The Chicago Bears were eliminated from the playoffs after losing the NFC North in a catastrophic defeat to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. Though quarterback Jay Cutler compiled two touchdowns and threw for 226 yards, it proved futile as Chicago lost with a final score of 33-28. So the riveting question is should head coach Marc Trestman be held accountable for not only benching the hot hand of Josh McCown and starting the disgruntled Cutler but for the disappointing loss as well? Let’s take a look.
The story actually begins on Sunday, October 20, 2013. It was the dawn of something magical and the beginning of something historical: The sovereign era of QB Josh McCown was upon us!
Well, let’s not get too ahead of ourselves here. In a Week 7 loss to the Washington Redskins, McCown was inserted into the action after Cutler was removed from the game in the second quarter with a torn groin muscle. The 34-year old finished the night 14-of-20 passing, accumulating one touchdown for 204 yards and left an impressive mark with fans and coaches alike. Ironically, many didn’t expect McCown to make that much of an impact.
Though expectations were low (and rightfully so), McCown began to turn the heads of all who doubted him as he consistently lit up opposing defenses week in and week out. The Bears won the majority of their games with McCown throwing a total of 13 touchdowns for 1,829 yards and only one interception. Surprisingly, Chicago was running roughshod through the entire league, and it didn’t look like any franchise could tame the playoff hungry Bears.
But it was against the Minnesota Vikings that the clock struck midnight on Chicago’s Cinderella story. Though McCown had a good game in his own right, collecting two touchdowns for 355 yards, Chicago lost the game 23-20 in a calamitous overtime defeat.
Not only were Bears players and fans bitter about this loss, but now Trestman had a critical decision to make that ultimately could decide the Bears’ postseason fate. Would he ride the hot hand of Josh McCown or start Jay Cutler?
As Cutler was cleared to play after a six week absence, Trestman made a controversial call and decided to start him against the Cleveland Browns the following week. Many were astonished by this risky move.
In his much anticipated return Cutler evidently struggled, throwing two interceptions. But he finished off the game strong, throwing three touchdowns for 265 yards in the 38-31 win. Cutler’s mediocre performance was only a sign of things to come.
Don’t get me wrong. I have the utmost respect for Marc Trestman, considering that he was bombarded with high expectations in his first season with the Bears, but simply put he made the wrong move.
As the saying goes, the inevitable was bound to happen as the Bears dropped their next game to the red hot Philadelphia Eagles losing by a final score of 54-11. Cutler went 20-of-35 for 222 yards, one touchdown and one interception. McCown saw limited action in garbage time. Though he only had four passing attempts for two completions and 20 yards, it still wasn’t enough to solidify himself as the starting quarterback for the remainder of the season.
Apparently in Trestman’s eyes, McCown’s 15 minutes of fame were conclusively up and he obviously couldn’t be trusted in a win or go home scenario against the Packers. Trestman thought it would be the safer bet to go with the “proven” Cutler in this situation, but he didn’t do his homework as Cutler historically struggles against Green Bay. The eight-year quarterback came into this game with a win/loss record of just 1-8 along with 17 interceptions in his career against the Packers.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that Cutler was not the prime candidate for the task at hand, and Trestman should take full blame and responsibility for the loss. Though the Bears’ defense was a huge liability to say the least, Cutler simply could not get the job done in a game that Josh McCown could have excelled in. But we may never truly know — at least until next season.
With his contract up, the Bears have another important decision to make. Will they re-sign the underperforming Cutler or move into a different direction? That is yet to be seen.