Cleveland. The second one came way of a Martellus Bennett fumble.
Of course, even if Cutler didn’t end up playing well today, it made sense that he started. It’s clear that the starting QB next year will be Cutler or a rookie drafted in the first round. McCown is simply too old at 34 years of age to hand over the offense to. The hope here should be that Cutler finishes the season well and both quarterbacks are re-signed during the offseason so that the Bears are set at QB for the next couple years, but it’d have to remain Cutler’s team. He’s younger and more talented; it just comes down to execution, and McCown was executing at a very high level within the system.
The good thing for Cutler’s sake moving forward is that this was the only tough defense he had to face in these final three games and, after a rough start, showed how good he can be with this offense. Next week he’ll take on a less-than-stellar Philadelphia Eagles’ pass defense in Philly, and will finish the season at Solider Field against the Green Bay Packers, whose defense isn’t much to write home about either.
Two strong performances by the Cutler-led offense would all but guarantee he’ll be brought back. And as long as no NFL franchise goes crazy and offers McCown an erroneous contract, odds are he’ll stay in Chicago as well, which would definitely be the best-case scenario for the organization.