McCown's great play prompting Bears to let Cutler walk as free agent
Marc Trestman came over from the CFL to be the new head coach of the Bears, and he was hired in large part due to his proficiency in managing quarterbacks. Trestman has been well-renowned for his ability to get the most out of his signal callers, often making them look far better than they actually are. Evidence of Trestman's prowess with quarterbacks was made clear by Jay Cutler, who boasted a career-high 95.2 passer rating through his first six games playing for Trestman - his previous career high (when playing in more than five games) was 88.1.
In his seventh game, however, Cutler went down with an injury, which was the final piece that needed to fall into place for McCown. Being thrown into the fire midway through the season, McCown hit the ground running, completing 14-of-20 passes for 204 yards and a touchdown when subbing in for the injured Cutler. He hasn't looked back, racking up an astounding 13:1 touchdown to interception ratio and a 109.8 passer rating on the season. I am not a big fan of QBR, but it is worth noting that McCown's 85.72 mark leads the NFL.
If extrapolated over a full season, McCown's stats project to 4,938 passing yards, 35 passing touchdowns, and just three interceptions - as I said yesterday in my waiver wire column, those are MVP-caliber numbers.
Is McCown a Rich Gannon-type late bloomer who is finally figuring it out at the age of 34? Possibly, but the more likely cause of McCown's stellar play is his coach, Trestman. If Cutler were not having the best year of his career before getting injured, it would look more like McCown finally figured out how to dominate in the NFL, but since both of these quarterbacks are playing career-best football, Trestman deserves a lot of the credit.
The fact that McCown - a career backup who has not started a game in half of his NFL seasons, starting more than six games in just two campaigns - is playing so unbelievably well is a testament to Trestman's ability to manipulate quarterbacks. Don't get me wrong, McCown deserves a ton of credit too - Trestman couldn't throw just anyone in and have him play well, and McCown remained prepared through six weeks of strict bench-riding. However, all signs point to the quarterback position not being quite as high of a priority in a Marc Trestman offense, relative to other NFL offenses.
As a result, the Bears are reportedly prepared to let Cutler walk as a free agent this offseason. The team could sign McCown to a cheap, short-term deal due to his age and short track record of success, which would give them a stopgap for a season or two (assuming McCown can keep up solid play under Trestman). The Bears could then go after a quarterback in the draft, perhaps somewhere between the second and fourth rounds, which would give them someone to bring along slowly behind McCown. Given Trestman's success with both McCown and Cutler, the Bears' front office would likely be confident in his ability to hand pick a draft-eligible quarterback and craft him into a franchise signal caller.
Cutler has resumed practicing for the Bears, and it looks like he's on track to return in Week 15, which means McCown could be done starting behind center for this year. However, the Bears appear more likely to bring back McCown than Cutler next season, as Cutler's price tag will be higher and Trestman has proven that his offense can be successful with either quarterback. I believe that re-signing McCown and drafting a quarterback is the most likely way that the Bears will address the position this offseason, and from what I have seen out of Trestman, it looks like a great idea.