Already Muddled QB Situations in Washington and Chicago Are Now More Muddled

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Already Muddled QB Situations in Washington and Chicago Are Now More Muddled
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There was one play Sunday that typified Chicago quarterback Jeff George. Sorry: Jay George. My bad: Jay Cutler.   

It was the second quarter, and wide receiver Brandon Marshall was wide open in the middle of the field. Culter threw the football with great power, almost like a bullet. And in typical George/Cutler form, the ball sailed woefully high and was picked off for Cutler's second interception of the first half.

Those errant throws were mixed in with a bunch of gorgeous ones. But that's Cutler. Pretty throw, pretty throw, bullet throw…pick. Rinse and repeat.

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Cutler's second-quarter overthrow gave him a pick-six on the day, which is a like a winter in Alaska featuring snow. The opposite of a shocker.

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That was one quarterback, in one NFL city, but he wasn't the only QB irritating and muddling a situation that was already greatly irritated and muddled.

The other quarterback story of the day was some 700 miles away in Atlanta, where backup Kirk Cousins was throwing for 381 yards against Atlanta.

Stats through Sunday via pro-football-reference.com and B/R research

Cousins' story begins after the benching of Robert Griffin III, and before the game this week against the Falcons. One Washington player said in a text to me that, "95 percent of the players agree with decision to go to Cousins." Players felt Griffin was playing so poorly that coach Mike Shanahan had no choice but to sit him.

What happened next—and will likely continue to happen—is that Cousins did well against Atlanta. While Griffin is the future, there's no question that what Cousins did to the Falcons will initiate a cavalcade of questions, statements and proclamations in what is now a totally messy Washington situation.

In fact, what happened Sunday was that two of the league's premier and most popular franchises, Washington and Chicago, had already delicate quarterback decisions become increasingly so.

It could be all in the mind, or due to the crappy Falcons defense, but it looked like Washington was playing with more passion with Cousins in the lineup. One thing is certain: get used to him looking good the rest of the season.

Washington's final three opponents were Atlanta (20th-ranked defense coming into Sunday), Dallas (dead last) and the Giants (15th). Based on what he did against Atlanta, it's possible Cousins torches the other two.

Cousins did have bad throws and made some mistakes, but he hasn't played since January and hasn't seen many practice snaps until this week. It's impossible to call this anything but successful for Cousins. He finished with almost 400 yards passing, three touchdowns and two interceptions. If it wasn't for a totally dumb-ass call by Mike Shanahan to go for the win at the end of the game, instead of tying, Cousins might have won the contest.

Should Washington look to trade Kirk Cousins?

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The prevailing thought is that if Cousins plays well in this final stretch, Washington can trade him. The problem for that franchise is that if he morphs into Captain Kirk, then a certain narrative will creep into the media and fan bloodstream: What if the quarterback of the future isn't RGIII but Cousins?

In Chicago, Cutler won, but there was still plenty of Cutler being Cutler. There's a reason why some Bears players weren't totally behind Cutler's return (via Fox Sports' Jay Glazer). Josh McCown simply plays smarter football than Cutler. Cutler will make pretty throws, but they will often be delivered prettily to the other team.  

Cutler was 22-of-31 for 265 yards, three touchdowns and two picks. 

There was something that analyst Tom Jackson said on Sunday on ESPN that perfectly described Cutler: "He's got a golden arm. He reminds me of Jeff George. One of the most gifted throwers in the history of the National Football League. That's what Jay Cutler is, and yet there's always been—it's a vague term—something."

Something that can't quite be trusted.

Who should the Bears be starting?

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As Cutler heads to free agency, the question is: Why would the Bears give him a huge payday when McCown runs the offense just as efficiently and generally makes fewer mistakes both in the game and in practice?

So this is where we are. Cutler has his usual interceptions mixed in with his streamlined throws, and Cousins fared well replacing Griffin. An already interesting situation in both cities is even moreso as we will see more Cousins and more Jay George.

 

Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report.

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