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Bears fans won’t let go of Cutler-McCown issue

Updated: January 18, 2014 6:27AM

I don’t suppose we can stop talking about Jay Cutler and Josh McCown now, can we? I didn’t think so.

I learned that while trying to enjoy breakfast Monday in Cleveland. A Bears fan from Chicago began to tell his waiter that the team absolutely had to trade Cutler, rebuild the defense with the money it would save by jettisoning him and draft an apprentice who could learn under McCown for the next few years.

I don’t want to say we Chicagoans have become single-issue bores, but all the waiter had asked was, “Regular or decaf?’’

This is what hell is. Not eternal flames licking against your skin but unremitting lectures on McCown’s “intangibles.’’

We’ve become people who can’t shut up about the folly of the franchise tag as it applies to Cutler, the people who can bring a dinner discussion to its knees with a soliloquy on McCown’s pocket presence. We can clear out a room faster than any three-bean chili can.

For whatever reason, nobody seems to be paying attention to what coach Marc Trestman has said definitively on the Cutler-McCown debate or to what took place Sunday, when Cutler finished with a victory and a passer rating of 102.2.

If I had to sum up the message, it would be: Jay is your quarterback, so get over it.

But you can’t or won’t.

Quarterback has become the line in the sand in Chicago, with bro pitted against bro, father against daughter and husband against wife. Cutler-McCown makes Cubs-Sox seem like a potato-sack race at a picnic.

I am not an innocent party. I have been part of the discussion for the better part of two months now — have, in fact, led the cattle drive at times. But I was under the impression that once Cutler returned from his sprained ankle and played well enough, the topic would die a natural death. We wouldn’t have to talk anymore about whether the Bears’ locker room is split on the topic of Cutler and McCown or whether Trestman talks in his sleep about his plan involving Cutler.

But I can see now that I was sadly mistaken.

After a rough start, Cutler bounced back in a big way in the Bears’ 38-31 victory over a bad Browns team. He threw three touchdown passes after throwing two interceptions. He beat Cleveland, but judging from what I’ve heard and read, I’m not sure he beat his backup quarterback.

Every move he made was judged in the context of how McCown would have fared in the same situation. The tipped pass that turned into an interception? Josh never would have done that! Throwing into triple coverage? McCown would prefer death!

I get it: first game back for Cutler after missing four consecutive starts during which McCown had played well. There would be the kind of scrutiny usually associated with diamond appraisals.

But are we destined to a future in which everything Cutler does will be viewed through McCown-colored glasses? I hope not. I’ve never understood how people can watch two different games on TV at once. This is how the Cutler-McCown debate feels, with Cutler playing in a real game and in another against the ideal that is McCown.

I opened my emails Monday morning and read about how bad Cutler was. I checked message boards and found out that what we’re dealing with here is a pitched battle between the forces of good and evil, with Cutler being the prince of darkness.

You are kind, wonderful people. But you are wrong about McCown. He had five nice starts while Cutler was out, but those starts do not wipe out the mediocrity of his previous 10 seasons.

Just stop.

Your team is 8-6 and in first place in the NFC North. For the life of me, I don’t know how this came to be. The Bears have a defense made of balsa and Elmer’s glue, but somehow they have hung on. There have been some good performances and some not-very-good opponents. Whatever the case, fans should enjoy it. And get used to the quarterback on the field.

If I had to guess, I’d say you’ll have Cutler for at least three more seasons. I expect the Bears to sign him to a multiyear contract. You don’t have to like him, but you’re probably going to have to put up with him.

Now, let’s move on to a fresh topic: Should Derrick Rose try to come back for the playoffs?

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