In sea of concerns for Bears, Josh McCown isn’t one
BY MARK POTASH Staff Reporter November 27, 2013 8:20PM
Updated: December 30, 2013 12:14PM
Well, who’d have thunk it? Josh McCown is the least of the Bears’ worries.
And that’s not an exagerration. When coach Marc Trestman met the media Wednesday at Halas Hall, these were the subjects that were addressed before McCown’s name even came up:
For that matter, you could add the offensive line — which allowed 17 quarterback hurries and four quarterback hits against the St. Louis Rams last week; Michael Bush, who lost five yards on seven carries against the Rams; and the special teams, which had two more penalties against the Rams — one that nullified a 62-yard touchdown by Devin Hester on a punt return — to give them 15 for the season.
Believe it or not, McCown is the best thing the Bears have going heading into Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings at the Metrodome. McCown’s 100.8 passer rating in five games (three starts) would rank seventh in the NFL. His passer rating has been 90.7 or higher in each of the five games he has played. Even his 7.5 yards per attempt would rank ninth in the league — not bad for a journeyman quarterback who came into this season with a 71.2 career passer rating and 6.3 yards per attempt.
Nobody seems to be too concerned about whether McCown will ‘‘hit the wall’’ after a series of outstanding performances that exceeds anything he’s previously done in his 12-year NFL career. Against a Vikings defense that ranks 29th in passing yards and has allowed more passing touchdowns (24) than any NFL team, it’s presumed that McCown will have an even bigger day than he’s been having since taking over for the injured Jay Cutler.
‘‘He’s the starting quarterback on my fantasy team for a reason,’’ teammate and backup Jordan Palmer said in the Bears’ locker room Wednesday, ‘‘because I think he’s going to have big numbers every week. Because he’s throwing to great receivers, with a great O-line and a great running back. And he’s playing great football. I anticipate him going out and have a monster game on Sunday and leading us to a win.’’
Cutler’s status still matters most in the big picture at Halas Hall, but McCown’s health is an issue as well after he took a tremendous hit from Rams defensive tackle Michael Brockers that was not a sack and fumble only because the officials were having just as bad a day as the Bears’ defense.
McCown admitted he felt the residual impact of that hit and a few others against the Rams.
‘‘[I] felt a little different, but nothing too major,’’ he said. ‘‘Everybody goes through it. All those guys talk about it every week with [Roberto Garza] — it’s part of the job and part of how your body feels throughout the week, and those guys hit every play.’’
McCown keeps showing a new facet to his game every week, it seems. After shaking off the Brockers he was 6-for-6 for 46 yards until throwing an interception with 1:25 to play. Inbetween Robert Quinn sacked him and stripped him of the ball, recovered the fumble and returned it 31 yards for a touchdown.
But by then the game was lost and McCown was in desperation mode. Neither foible was his fault. When he originally replaced Cutler against the Redskins in Week 7, it was up to him to match the level of the rest of the offense. Now it’s the other way around.
‘‘He’s one of the toughest players I’ve been around,’’ Palmer said, when asked if there’s anything he knows now about McCown that he didn’t know before. ‘‘To play quarterback in this league you have to be tough — and pretty much all the guys are. But I’ve seen [him] above and beyond — I saw the same thing with Jay, playing through what he played through.
‘‘But Josh took some legitimate shots — bad — on Sunday and bounced right up and he was fine. That’s who he is. I think it’s from growing up with two or three brothers, in Texas, playing ball beating each other up. I can relate to it. That’s one of the most impressive things to me — how tough he is.’’
The question with McCown isn’t whether he’ll hit the wall but how high he can go in this offense, with these weapons.
‘‘Josh has just got to continue at the level he’s playing at,’’ Trestman said. ‘‘He knows there are things he can do to get better. We’ve talked about trusting his reads and progressions and just letting the guys around him do the work.’’
‘‘He’s getting better every week,’’ Palmer said. ‘‘He didn’t just try and ride the wave after playing well in Green Bay. He was hard on himself for some plays that he missed, which no one would have noticed but him. He does not go, ‘Look at all the great things I did. I played great.’ He goes, ‘What are the mistakes that I made. How can I get better?’ I think that’s what being a great quarterback in this league means.’’