The question of who the Bears starting quarterback will be next week and probably for some weeks after that was easily answered on Monday:
Jay Cutler is down with a high-ankle sprain, a “week to week” evaluation according to the Bears. Josh McCown will start against the Baltimore Ravens.
But the questions surrounding that injury, his groin tear of several weeks ago and his play in the loss to the Detroit Lions is not so clear.
The ankle injury appeared to occur late in the second quarter when Cutler took a hit after releasing a pass with 2 minutes 56 seconds remaining to wide receiver Alshon Jeffery that gained 12 yards down to the Detroit 19-yard line.
Cutler stayed in the game and deep into the fourth quarter despite restricted mobility and a declining level of play. Coach Marc Trestman stood by the decision to stay with Cutler using performance-based criteria.
“When I looked at the tape it really reconfirmed what I had seen on the field, that he was struggling, no doubt about it,” Trestman acknowledged on Monday. “[I have] seen other quarterbacks play this game and do what Jay did and after talking to Chris [Hanks, trainer] and learning that [Cutler] would not injure himself any further, it was, ‘Can he throw the ball effectively in the pocket? Did he have velocity on it? Was he making the throws?’
“The answer was ‘yes.’”
Cutler hurting the team
A twist, however, is that Cutler was asking teammates and coaches if he was doing the job sufficiently: “'Do I look OK? And am I still getting it done?'” Cutler said Sunday. “Because I felt really restricted in the pocket with what I was able to do."
Indeed, Trestman pointed to the number of good throws Cutler made in the second half as a basis for leaving the quarterback in as long as he did. But if Cutler wasn’t sure, he appears to have been answering his own questions, if 4-for-12 passing in the third quarter didn’t answer loudly enough.
But besides Cutler’s own observation that he was restricted in what he was able to do, Trestman confirmed that coaches had to take out some of the game plan that involved movement by the quarterback.
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That step itself seemed by definition to be stating that Cutler playing hurt the team by scaling back the offense. One of the significant aspects of McCown taking over for Cutler was that there was no need to dial down the offense.
Yet that was exactly what leaving an impaired Cutler in the game effectively did.