Should Bears Rush Jay Cutler Back from Injury or Ride It out with Josh McCown?

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Should Bears Rush Jay Cutler Back from Injury or Ride It out with Josh McCown?
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

According to Dan Wiederer of the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Bears have yet to determine if Jay Cutler will start against the Dallas Cowboys on Monday Night Football.

During an interview with Cutler, the quarterback expressed his desire to get back into the starting lineup:

I still feel like I'm going to get back here relatively soon. But we've got to talk to the doctors. I want to play. There's no doubt about it. I want to play. It's just the trainers and the doctors and going through the scenario we have to go through.

However, head coach Marc Trestman remained reserved when asked about Cutler's potential return. Said Trestman, "We'll see how he moves around and we'll take it from there."

Even if Cutler is moving around relatively well, would it be a good idea to rush him back into the starting lineup in place of backup quarterback Josh McCown?

After all, the Bears are deeply entrenched in a race for both the NFC North crown and a wild-card playoff berth. With four games remaining in the regular season, the division is up for grabs:

NFC North Standings Through Week 13
Team Wins Losses Ties Streak
Detroit Lions 7 5 0 W1
Chicago Bears 6 6 0 L2
Green Bay Packers 5 6 1 L1
Minnesota Vikings 3 8 1 W1

ESPN.com

Despite losing their last two games, the Bears remain just one game back from the division-leading Detroit Lions. Even though the Bears have faltered of late, the blame cannot be placed on McCown, who has been playing some very solid football.

Over the six games that McCown has played in 2013, he has not had a passer rating any lower than 90.7. Cutler has managed solid games this season but remains inconsistent. The key to a playoff run is consistency in all phases of the game, and McCown seems to be the better option at this point over a banged-up Cutler.

Looking at McCown's game log, it is clear that he understands the new offense that Trestman has instilled this season:

Josh McCown's 2013 Game Log
Week Opponent Comp % Yards TDs INTs Rating
7 Washington 70.0 204 1 0 119.6
9 Green Bay 53.7 272 2 0 90.7
10 Detroit 66.7 62 1 0 123.4
11 Baltimore 61.3 216 1 0 92.9
12 St. Louis 76.6 352 2 1 102.4
13 Minnesota 63.9 355 2 0 114.9

ESPN.com

One of the most important aspects of a starting quarterback is his ability to limit turnovers and take care of the football. With only one interception in 184 passing attempts this season, McCown has the tools to give the Bears the chance for success over the waning games of the season.

Cutler, on the other hand, has continued to struggle with ball security—even when healthy. He has thrown 13 touchdown passes this season against eight interceptions over eight games played.

If Cutler is not fully healthy when he returns, there is a good possibility that he will continue to produce the same type of lackluster performance as he did in Week 10 against the Lions. During that contest, Cutler only completed 21 of his 40 passing attempts for 250 yards, one touchdown and one interception for a passer rating of 69.8.

McCown, however, continues to improve on a weekly basis. Even though he isn't the big-name quarterback that Cutler is, McCown has proven that he can play well enough to keep the Bears afloat in Cutler's absence.

After all, if any aspect of this Bears team is to blame for recent struggles, it should be the 32nd-ranked rush defense. This unit is currently allowing 153.6 rush yards per game—15.4 yards more per game than the 31st-ranked New England Patriots.

The amount of yardage that the Bears defense is currently giving up would make it tough for any NFL quarterback to find success. Chicago is giving up an average of 27.7 points per game this season—ranking just 28th in the NFL.

On Monday, the Bears face another struggling defense. The Cowboys are ranked 31st in the league in pass defense, as they are giving up an average of 294.9 yards per game. There is no reason to rush Cutler back into action while McCown is playing well and one of the worst coverage units in the NFL is next on the slate.

There is no doubt that Cutler will find the field again this season. However, Trestman and the Bears would be wise to delay his return until full confidence in his health has been re-established.

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