LANDOVER, Md. – For some unknown reason the mind sometimes just goes funny places. Like back to just about two years when Jay Cutler went down with a thumb injury, and you flash back to thinking that if the Bears insert Josh McCown for Cutler instead of Caleb Hanie, the Bears likely make the playoffs and Lovie Smith is possibly still Chicago Bears head coach.
But those are useless musings because they’re in the past, whereas now seeing what McCown is still capable of, with exactly zero snaps during regular game weeks (meaning he hasn’t done much quarterbacking since the end of preseason) is a whole lot more relevant.
McCown delivered nothing short of a spectacular performance off the bench, playing for the first time since 2011, and directing four scoring drives in the second half of the Bears’ 45-41 loss to the Washington Redskins.
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McCown’s greatest asset is that he has learned through years of experience to play within himself as well as the offense.
“Trying to stay calm, lead the team, getting in and out of the huddle, be active with the football and play with my feet as well,” he said. “However I need to get it done, get it done.”
As far as what Cutler does that he can’t? “Have you seen him throw?” McCown said, then laughed.
If there was one significant positive amid the franchise calamity – referring here to the defense allowing nearly 500 yards and 45 points; Cutler will heal but the defense…. – it was in McCown improving on Cutler, at least for the day. McCown completed 14 of 20 passes for 204 yards, a rating of 119.6, second-highest of his career, and he led four scoring drives in the second half, not including a fifth that came up dry when Robbie Gould missed a 34-yard field goal. Gould’s career mark from inside 40 yards: 91.4 percent.
“[McCown] has gotten reps with us in camp,” said running back Matt Forte. “We hang out with Josh every day. He is in meetings with us and [at] practice, so it doesn’t change much. Josh commands the huddle the same way [as Cutler].”
Cutler’s status after suffering a painful groin injury in the second quarter of the Bears 45-41 loss to the Washington Redskins won’t be fully apparent until after an MRI and evaluation on Monday. Then, depending on the severity, the Jay Watch will begin and possibly extend well into the preparation week for the Bears’ game against the Green Bay Packers on Monday Nov. 4. Cutler was walking with considerable difficulty just leaving the field and this is a player with a well-established high pain threshold.
In the meantime, GM Phil Emery’s strategy of bringing veterans Trent Edwards and Jordan Palmer to training camp but opting to go into the season with two quarterbacks on the roster now plays out. The Bears are expected to sign Palmer, as first reported by Adam Schefter over at ESPN.
[RELATED: Bears reportedly sign Jordan Palmer]
Notably perhaps, McCown’s first start in 2011 after the Hanie debacle had run its four-game course (McCown took over late in the Seattle loss) was against Green Bay. McCown had the Bears within a 14-10 score in the third quarter and directed the offense to 441 yards and 21 points.
McCown’s body of work at practices has consisted only of backup center Taylor Boggs giving him practice snaps back away from the offense after it runs its plays. McCown then mentally simulates executing the play after he takes the snap.
“He did a great job,” said center and offensive co-captain Roberto Garza. “Absolutely no reps, and that’s a tribute to all the work he puts in off the field.”