The Chicago Bears on Monday night took the field for the fourth consecutive game without quarterback Jay Cutler at the helm. Unlike the past two weeks, however, they were successful in holding off their opponent, as Josh McCown threw for 348 yards and four touchdowns in a 45-28 romp over the Dallas Cowboys.
The game marked the third time in a row that McCown has thrown for more than 300 yards in a game, and even though the first two performances came in losses, his overall play has really caught the eye of national reporters covering the team. Some are really beginning to question whether or not McCown should remain the starter even after Cutler comes back.
Some public opinion is beginning to swing McCown’s way, but there is at least one player who was adamant that a healthy Cutler should still be the man under center, and that player is Brandon Marshall.
Even with six receptions for 100 yards in the game (and in the process he eclipsed 1000 yards receiving for the seventh consecutive season), Marshall still is apparently on Team Cutler, judging by what he told the assembled ESPN crew of Suzy Kolber, Trent Dilfer, Steve Young, and Ray Lewis at Soldier Field after the game.
"Jay’s our guy," Marshall said. "Before the injury, Jay was playing his best ball ever, and what we’re learning as players is that it isn’t about the individuals. It’s about us playing together."
Marshall also made it a point to say that he felt that Cutler was actually benefitting from the experience of watching the offense operate from the sidelines (a notion that has been strengthened by watching Cutler get active in relaying in play calls and staying near Marc Trestman while he guides the offense).
"He’s growing," Marshall said. "You can only grow when you see the offense being effective and continuing to make these leaps and bounds without you in it. I really believe that in this situation, this whole month, has really benefitted his whole career. We’re going to see Jay Cutler get even better."
Even with his effusive praise of the impending free agent, Marshall was also quick to praise McCown’s recent play, but used the opportunity to reiterate his support of Cutler.
"Yes, Josh is doing well and you have to give him credit," he said. "He’s playing lights out. He’s one of the best quarterbacks playing right now, but Jay Cutler, he’s a special guy. There’s things he can do that other quarterbacks can’t, and that’s (just) the physical part. I could 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."
At this point, there is no indication that Trestman is even considering leaving Cutler on the bench even if he is cleared to play against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, but it was still interesting to hear Marshall unequivocally put his support behind Cutler in this situation. He could have chosen a diplomatic answer that may have caused some fans to question the team’s thinking, but Marshall’s emphatic answers to the questions about Cutler’s status as the starter is something that Trestman will surely appreciate as he goes about preparing his game plan for Week 15.