The last thing Chicago Bears fans want to see happen this season is a sidelining injury to star quarterback Jay Cutler. Cutler hasn’t played all 16 games since his first season with the Bears in 2009. Last season, Cutler started just 11 games, leaving the offense in the hands of then backup Josh McCown, who’s now with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, for five games.
McCown quickly became a fan-favorite. He completed over 66 percent of his passes for over 1,800 yards with 13 touchdowns and just one interception. Bears fans were calling him “Joshy Football.” Some fans even wanted the Bears to re-sign McCown instead of the ultra-talented Cutler. Moral of the story, the backup quarterback very well could come into play for Chicago at some point this season.
Enter Notre Dame product Jimmy Clausen. The 26-year-old was signed late in the offseason to bring some competition to the quarterbacks room with Jordan Palmer. Palmer is inexperienced and quite frankly just not that good at football. Clausen, however, has 10 NFL starts under his belt. All along I was waiting for Clausen to overtake the incumbent Palmer as the second quarterback on the depth chart, and going into the Bears’ second preseason game, that day has come.
Clausen will be the first quarterback to relieve Cutler when the Bears face the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday. I think it is pretty clear that he is the better option, and with quarterback guru head coach Marc Trestman, if Cutler misses time, Clausen could easily be nicknamed “Jimmy Football” before long in Chicago.
Let’s take a look at McCown’s stats prior to last season under Trestman. He had 33 career starts with the Bears, Oakland Raiders and Arizona Cardinals from 2003 to 2011 amassing 37 touchdowns and 42 interceptions. His quarterback rating never once came close to his 109 rating of last season and his win/loss record was never over .500.
Trestman and his scheme created “Joshy Football” just as Trestman and his scheme could create “Jimmy Football” this season.
Let’s not forget, Clausen was a highly touted prospect out of both high school and college. In his last season at Notre Dame, he tallied 3,722 yards, 28 touchdowns, four interceptions and a spectacular 68.8 percent completion rate. This guy has got talent.
Trestman worked with Clausen before the 2010 draft and obviously liked him enough to think he could help him develop with the Bears. Clausen started nine games for the Carolina Panthers in 2010. His stats were absolutely awful, but his weapons and offensive line were a mess. The Bears’ weapons and offensive line are light years ahead of that 2010 Carolina team and would provide the same sort of production that we saw when McCown took over for Cutler last season.
Clausen was sharp in his Bears debut last Friday, completing 7-of-13 passes for 150 yards and two touchdowns. He looked calm and confident in the pocket and showed beautiful touch on his passes.
Let’s hope Cutler stays upright and off the injury list, but history tells us that won’t happen. So when he goes down, don’t fret; just know that “Jimmy Football” is on the way.
Andrew Pappas is a Chicago Bears writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewPappas24.