Why Chicago Bears Must Stick with Josh McCown at Quarterback

Cameron ClowContributor IIIDecember 11, 2013

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 09: Quarterback Josh McCown #12 of the Chicago Bears runs for a touchdown in the second quarter against the Dallas Cowboys during a game at Soldier Field on December 9, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

After playing MVP-caliber football on Monday, Josh McCown has raised questions about whether or not he'll continue to start.

The Chicago Bears have been clear that Jay Cutler is the starter when he's healthy. "There's no change in the plan," Marc Trestman said via Chris Wesseling of NFL.com. "We will see where Jay is this week...When Jay says he is ready to play, he'll be playing."

What's best for the Bears, however, might be to keep the 34-year-old McCown under center. CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora makes an argument for McCown in the video below. 

There's no debating whether Cutler has the raw physical skills. Just ask receiver Brandon Marshall.

"He's a special guy. There are some things he can do that other quarterbacks can't. That's the physical part. But I put Jay Cutler in any room in the NFL, and he's the smartest guy in the room. So he brings a lot to the table," Marshall said via Will Brinson of CBSSports.com.

It's established that Cutler will start when healthy and that he has the physical edge. Let's compare their stats while trying not to betray a bias toward either signal-caller. Here are the two stat lines without the names:

McCown and Cutler 2013 Stats
265 ATT1,908 YDS63 COMP. %13 TD8 INT
220 ATT1,809 YDS66.8 COMP. %13 TD1 INT

It may come as a surprise, but the second stat line belongs to McCown. 

McCown clearly takes care of the ball better with just one interception in 220 attempts. Meanwhile, Cutler threw an interception on one out of about every 33 attempts. 

And McCown's aerial attack has been anything but conservative. He is averaging over 258 passing yards per game, and that's including a partial game against the Detroit Lions.

Removing his numbers from his abbreviated game against Washington Redskins, Cutler averaged just under 263 passing yards per game before his injury.

Is five yards per game more worth the increased turnover risk?

Probably not when paired with the Bears' 28th-ranked scoring defense. 

It's not that McCown is better than Cutler, but McCown has shown the ability to use his weapons and move the offense more efficiently than his predecessor. With weapons like Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Matt Forte, McCown doesn't need to have the strongest arm.

What McCown has shown is the ability to distribute the ball to his weapons and limit the risk of interceptions. And he's moving the offense just as well as Cutler did earlier this season. 

He doesn't have the arm that Cutler does, but McCown seems to have better decision-making skills and a better grasp of what are his strengths and limitations. Cutler is more coveted, but McCown is the better fit.

The Bears will start Cutler when he's ready, but they should continue riding the hot-handed Josh McCown.