McCown has done more than enough to prove he belongs
BY ADAM L. JAHNS Staff Reporter December 8, 2013 9:14PM
Updated: January 10, 2014 6:29AM
A hand warmer and those little hot packets the Bears’ equipment staff dole out will suit quarterback Josh McCown just fine on Monday night.
That’s how he will fight off the frigid conditions against the Dallas Cowboys.
“For me, I just want my hands to feel kind of warm, almost sweaty,” McCown said. “Some guys like to go with gloves and experiment with those a little bit. But I like just going straight up and doing it like always and try not to change anything if I can.”
Monday night is setting up to be a big one for McCown.
Not only could it be his last start of the season with Jay Cutler returning from his high-ankle sprain to practice in some fashion last week, but McCown and his hot hand (1,461 passing yards, nine touchdowns, one interception and a 103.6 passer rating) have a chance to pull the Bears even with Detroit Lions in the NFC North with a victory against the Cowboys and their 32nd-ranked defense.
The Lions, as many expected, floundered in the snow in Philadelphia on Sunday, blowing a 14-point lead, giving up 28 fourth-quarter points, allowing 217 rushing yards to LeSean McCoy, fumbling the ball seven times (five by quarterback Matthew Stafford) and eventually losing to the Eagles 34-20.
“Josh has continued to impress and continued to run the offense and be effective,” offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer said. “So we hope that can continue on throughout this game and into the future.”
The future, you say?
Retaining McCown has become just as important as retaining Cutler for the Bears. The two have become intrinsically linked. McCown helps Cutler succeed, and McCown succeeds when Cutler is out. So if Cutler gets another crack to direct coach Marc Trestman’s offense in 2014, so should McCown.
The 34-year-old backup has earned it, while being the answer to different scenarios, too.
Keep Cutler and see the oft-injured QB get hurt again? McCown is your guy.
Lose Cutler, draft a quarterback and need a mentor? McCown is your guy.
General manager Phil Emery recently indicated on the team’s website that he had interest in keeping Cutler and McCown. With Cutler looking at a longer deal and more money, securing McCown should come easier.
Nobody here is saying the Bears’ offense is markedly better with McCown than it is with Cutler. Recent problems scoring despite a bunch of yards -- 904 net yards in the past two games, but a 20.5 points average, which is behind the offense’s season average of 23.5 points -- show that McCown isn’t the Mr. Perfect some make him out to be. But it’s not as if the Bears are in bad hands.
McCown success might be a product of the system and the weapons he has, but he’s still the one running the system and getting the ball to the weaponry.
“Every single week we still have been putting up numbers no matter who’s there,” tight end Martellus Bennett said.
With the Bears’ playoff lives at risk, that’s still McCown.
“I appreciate being out there and if you appreciate being out there, you’re going to put your best effort forward because you don’t know when it’s your last time,” McCown said.
That said, he’s earned more of it.
In Marc Trestman’s eyes, everything the Cowboys do well starts with Tony Romo, who has thrown for 3,140 yards, 24 touchdowns and seven interceptions this season..
Trestman described Romo as a “difference-making quarterback who can make plays and who can finish games.”
“Tony Romo is a lot to handle and it starts there with him because he can make plays with his arm, he can make plays with his feet and he can make plays when there are no plays to be made,” Trestman said. “So that’s going to be a lot to handle.”
It’s been a few years since Romo has had directed the Cowboys to a winning season, but Trestman definitely likes what he’s seen from the three-time Pro Bowl quarterback on film this season, even comparing him to Jay Cutler last week.
“Certainly his [passer] rating is excellent,” Trestman said. “He’s 97, 98 in his rating. He’s 65 percent in completion percentage. So a credit to the staff in trimming things down and putting a system or cleaning up a system that was in place to make him more viable. They’re giving him a little running game, which certainly helps as well, takes a little bit of heat off, and the pressure off. Those are just some of the things. He’s playing very efficient football.”
— Adam L. Jahns
This season has had its bumps in the road for long snapper Patrick Mannelly, who is in his 16th season with the Bears. It started with enduring a big blind-side hit in the preseason that resulted in a broken rib and recently included missing two games with a calf injury.
But his spot with the Bears was never in question. He’s proven himself to be too good and too reliable over the years.
Does Mannelly, who first played with the Bears in 1998, ever look back at his time spent here?
“As you get older you do,” Mannelly said.
“The big thing you start thinking about is all the great guys you played with. The locker room is a fun place. I’m from Marietta, Georgia. [Kicker] Robbie [Gould] is from Pennsylvania. [Punter] Adam [Podlesh] is from New York. You have other teammates from all over the country coming together and you have one common goal, but it’s just fun to just learn about people, just hang out with people and experience other people. That’s probably the biggest thing in my career looking back on it now that I’ve enjoyed the most.’’
Here’s a cold read: As of Sunday, the National Weather Service had forecast a low of 7 degrees with a highs just about 11 for downtown, but with wind chills as low as zero or 10 below.
The Bears made the wise decision of practicing outside to prepare for it. But coach Marc Trestman believes the most significant impact the cold will have is on the kicking game.
“The cold isn’t a factor like the wind can be a factor,” Trestman of running an offense in the cold, “and that comes to play calling, game decisions, special-teams decisions and things like that.”
Before the Bears’ problems stopping the run became their No. 1 issue on defense, it was receivers, such as A.J. Green and Antonio Brown, having big days.
Could the Cowboys’ Dez Bryant (68 catches, 896 yards and nine touchdowns) reignite that trend — especially with Charles Tillman injured?
“[Their offense] starts with the quarterback [Tony Romo] and it starts with Dez Bryant,” Trestman said. “They’ve got a difference-making player in Dez Bryant.”
Weekly stat to consider: Ready for a shootout? The Bears’ offense has scored 282 points, the eighth-most in the league. The Cowboys have put up 288.