Josh McCown made Marc Trestman's decision as difficult as possible, but the Chicago Bears' head coach remained true to his word.
According to ESPN.com's Jeff Dickerson, Trestman named Jay Cutler the starting quarterback for Week 15 against the Cleveland Browns:
Trestman made the decision with confidence, per Bears sideline reporter Zach Zaidman:
Marc Trestman on Jay Cutler's return as #Bears starting QB: "I have no concerns."— Zach Zaidman (@ZachZaidman) December 12, 2013
Adam Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times noted that McCown took the news in stride:
Cutler later talked to the media about his return to the lineup, via Michael C. Wright of ESPN.com, the Bears' Twitter account and Dickerson:
Cutler: "It felt good to get back out there with the guys."— Michael C. Wright (@mikecwright) December 12, 2013
LM: #Bears QB Jay Cutler on Josh McCown: "He's played really well. I'm happy for him."— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) December 12, 2013
LM: Jay Cutler: "We're knocking [rust] off in practice. I don't think we have a lot of room for me to be rusty out there."— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) December 12, 2013
Jay Cutler said the organization always told him the plan called for him to return to the starting lineup when healthy. #Bears— Jeff Dickerson (@ESPNChiBears) December 12, 2013
After the 11-year veteran McCown torched the Dallas Cowboys on Monday night of Week 14 to the tune of 348 passing yards, five total touchdowns and zero interceptions, more fuel was thrown onto an already-intense debate about who should start once Cutler was healthy enough to play.
But just a day after the 45-28 win over the Cowboys, Trestman reiterated his stance, via Dickerson:
There's no change in the plan. We'll see where Jay is this week. He'll have to be released by the doctors. When Jay is ready to play, he'll be playing.
When [Cutler] is good to go and can have a full week of practice, he'll be our quarterback.
Cutler wouldn't comment on the debate after practice (via Zaidman and Dickerson):
Cutler on Cutler/McCown debate: "There's not a debate in this building."— Zach Zaidman (@ZachZaidman) December 12, 2013
Jay Cutler: "I've been worrying about Cleveland. I can't get involved (in the national debate over who should start at QB)."— Jeff Dickerson (@ESPNChiBears) December 12, 2013
Still, with the way McCown was playing, many weren't ready to believe the head coach was going to make that decision. As ESPN Stats & Info's Twitter feed pointed out, the numbers—albeit from a very limited sample—pointed toward McCown:
Moreover, star wide receiver Brandon Marshall raved about McCown's performance, according to the same Dickerson link from above.
"He's amazing," Marshall said. "We really appreciate his leadership and what he's been doing for us. This guy is a special person on and off the field."
Nevertheless, Trestman wasn't going to let Cutler—who is in the last year of his contract and has an uncertain future in Chicago, per Jason Cole of the National Football Post—lose his job because of an injury.
Who should be starting against the Browns on Sunday?
The Bears (7-6) are battling for an NFC playoff spot. They're tied with the Detroit Lions for first place in the NFC North, but Detroit owns the head-to-head tiebreaker.
Cutler certainly hasn't done anything that warrants a demotion (63.0 completion percentage, 238.5 passing yards per game, 13 touchdowns, eight interceptions), but McCown played well enough to at least be considered if things go poorly in Week 15.