The Bears will hand the keys to the offense back to quarterback Jay Cutler for next Sunday against the Cleveland Browns. The move was expected pending his clearing tests on Wednesday, and when Cutler was in his usual spot for the start of practice on Thursday, the clear conclusion was that he had passed his final physical test as laid out by coach Marc Trestman.
The decision was made weeks ago that when Cutler was healthy, he starts.
“It’s going to be Jay [starting],” Trestman confirmed. “Our plan all along has been to allow him to get healthy. He was released by the doctors before [Wednesday]. I still wanted to have the opportunity to work him out vigorously, to burst and move, do sudden footwork, climb the pocket and do those sorts of things.
“He did it very effectively yesterday…. He came up this morning, there were no residual issues, no swelling, nothing there at all.”
Cutler was at practice in the No. 1 spot during the portion of practice open to media. He was first in the quarterback line going through warmups, an informal indicator of the order of battle at that position.
The move conveys an unmistakable statement that coaches regard Cutler as the choice giving the Bears the best chance of winning their next game, the only real standard right now with a 7-6 record and playoff hopes at stake.
Any concern over how McCown would take the demotion was misplaced. When Trestman called Cutler to check in Wednesday night, McCown was over at Cutler’s house going over the game plan.”
The temptation is to assume a falloff going from a hot McCown to a quarterback idle for five of the past six games.
Through his six starts pre-injury, Cutler passed for 1,630 yards, 12 touchdowns and with six interceptions, all part of a rating of 95.2. The Bears stood 4-2 going into Washington, where Cutler was lost to a torn groin in the second quarter.
McCown’s production has been greater: for his five starts, passing for 1,543 yards, 11 touchdowns and one interception. His passer rating for games started is 108.1 and the Bears are 3-2 in his starts.
(McCown’s total passer rating is slightly higher – 109.8 – by virtue of strong play off the bench coming in when Cutler was injured. For comparison purposes, only starts were included, those games when an opposing team had a week to prepare specifically for the offense with him in it.)
“I expect Jay to play effectively on Sunday [at Cleveland],” Trestman said, “and that’s why he’s going to be up.”