Trestman has stuck his neck out on call to start Jay Cutler
BY RICK MORRISSEY firstname.lastname@example.org | @MorrisseyCST December 12, 2013 10:22PM
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Updated: December 13, 2013 11:14AM
It was perfect that the Bears practiced in an indoor bubble Thursday, symbolically sealed off from the local and national debate about who should be the team’s starting quarterback.
Debate? What debate?
“There’s not a debate in this building,’’ Jay Cutler said inside Halas Hall.
The Bears announced that Cutler would start Sunday in Cleveland, taking over for Josh McCown, who apparently could have cured cancer while filling in for his injured teammate and still found himself on the sidelines against the Cleveland Browns. If you listen to McCown’s most ardent supporters, one more start for Josh and the world at least would have been rid of the common cold, heart disease and possibly soccer fans.
Cutler’s eventual return to the starting lineup had been the Bears’ plan all along, even as McCown played the best football of his career. Coach Marc Trestman had said it over and over again the last few months: When Cutler is healthy enough to play, he’ll play.
The sprained ankle that sidelined him has healed.
But for a 7-6 team fighting to make the playoffs, isn’t it a risk to pull a quarterback playing as well as McCown is?
“I don’t think that risk was part of this decision,’’ Trestman said. “This decision was made a long time ago.’’
But what if McCown had gone 5-0 in his five-game stint as a starter, instead of 3-2? I’d like to tell you that Trestman would have said: Plan? What plan? But you know better. In his short time here, he has been as stubborn as a cowlick.
Let’s see if the coach learned his lesson from the Lions game at Soldier Field, when he waited too long to pull a gimpy Cutler and watched his team come up short. He wouldn’t give any indication Thursday of how he would react if Cutler had a physical setback against the Browns.
“We plan on him playing well,’’ Trestman said.
I’d hate to be Cutler and Trestman if the quarterback doesn’t play well Sunday.
Public reaction would be ferocious. The Bears benched a guy coming off a total of 1,055 passing yards the last three games for this?
Then again, Cutler is wired to not give a whit about what anybody thinks. He seems supremely confident at all times, with periods of dismissiveness and impatience toward his fellow human beings making frequent appearances.
So pressure? What pressure? To Cutler, pressure is when your wife desperately wants to watch “The Voice” and you want to watch a documentary about the painful deaths of sportswriters. How do you choose?
Cutler practiced Wednesday and Thursday with no apparent problems, but it’s hard to see him not being at least a bit rusty. He missed one game with a torn groin, came back against the Lions and sprained his ankle, then missed the next four games. He might want to carry an oil can with him.
“I don’t think we really have a lot of room for me to be rusty out there,’’ Cutler said.
McCown, the perfect teammate, said he has simply been keeping the seat warm for Cutler. And Cutler was very complimentary of McCown on Thursday, though he did go out of his way to heap praise on Trestman’s play calling.
But you have to wonder what other Bears are thinking about the decision. There have to be more than a few who believe the hot quarterback, not the guy coming off injury, should be starting against the Browns on Sunday. Publicly, though, everyone seems to be on the same page with the plan.
Former Bears are a different story. Brian Urlacher said on national TV this week that McCown should be the starter, which was a shocker only if you’re under the impression that Cutler and the shorn former linebacker are buddies.
Cutler’s return is about much more than a game against a below-average Browns team in a season that probably isn’t going anywhere. The Bears want him in the lineup because he’s their future. There have been too many hints the last few weeks, including general manager Phil Emery’s recent downplaying of the franchise tag for Cutler, to think anything else.
And then Cutler added another one Thursday.
“I know Phil has a plan,’’ he said. “You guys might not know Phil’s plan, but he has a plan.’’
Hmmm. Sounds a lot like someone who knows he’ll be getting a multiyear contract from the Bears after the season.
Contract uncertainty? What contract uncertainty?