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Updated: December 11, 2013 3:34PM
The long-term Jay Cutler/Bears quarterback question is not ``either-or’’—as in, either Cutler or Josh McCown.
It’s multiple choice.
The first choice is between spending money on Cutler or an aging, injury-prone defense.
If the answer is ``defense,’’ there’s also a third quarterback option: Let somebody else pay Cutler, keep McCown and shop around for another quarterback who’s a better value than Cutler and a better long-term solution than McCown.
The answer should be defense. What has been a great defense in recent years would be old even if it were healthy. And it’s no coincidence that this old defense has had an epidemic of injuries. That’s what old defenses do.
Coach Marc Trestmen, who knows offense the way Lovie Smith knew defense, is showing he can score points with a journeyman backup. Getting a little younger and a little better there without spending a fortune is very realistic. Meanwhile, the defense is showing it can’t stop people without fresh, young bodies.
The Bears haven’t had a big-time quarterback who stayed healthy since the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Why start now? Especially since the City Fathers opted not to build a domed stadium where a sophisticated passing game could operate in comfort at playoff time?
A big part of that decision depends on the appraisal of Cutler. Yes, he has a world-class arm and moves well enough—and has the attributes of an excellent NFL QB from the neck down.
But what we’ve seen during his time in Chicago is that he doesn’t take care of the ball all that well—and he doesn’t have that extra intangible that another interception-prone QB, Brett Favre, possessed.
From what we’ve seen, he doesn’t do all the things the best quarterbacks do. He’s close, but there’s something missing, at least during his time here in Chicago. There are too many picks, not enough leadership and very ominously, too many injuries.
In short, he’s risky and over-priced—and the upside doesn’t look that big.
Meanwhile, Marc Trestman has shown with McCown that the Bears can have a very effective offense without having a world-class quarterback. Trestman operates a great offensive scheme. That’s especially true because of the people around the QB. The three over-sized receivers are terrific, the offensive line is having a great year and Matt Forte brings quality at running back.
So go get a younger version of McCown to play ahead of McCown, In Trestman’s system, that’s just as good an option as a quarterback who follows up a great throw with a tear-your-hair-out interception, then rinses and repeats.
In other words, Cutler tantalizes, but we know enough to realize he’s not Favre or Tom Brady or Peyton Manning on decision-making or leadership. So move on—and start looking for the next Russell Wilson or Andrew Luck, or any of a number of promising young QBs.
In the meantime, know that a caretaker quarterback with a better defense is going to add up to at least as much success—and maybe more—as a QB who hasn’t shown himself to be a top-tier winner.
In the short term, if Trestman wants to play Cutler, that’s understandable. Cutler obviously is the better long-term option at QB. And playing him is likely to show that he’s not the answer any more than McCown without a much-improved defense.