News From Terre Haute, Indiana

December 12, 2013

Should Bears start Cutler? Yes

Craig Pearson
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — The enthusiasm surrounding Josh McCown’s performance in relief of the injured Jay Cutler is understandable.

But the thought that Bears made a mistake by announcing Jay Cutler as the starting quarterback Thursday? Wrong. Not only was Cutler playing well early in the year, but everyone around Cutler is more in tune with coach Marc Trestman's system now.

Trestman knows his best chance to reaching the 2013 playoffs is through Jay Cutler, assuming he’s 100-percent healthy this time. Chicago may need to win its last three games to win the NFC North, considering Detroit swept the Bears to earn the tiebreaker between the two. Sitting Cutler if he’s ready to return would be equivalent to serving him divorce papers as he approaches potential free agency.

These next three games are the biggest of Cutler’s career. It’s the biggest opportunity to show general manager Phil Emery how much money he merits in a new contract, while proving to Trestman that he’s the man to lead this offense.

The Bears’ offense can be among the best of the best with Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall. Chicago is sixth in total yards and fifth in points. I’m not putting an efficient four-cylinder in to run my hot rod if I’ve got a V8 raring to go.

Cutler is far from flawless, as his interception total this season and throughout his career remind us. But through six weeks in Trestman’s system, he was delivering elite quarterback production. Both guys have thrown interceptions on 3.4 percent of their career pass attempts.

It’s not impossible that McCown could succeed if handed the starting job now and into the future. The Bears believe in both guys, and that’s why it’s good to have a quality backup.

McCown’s performance of late is a credit to the veteran quarterback’s savvy play under pressure and his dilligence under Trestman’s guidance. McCown was an excellent pick0up for the Bears. Yes, three straight 300-yard games for the first time in team history is impressive. (Also, it’s not like we’re talking a huge list of Hall of Fame quarterbacks either).

While the Chicago defense can take much of the blame for recent Bears’ losses, McCown was only able to produce one second-half touchdown in losses at St. Louis and Minnesota. The Vikings, while not as bad as the bumbling Dallas defense that McCown carved up Monday night, have been one of the worst in the NFL in pass defense.

The Bears are preparing for a trip to Cleveland this weekend to face a Browns defense that shut out New England for a half before falling apart. Then comes a trip to Philadelphia, winners of five straight games. Then Green Bay, which is likely to have Aaron Rodgers back for the Packers’ playoff push, visits Soldier Field for the finale Week 17.

Hard to beat the drama in the NFL. Enjoy the show.

Craig Pearson can be reached by e-mail at Follow on Twitter @TribStarCraig.