MORRISSEY: My bad, McCown is good
BY RICK MORRISSEY email@example.com | @MorrisseyCST December 11, 2013 10:55PM
Updated: December 11, 2013 11:56PM
With Jay Cutler possibly back in the starting lineup Sunday, it’s well past time for a certain someone to admit he was wrong, wrong, wrong about Josh McCown.
Why, yes, as a matter of fact, I was the one who told coach Marc Trestman that he didn’t have much of a team without the injured Cutler and the injured Lance Briggs. Thank you for asking.
That pronouncement came at a news conference Oct. 21, the day after Cutler had injured his groin and Briggs his shoulder against the Redskins. The prognosis was that both would be out for a significant amount of time.
And here the Bears are, tied for first place.
How was I supposed to know that McCown would turn into Joe Montana? Or that Trestman would turn McCown into Montana? Or that weak opposing defenses would turn McCown into Montana? Or that Alshon Jeffery, Brandon Marshall and Matt Forte would turn McCown into Montana?
There are many reasons for McCown’s success the last two months, none of which occurred to me as even remote possibilities when I mentioned the gaping Cutler-Briggs crater to Trestman, who wanted nothing to do with either my doom or my gloom.
At the time, there certainly was no hint from the Bears that they had a star-in-waiting. No one — not Trestman, not general manager Phil Emery, not McCown’s half-day kindergarten teacher — could have seen this coming. Not after McCown’s 10 so-so NFL seasons and his more recent stint as an assistant high school coach. You did not hear a soul inside or outside Halas Hall say, “Josh McCown is going to play so well that there will be a raging debate about who should be the quarterback when Cutler returns from injury.’’
That’s not a rationalization for being wrong about McCown so much as a recognition that I used to have a lot of company in my wrongness. But now that the time has come to take ownership of being so mistaken about McCown, where have all my fellow doubters gone? They’re raging against Time magazine for choosing Pope Francis over McCown as its Person of the Year.
Cutler might start in Cleveland, a development that would not go over well with McCown’s supporters. But instead of Round 153 of the Cutler vs. McCown debate, let’s take a moment to try to understand how we arrived here and how people could be so upset about a backup quarterback’s possible “benching.’’
McCown played well against the Redskins in relief of Cutler, who had suffered a torn groin in the second quarter. McCown completed 14 of 20 passes for 204 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed four times for 33 yards, which would have told me something about his mobility had I been listening.
I kept waiting for defenses to take advantage of McCown’s lack of arm strength. Kept writing it, too. Just wait until defensive backs get up on Bears receivers off the line of scrimmage! Just wait until they realize that McCown won’t throw deep.
Ahem. McCown’s lowest passer rating came in Green Bay. It was 90.7.
Is it the quarterback or the offense?
In six games under Trestman before the groin injury, Cutler threw for 300 yards or more twice. In 58 previous games for the Bears, he had seven 300-yard games.
In the last three games, McCown has thrown for 352, 355 and 348 yards, respectively. The previous 10 seasons, he had four 300-yard games.
McCown is 34, an advanced age for a pro athlete. But what at first glance looks like a handicap might be another reason why he has been so successful. As he said after the Bears’ blowout victory over the Cowboys on Monday night, he knew he could be good in the right system with the right players and coaches around him. But he obviously learned from the past. You rarely see him make a mistake now. It was shocking to see him show humanlike weaknesses when the Cowboys almost picked him off twice.
The Bears caught lightning in a bottle, sold it, used the money to win multiple Mega Millions jackpots, then headed for a casino, which they bought.
In other words, they went 3-2 with McCown as a starter after one skeptic announced his disbelief.
And, yes, I have been hearing about it for weeks from you, dear readers.
Hey, I was right about the defense being miserable. Doesn’t that count for something?