Is Trestman throwing Jay Cutler to the Lions?
BY MARK POTASH Staff Reporter November 7, 2013 9:52PM
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Updated: December 9, 2013 11:04AM
Marc Trestman is on a roll. But does he really want to press his luck?
On Monday night, Trestman’s Bears beat the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field thanks to a series of improbable and fortuitous events — Aaron Rodgers suffering a broken collarbone while getting sacked by Shea McClellin; McClellin getting three sacks when he came into the game without a full sack in his previous 19 games; and, of course, Matt Forte avoiding a potentially devastating tackle in the backfield to convert a fourth-and-inches at the Bears’ 32-yard line in the fourth quarter, allowing the Bears to all but clinch a 27-20 victory.
Now Trestman arguably is taking an even bigger risk than that momentous fourth-down gamble by allowing Jay Cutler to play Sunday against the Detroit Lions at Soldier Field. Based on the medical information Trestman has, you can’t accuse him of being careless or panicky. But let’s not ignore the obvious risk in starting Cutler against a Lions team that takes great pleasure in punishing quarterbacks, just three weeks after he suffered a torn groin muscle.
This is a quarterback who has been injured in four of his last 23 games — that’s a pattern that’s tough to leave out of the equation. But Trestman’s only concern is whether team doctors have cleared Cutler to practice and play full-speed. Once they did that, it was as if the groin injury never happened.
‘‘It’s gone. It’s over,’’ Cutler said.
That Cutler might be susceptible to aggravating the freshly healed injury is not a consideration for Trestman.
‘‘The doctors have cleared him to play,’’ Trestman said. ‘‘It’s like with any other player when they say he’s ready to go. He’s cleared to play, so he’s going to play. I’m not thinking through it any more than that.’’
Fair enough. But in all objectivity, there are more reasons to not play Cutler this week than to play him. Not just that Lions Pro Bowl tackle Ndamukong Suh, who had two sacks of Cutler in the Lions’ 40-32 victory over the Bears at Ford Field, will be frothing. (‘‘Can’t worry about that,’’ Cutler said Thursday.) But backup Josh McCown’s performance has given the Bears the cushion they’ve never had with Cutler. In six quarters in place of Cutler, McCown has a 100.2 passer rating, with three touchdown passes, no interceptions and two sacks.
Give Cutler credit not only for going all out to return as quickly as possible, but for considering only his team in this scenario. In the final year of his contract, his future is at risk, as well. ‘‘I haven’t worried about my contract,’’ he said. ‘‘My biggest thing was helping Josh last week . . . and then get back as soon as possible so I could help those guys.’’
Whatever the risk, Cutler has earned whatever good fortune comes his way. But it’s Trestman’s call — and it’s hard to argue with a guy who beat the Packers in Lambeau on his first try.
Lovie Smith has to be wondering what he did to anger the football gods. Aaron Rodgers was sacked 20 times in 11 games against the Bears under Smith with nary a scratch on him. In the NFC Championship Game in 2011, Rodgers tripped up Brian Urlacher to thwart a potentially game-turning interception return. Yet when Cutler simply ran downfield to stop an interception return against the Chargers the next season, he suffered a broken thumb that ended his season and the Bears’ postseason hopes. And there wasn’t anything an ARP machine or platelet-rich plasma therapy could do about it. Smith was stuck with Caleb Hanie.
Trestman, by comparison, has a golden touch. Seven plays into his first game against the Packers, Rodgers is not only down but out. A Bears defense far worse than anything Smith ever put on the field sacked Packers quarterbacks five times. And when Cutler was injured, Trestman not only had a capable backup in McCown, but saw Cutler heal miraculously. After the Bears said ‘‘we figure to be without him for at least four weeks,’’ Cutler went through a full practice without a hitch and was all but named the starter against the Lions. What in the name of Marc Colombo is going on here?
If all goes well, we’ll know exactly what’s going on. The Bears not only hired a coach who knows how to build an offense, but one with better luck. In the NFL, it makes a big difference.