Updated: July 1, 2014 6:44AM
To unlock the secrets of Josh McCown’s unanticipated success last season, Jordan Palmer, the Bears’ new backup quarterback and right-hand man to Jay Cutler, went beyond game film.
Palmer turned on practice tapes.
That’s right, practice.
“I watched all of last offseason,” Palmer said this week. “I watched every rep from [organized team activities] and minicamps. The biggest thing I saw that Josh did last year was he had great OTAs.”
Palmer’s goal isn’t to be McCown — “I’m just focused on myself,” he said — but the similarities are there. He has the same approachable demeanor and comes with a coaching background (he tutored quarterbacks for the NFL draft, including No. 3 pick Blake Bortles). He’s willing to put in post-practice work with his inexperienced teammates, and there’s a connection with Cutler and coach Marc Trestman.
And let’s be clear: Palmer wouldn’t be here if he didn’t have Cutler’s and Trestman’s confidence.
“For me, honestly, we have such a good [quarterbacks] room,” Palmer said. “[Quarterbacks coach] Matt Cavanaugh has been in the room as a player, as a coach, as a coordinator. Jay has been doing this a long time, and Marc obviously is . . . I don’t need to say anything.
“It’s definitely fun getting here at 6 a.m. every morning, going to meetings and trying to move the team.”
Trestman has told Palmer that he has to compete for his spot against rookie David Fales and Jerrod Johnson. Still, Palmer remains the obvious favorite to back up Cutler, who last played a full season in 2009.
“We’ll see how I feel down the road,” Palmer said, “but, right now, all I feel is the pressure to go in and move the team every day.’’
Competing against Fales after working with him before the draft isn’t uncomfortable, either.
“He’s a young player with a really bright future,” Palmer said. “It’s fun going to work every day with guys you like, and I really like him.”
The concerns about Palmer are understandable. Palmer only has attempted 15 passes in his career, and he turned 30 on Friday.
But McCown didn’t earn his newfound celebrity — one that landed him a two-year, $10 million deal from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — until thriving under Trestman in his QB-centric system. McCown had attempted only 55 passes in the NFL over a five-year span before last season.
For Palmer, being a part of the Bears’ full offseason regimen is crucial. His first run with the Bears last year came during the third week of the preseason.
“I missed all the foundational stuff [last year],” Palmer said. “This is why we call it this. This is how we get lined up. I just kind of prepared for games. It was great to be able to be here from Day 1.”
Rejoining the Bears to back up McCown when Cutler was injured was invaluable to Palmer.
“Josh and Jay’s relationship was so strong and they were helping each other so much, there wasn’t a need for me to weigh in on much at all,” Palmer said. “I was really just there to learn and help. . . . So here I am in the offseason, and [it’s] just the same thing, trying to the serve the guys and move the team.”
Similar to McCown, Palmer appears to have won over the locker room. Running back Matt Forte jokingly called him a quarterback guru for his work with Bortles.
“Other than the mental aspect of the game, he’s got some good physical tools out there where he can make different types of throws that are required of him,” Forte said. “[It’s] an exciting time for him to be able to step up into that role. It’s on him to see how well he does.”