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While McCown is a quality backup, Bears are better with Cutler at helm

Updated: December 9, 2013 11:08AM



The only “QB controversy” that ever existed with the Bears was the one receiver Brandon Marshall kidded about earlier this week while wearing a T-shirt with Jay Cutler’s likeness on it.

This is Cutler’s offense and team. Veteran quarterback Josh McCown is here to back him up and offer support. No one made that more clear than McCown himself on Thursday.

“I understand my role. Jay is the starter, and I’m the backup,” McCown said. “Jay got hurt, and I served my team by playing and doing what I could to help us win a ballgame and play effective football when I was in there. When he’s healthy, he comes back and he’s the starter, and that’s how it goes. That’s how we operate.”

Of course, there will be those that argue that McCown has earned the right to keep playing over Cutler, who is set to return early from a torn groin this Sunday against the Lions. In Cutler’s place, McCown played exceptionally well in just over six quarters of play, defeating the hated Packers and completing 59 percent of his passes for 476 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions and a 100.2 passer rating.

The Bears’ offense can win with either Cutler or McCown, especially if they’re smart and efficient with the football. But it’s Cutler’s abilities — starting with his elite-level arm — that can take it to another level.

“I love playing the game of football,” McCown said. “I had a blast Monday night, and I’ll be ready to go the next time I play. There’s a part of you that’s bummed because you don’t get to play anymore, but at the same time, the best thing for our team is for Jay Cutler to be our quarterback. So that’s my focus.”

Was McCown surprised by Cutler’s quick recovery — one that originally called for at least a four-week absence? Nope, not at all.

How could he be when he was there for parts of it?

“If I wasn’t here [at Halas Hall], I was with Josh getting chiropractic work, and if I wasn’t with Josh I was on the [ARPwave therapy],” Cutler said.

“I knew the steps that he was taking,” McCown said. “We talk every day, so I knew how it was feeling and all those things.”

All McCown has done in the past few weeks is further illustrate how close he is with Cutler while showing why his

teammates and coaches hold him in such high esteem. He’s a pro’s pro. It’s shown up on and off the field.

“Josh doesn’t have a ‘C’ on his chest,” Marshall said, “but he’s definitely one of our captains, especially from an emotional standpoint — the way he gets guys going, the way he rallies the guys in practice, the way he prepares. It’s contagious, a trickle-down effect. He affects our coaching staff, he affects players on offense and defense. He’s just that type of guy.”

The best part of this is that if Cutler suffers a setback or another injury, McCown already has proven that he can successfully run coach Marc Trestman’s offense. And do so on the road.

“Anytime you get your starting quarterback back from injury, you feel good about it,” offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer said. “[But] Josh McCown did a very nice job when he was in.”

“Josh is one of those guys who’s ready all the time,” tight end Martellus Bennett said.

McCown got a good look at Cutler in his first practice back on Thursday.

“As practice went on, he was spinning the ball and looking great,” McCown said.

“It’s a good thing, man. There’s a lot of banged-up teams right now, and you want to get people back. You need people healthy, and so it’s a good thing that Jay is back and healthy and ready to go.”

Email: ajahns@suntimes.com

Twitter: @adamjahns



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