Last year, 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh found himself in a quandary. Should he continue to start Colin Kaepernick, who had added an entirely new dimension to his offense, or should he hand the starting quarterback job back to a recovered Alex Smith?
Up to this point, the old adage in the NFL had been that a player couldn't lose his job because of injury. But Harbaugh didn't care about old adages. He cared about giving his team the best chance to win football games. As we know, he decided to stick with Kaepernick through the remainder of the season and was relentlessly pelted with criticism for his decision.
He went with the hot hand, and that hot hand led his team to an NFC Championship and a Super Bowl.
Flash forward to present day, where Bears head coach Marc Trestman has taken the opposite approach. He's sending a scalding Josh McCown to the bench in favor of Jay Cutler, who is returning from an ankle injury.
With the Bears likely needing to win out to make the playoffs, this is no time for Trestman to try and "do the right thing" or stick to his principles. In Chicago's last three games, McCown has been one of the hottest quarterbacks on the planet. He's thrown for eight touchdowns and more than 340 yards in each game, throwing just a single interception in the process. Beyond statistics, he's made sharp Manning-like audibles at the line and has made smart decisions on where to go with the football.
He's also played a central role in Alshon Jeffery's recent outburst in production. The second-year wideout racked up 249 yards and two touchdowns against the Vikings on December 1, a Chicago single game record.
His emergence has presented defenses with one of the most feared receiving tandems in the league alongside Brandon Marshall. Can Jeffery continue to be this type of threat with Cutler at quarterback?
McCown is third in the NFL with a quarterback rating of 109.8 and ranks first in QBR. He's arguably playing better than Cutler has during any stretch of his career. But there is a chance that Cutler can come in and power this offense as successfully as McCown.
But Trestman shouldn't be thinking about whether or not Cutler has the potential to produce like McCown has. The question should be, "which quarterback gives me the best chance to beat the Browns this week?"
Ex-Bears great Brian Urlacher didn't hesitate to opine on the topic. "In my opinion, [McCown] should be the guy. He should be the starting quarterback of the Bears, even if Jay Cutler is healthy," Urlacher said. "You can't take a guy who's this hot out of the football game."
That's exactly what Trestman has chosen to do, and for now it seems as if the locker room supports his decision. How many stalled drives will it take this Sunday in Cleveland before the Chicago sideline changes its mind?
If things do go south on Sunday, it'll be fascinating to see if Trestman stands firm in his decision or if he trots No. 12 back out on the field.
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