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A spot with Bears looks open for Josh McCown

Josh McCown (15) put up decent numbers against Packers but much thproducticame after Bears had fallen far behind. | Jeffrey

Josh McCown (15) put up decent numbers against the Packers, but much of that production came after the Bears had fallen far behind. | Jeffrey Phelps~AP

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Updated: January 28, 2012 8:12AM



Coach Lovie Smith said he liked what he saw from Josh McCown against the Packers on Sunday night.

‘‘The performance that Josh put in last night was impressive,’’ Smith on Monday said when asked if McCown might be considered for the No. 2 quarterback spot in 2012. ‘‘That’s why we can get so much done this week. We want to see him have an opportunity to play again. You normally can find a spot for a player who played the way he played last night.’’

Of course, if the Bears were any good at evaluating quarterbacks, they wouldn’t have been starting a journeyman who spent most of this season coaching high school football in their last-ditch effort to keep their playoff hopes alive. ­McCown was game in his first NFL start since 2007 — 19-for-28 for 242 yards, a touchdown, a two-point conversion, 38 rushing yards and two interceptions for a 76.8 passer rating.

Take it for what it’s worth that the Bears felt McCown was ­impressive. They also believed ­Caleb Hanie was ready. The Hanie experience almost literally had some observers marveling at McCown’s ability to throw an accurate swing pass.

McCown was competent. But in reality, he didn’t do much to stop anybody from wondering if rookie Nathan Enderle might have more to offer. Outside of a 49-yard pass to Earl Bennett to the Packers 1-yard line that set up a touchdown, most of McCown’s production came ­after the Packers took a 35-10 lead. Against the 31st ranked defense in the NFL, McCown was 11-of-14 for 105 yards and a one-yard touchdown pass to Kellen Davis — a 121.7 rating in the fourth quarter.

Regardless of how impressive McCown was or wasn’t, he’s almost certain to get a second start in Sunday’s season finale (noon, Fox-32) against the Vikings at Mall of America Field.

Smith did leave the possibility that Jay Cutler — and running back Matt Forte — could play ­Sunday, though that hardly would seem prudent.

‘‘[Cutler is] on schedule to get his pins removed,’’ Smith said when asked about reports that Cutler would get pins removed Tuesday. ‘‘If they’re healthy and ready to go, we won’t tell them no. But there are some other guys we feel comfortable playing.’’

Enderle, a rookie from Idaho hand-picked by offensive coordinator Mike Martz, isn’t one of those players. You would think the Bears might be curious to see what he could do in Martz’s offense — ­especially considering that Martz, on the final year of a two-year contract, might not return next season.

But even without playoff hopes, Smith was resolute about sticking with McCown. ‘‘There is so much else that we can gain from this. It’s not a tryout period,’’ he said. ‘‘We’re [going] with the quarterback that gives us the best opportunity to win. Nathan will have his time. He’s a good quarterback for the future. But that future isn’t now.’’

Smith isn’t interested in long-term benefits if it’s going to cost the Bears a victory today. And for what it’s worth, the Bears can draft anywhere from No. 11 to No. 20 in the first round of the 2012 draft based on Sunday’s result.

‘‘That’s just not our philosophy,’’ Smith said. ‘‘We’re trying to win the game. Others may do it differently. But for us, [it would] be pretty hard to tell the rest of the guys, ‘Hey, we want to see this guy play.’ ’’

Of course, you could also ­argue that ‘‘the rest of the guys’’ are the very players who put Smith in this spot by collectively failing him when Hanie needed a boost. But Smith didn’t get this far by thinking like that. He’s not going to change now.



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