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Despite excellent run, McCown embraces role as Cutler’s backup

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Updated: December 13, 2013 10:25PM



It was déjà vu.

Quarterback Josh McCown, engulfed by reporters, stood by his locker at Halas Hall. He was coming off an impressive performance on “Monday Night Football” but looking at taking a back seat to Jay Cutler.

But this isn’t Week 10 against the Lions. He isn’t a few days removed from beating the Aaron Rodgers-less Packers in his first start.

This is Week 15, and the Bears’ playoff hopes have come down to three games. McCown is a few days removed from a five-touchdown performance in a rout of the Cowboys in his fifth start in place of an injured Cutler.

But McCown sounded exactly the same Thursday as he did weeks ago — he’s the backup, while Cutler is the starter Sunday against the Browns and for the foreseeable future. And that’s what makes McCown perfect for this situation.

“You want guys on your team that want to be on the field,” McCown said. “But also, you want guys on your team that know their roles and understand that. And so for me, I understand my role on this team. It’s the backup quarterback. So, that being said, if Jay is healthy, he’s ready to go. I’ll support him and help him as much as I can.”

Would a young, upcoming quarterback say the same thing? Would a rookie quarterback playing well handle being sent back to the sideline in the same manner?

Would another quarterback spend Wednesday night at Cutler’s house going over the game plan for the Browns a few days after throwing four touchdown passes and running for another?

“I don’t look at it as trying to take a leadership role,” McCown said. “I just look at it as trying to serve my team. If all 53 guys approach this as trying to serve your team, good things will come out of it. For me, that’s it.”

If we were tallying votes for Bears MVP, mine would go to McCown. From helping Cutler during the early stages of coach Marc Trestman’s offense to filling in exceptionally well when Cutler was injured and keeping the Bears’ playoff chances alive, McCown’s impact has been invaluable.

And it persists in intangible ways.

A rift could’ve developed in the locker room with a quarterback change at this point in the season — see Brian Urlacher’s comments from earlier this week — but McCown’s team-first demeanor and humility prevented that. His teammates hear what he says.

“He’s been probably Jay’s biggest support in this process,” Trestman said. “No doubt.”

McCown said he appreciates all the outside support he has received — his 109.8 passer rating, 66.8 completion percentage, 13 touchdown passes and 3-2 record in five starts have been a revelation — and that his family has enjoyed his run.

“Where I gain the most satisfaction is just being able to look back over this stretch and going, ‘You know, I played some good football,’ ” McCown said.

McCown regrets mistakes made in losses to the Rams and Vikings. But his focus is on the Browns and getting Cutler ready to face their seventh-ranked defense.

Trestman acknowledged that his offense continued to grow with McCown, and McCown says it’s his duty to see that the progress continues under Cutler.

“He’s grinding away at it, getting himself ready to play,” McCown said.

“What matters moving forward is that we beat Cleveland, and so that starts with me helping Jay get as ready as he can, so he can go out and play good football.”

And should the Bears need to turn to McCown again, everyone should know that he can produce “good football.’’

Email: ajahns@suntimes.com

Twitter: @adamjahns



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