Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh got the news on Monday that his defense wouldn’t be seeing Jay Cutler but would be looking at Josh McCown on Sunday in Soldier Field. It was hard to tell whether he regarded that as bad news – Harbaugh’s Ravens crushed Cutler and the Bears 31-7 in 2009 with Cutler posting a 7.9 passer rating – or good – getting a backup rather than a No. 1.
Harbaugh wasn’t sayin’. “I don’t have any thoughts on that right now that I would share,” he said Monday, “or probably will all week.”
Harbaugh may in fact not be all that pleased at getting a backup. Indeed, McCown is front and center in one of the major storylines of 2013, with the burden of saving the season resting squarely on his plate. He is also not alone in his situation.
With attention focused on places like Denver and Peyton Manning, Kansas City and Alex Smith, and Seattle in general, the 2013 season has become the Year of the Backup. No fewer than four backups rank among the top eight current starting quarterbacks, with higher passer ratings than the No. 1’s they’ve replaced.
Nick Foles, Philadelphia/ No. 1/ 132.5
Jason Campbell, Cleveland/ No. 5/ 106.6
Case Keenum, Houston/ No. 7/ 105.1
Josh McCown, Chicago/ No. 8/ 103.2
Foles, Campbell and McCown are involved in playoff scenarios. Foles has won his last two starts, a salvage effort after Michael Vick was hurt and Matt Barkley was bad. Campbell and McCown won their last starts, Campbell keeping the Browns within one game of the second wild-card spot in the AFC.
Keenum replaced Matt Schaub, has thrown seven TD passes without an interception, but hasn’t turned around the Texans, whose top-10 scoring defense of 2012 has given up one more point than the Bears so far this season.