Update (Thursday, 2:00 p.m. ET): It's official: Jay Cutler will start Sunday against the Browns, Marc Trestman told reporters Thursday.
There's no question that journeyman backup quarterback Josh McCown has done an impressive job when he's had to spell Jay Cutler this season. The 7-6 Chicago Bears are coming off a 45-28 Monday night thrashing of the Dallas Cowboys in which McCown completed 27-of-36 passes for 348 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. Yes, it was against a Dallas defense that leaves writers looking for new words to describe their sieve-like coverage, but it was an outstanding game for him nonetheless. This season, McCown has completed 147-of-220 passes for 1,809 yards, 13 touchdowns and one interception when replacing the frequently-injured Cutler.
That said, when Cutler is ready to return from the ankle injury that's had him patrolling the sidelines since Nov. 10, head coach Marc Trestman insisted that there will be no change in the overall gameplan -- Cutler will start when he's good to go.
"We will see where Jay is this week," Trestman said Tuesday. "He'll have to be released by the doctors. When Jay says he is ready to play, he'll be playing ... We're taking this very methodically. The doctors understand that. And when [Cutler is] good to go and can have a full week of practice, he'll be our quarterback."
Cutler has also played well when he's been able, which leaves the Bears with the kind of pleasant problem they've rarely had throughout the long history of the franchise -- what does one do with two quarterbacks who are slinging it so effectively?
After the Bears' Monday night win, receiver Brandon Marshall tried to put things in perspective.
"Jay's our guy. Jay's our guy," he said. "Before the injury, he was playing his best ball ever ... Yes, Josh is doing well. You have to give him credit -- he's playing lights out -- one of the best quarterbacks playing right now.
"But Jay Cutler, he's a special guy. There are some things he can do that other quarterbacks can't. That's the physical part. But I put Jay Cutler in any room in the NFL, and he's the smartest guy in the room. So he brings a lot to the table."
It may take someone with Cutler's intelligence to figure this out long term. Cutler is in the last year of his contract, and general manager Phil Emery has said that he will not place the franchise tag on the eight-year veteran. McCown, who has been perhaps the best-ever example of Trestman's amazing way with quarterbacks, will be a free agent in 2014 as well, but he's costing the Bears $840,000 in base salary this season, as opposed to Cutler's $8.47 million. The Bears have other needs to address in the 2014 draft and beyond (start with help for a front seven that can't seem to stop the run against anyone), but it seems that they haven't finished the process of evaluating whether Cutler is worth a large part of their available salary cap in years to come.