Chicago Bears management began the search for a veteran quarterback shortly after being informed of the severity of Jay Cutler's thumb injury. Yesterday, the Denver Broncos waived quarterback Kyle Orton, which gave the remaining 31 NFL clubs 24 hours to claim him off waivers. The Bears were one of the three teams to claim Orton but he was awarded to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Shortly after being informed that Orton would not be returning to Chicago, where he spent the first four years of his career, the Bears went with Plan B and signed veteran signal caller Josh McCown to a one-year deal.
McCown has started 31 of 47 games played in eight NFL seasons with the Cardinals (2002-05), Lions (2006), Raiders (2007) and Panthers (2008-09) after entering the league as a third round selection (81st overall) by Arizona in the 2002 Draft. The 6-4, 213-pound quarterback out of Sam Houston State has completed 610 of 1,058 (57.7 percent) passing attempts during his NFL career for 6,584 yards, 35 touchdowns and 40 interceptions for a 71.3 passer rating.
"I have a history with Josh," coach Lovie Smith said today. "Of course, East Texas guy from Jacksonville, about 20 miles from where I'm from back home. In 2006, when he went to Detroit, we tried to get him to become a Bear then, and last year, I think in training camp, we tried to get him to come on board. So it's only fitting that we get him to become a part of our team."
McCown will serve as the primary backup to newly anointed starter Caleb Hanie. Offensive coordinator Mike Martz wanted a player who was familiar with his complicated system and McCown, who played under Martz in Detroit in 2006, fits that criteria.
While McCown has knowledge of Martz's scheme, he never did put it to test on the game field. McCown served as a backup in 2006, was active for just two games that season and never threw a pass during the entire campaign. He was cut by the Panthers after the 2009 season, when he attempted just six passes. He went jobless in 2010 and played briefly with the San Francisco 49ers this preseason before being cut.
McCown is a journeyman that is not going to lead any team to the promised land. In no way will he be asked to start any time soon. His signing is a way to bring an experienced player who can help guide Hanie through his first games as a starter. And if Hanie fails miserably or goes down with an injury, the Bears will be able to fall back on a player that will at least have a working knowledge of the system.
Smith was unsure if McCown can be brought up to speed quick enough to serve as the team's No. 2 quarterback this Sunday.
"I think we have to get him here first to see exactly where he is, but it does help when you have been in the system," Smith said. "He's a smart guy and all that. That should be an easier transition, but we have to see where he is. Nathan Enderle has been around here a long time, and Nathan is in the backup role right now, and we'll let everything else play out."
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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.