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You won’t find hint of QB controversy in Bears’ locker room

Updated: December 15, 2013 11:33AM



Pat Mannelly, who has been a Bear longer than any Bear in franchise history, has seen his share of quarterback controversies in 16 seasons with the team.

When Mannelly was a rookie long snapper in 1998, Dave Wannstedt chose Moses Moreno over Steve Stenstrom. The next season, the Bears cut Erik Kramer to make room for Cade McNown, eliciting an all-time-best parting shot from Kramer: ‘‘Just because your 14-year-old son comes home with straight A’s, you don’t give him the keys to the car.’’

That led to McNown/Shane Matthews, Matthews/Jim Miller, Kordell Stewart/Chris Chandler, the Jonathan Quinn/Craig Krenzel and Krenzel/Chad Hutchinson scenarios and the Rex Grossman/Kyle Orton debate that preceded Jay Cutler’s arrival in Chicago.

As controversies, they were all overrated, Mannelly said.

‘‘I can’t recall any of those being like a locker-room faction for one or the other,’’ he said.

Some worked out better than others. Miller went from being a third-stringer to leading the Bears to the playoffs in 2001. By and large, though, most Bears quarterback controversies proved a long-held football truth: A team that has two quarterbacks has none.

Until this one, at least. Cutler/Josh McCown is a quarterback ‘‘controversy’’ that has solidified the Bears’ locker room instead of dividing it. No matter what anybody thinks of Cutler or McCown, everyone knows Cutler is the No. 1 and McCown the No. 2.

‘‘It’s two real good quarterbacks,’’ Mannelly said. ‘‘But we know who the starter is.’’

With the Bears fighting for a playoff spot, there’s no room for any discord in the locker room.

‘‘You need to have a solid guy at that spot,’’ offensive tackle/tight end Eben Britton said. ‘‘That’s one of those spots you can’t have flip-flopping. You can’t have indecisiveness. It’s got to be a rock-solid position for a team. . . . We’re really fortunate to have a rock-solid guy in Jay.’’

There is no better quarterback combination in football than what the Bears have in Cutler and McCown. Most teams that have two quarterbacks as productive as Cutler and McCown have been don’t have them for long: Alex Smith/Colin Kaepernick with the 49ers; Aaron Rodgers/Matt Flynn with the Packers; Tom Brady/Drew Bledsoe with the Patriots; Kurt Warner/Trent Green with the Rams.

‘‘I think we understand where we are as a team, and everybody has their role,’’ Mannelly said. ‘‘It’s a great issue to have. We’ve never had two quality quarterbacks.

‘‘It’s been a seamless transition back to Jay, and that’s the way it should be. That’s the sign of how good our locker room is and how understanding our team is.’’

The Cutler/McCown issue still can blow up on the Bears. If Cutler costs the Bears a game that ends up costing them a playoff spot, coach Marc Trestman will take a beating. But it’s a beating he will take with his entire team behind him.

‘‘The whole situation of how it’s a non-controversy is a testament to everybody in this locker room and how the coaches treat us as players and trust us as men,’’ Britton said. ‘‘It’s awesome.’’

Email: mpotash@suntimes.com

Twitter: @MarkPotash



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