It’s not often that a quarterback coming off a game in which he completed 27 of 36 passes for 348 yards and five total touchdowns - good for a 141.9 passer rating and NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors - is told he’ll be sitting on the bench for the upcoming game, but that’s what happened to Chicago Bears quarterback Josh McCown today. And although most would be disappointed by the news, McCown today was philosophical about the situation and ready to return to his backup role behind returning starter Jay Cutler.
“I’m taking the long view,” McCown said today. “That was my role coming in to this team, and it’s a situation I accept. My role has always been to assist Jay. When he went down during the Detroit game, that was my call to step up. Now that Jay is back again, I go back to where I’d been up to that point.”
It’s been an interesting few games with McCown at the helm. Most expected a workmanlike job from the NFL veteran but few anticipated McCown’s helicopter touchdown or his daring corner-of-the-end-zone pass to Alshon Jeffery during Monday Night Football. McCown has shown enough to ignite a quarterback controversy, a situation he never intended.
“I don’t listen to all that stuff,” McCown said. “I’ve been spending all of my time preparing from one game to the next. I’ve been clear with you guys all along that Jay is special. He’s got formidable talent and he’s the starter for a reason. I’ve been in the league for a long time now and I’m just grateful to have the opportunity to be out there and be making a positive impact at this point in my career.”
McCown did admit that his family followed the chatter initiated on Twitter by fans who hoped he’d keep the starter’s job.
“Sure they were excited,” McCown said. “You’ve got to remember that not that long ago I was coaching high school football. They were pretty certain that my career had concluded as far as the NFL was concerned. To have this second chance was beyond what any of us could have imagined. It’s been fun.”
When asked why McCown, who is 3-2 as a starter this year, is being benched, coordinator Aaron Kromer was matter of fact.
“Jay’s ready,” Kromer said. “He’s our starter. You’ve seen him during the games. He’s been right in there next to Mark, next to Josh. They’ve all been communicating. Every snap he’s lived emotionally, if not physically. We’re lucky that we have two capable quarterbacks. But there’s a reason you have a starter. That’s because they’ve shown in the past that they can have success. Any starter in the NFL has done something right on a consistent basis to earn that job. Before he was hurt, Jay was our starter. It’s important that Jay has the opportunity to do it again.”
But what of the talk outside of Halas Hall suggesting the Bears should part ways with Cutler, keep McCown and draft high in 2014?
“I’m glad we’re in the situation we are in because that means we have two good quarterbacks,” Kromer replied.
McCown took the long-term view in accepting his new role.
“I knew coming in that I’d fill in for Jay if necessary,” McCown said. “I’m like every player in the NFL who takes pride in his work and wants to do well. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t want to play, so of course I want to be out there. But at the same time I understand that my role here is as the backup quarterback. Jay’s healthy and ready to go so I’ll support him in any way I can. We’ve spent time this week bringing him up to speed on some new plays we’ve been putting in since he went down. That’s exactly what Jay did for me when I was taking the snaps.”
And what about going from Player of the Week one day and to the bench the next?
“I just happened to get the award,” McCown said. “That’s a reflection of our entire offense playing well, the entire team playing well. It’s not that big of a deal to me because what matters to me is that we won the game.”
The last question to McCown was the one that hit him the hardest: What if Monday night was your last starting snap in the NFL?
After a long pause and a shake of his head, McCown said he didn’t even want to think about that right now.
“If that was my last game I guess I’d say I was pleased that we won. That’s a lot to think about right now. It’s just something I don’t even want to consider. Instead, I’ll stay focused on Cleveland. We’ll work out the rest of the stuff once the season is done.”
Beth Gorr has been covering the Bears for the last 12 years and is the author of Bear Memories: The Chicago-Green Bay Rivalry. She is currently working on a second book about early Bears history.