Do you rate the performance of Bears quarterbacks in 2013 against the rest of the NFL, or against the established norm for the Bears at the position?
Either way, you have to be pleased. Individually, both Jay Cutler and Josh McCown had the best years of their careers. Cumulatively it was the best performance at quarterback in the history of the franchise.
Over 16 games, Cutler and McCown combined for 373 completions and a 64.4 completion percentage for 4,450 yards, 32 touchdowns, 13 interceptions and a 96.9 passer rating. The completion percentage, passing yards and touchdowns would all be single season Bears records and the 96.9 rating is first with an asterisk, second to the 97.8 rating of Jim McMahon in the nine games he played in 1984.
Cutler’s 89.2 passer rating is the best of his career, besting the 88.1 he had in 2007.
McCown had career bests in almost every category and his 109.0 passer rating dwarfed his second-best season, in which he rated 74.9 in 2005 in Arizona.
It is important to note that McCown started just five games and played extensively in a sixth in Washington and the Bears were just 3-3 in those games.
Jordan Palmer was a veteran No. 3 who never saw the field.
As Bears quarterbacks go, the season would appear to be an A+. But the Bears don’t play themselves. Against the rest of the league, Cutler’s and McCown’s performances were still very good, but a couple grades below Nick Foles and Peyton Manning, and at least a full grade behind Philip Rivers, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Russell Wilson.
You’d also love to see Cutler cut back on his interceptions and McCown have the points to match the big passing numbers in the Rams and Vikings games. Give them a B+ for the season.
Certainly, you know by now, Cutler has been re-signed for $126 million over seven years, $54 million of it guaranteed over the next three seasons. Like it or not, or stay neutral until he provides more evidence of the wisdom of the move, Cutler is the man for the next three seasons.
McCown is an unrestricted free agent the Bears would love to re-sign. He performed well last year, has value in the locker room and Cutler has an injury history. But he will be one of the most expensive backups in the league and the Bears are tight on cap space with all the work they have to do on defense.
Palmer is also an unrestricted free agent.
If the Bears can’t re-sign McCown, they have to re-sign Palmer. But if McCown is back, Palmer won’t be.
Either way, the Bears should draft a quarterback for Marc Trestman to develop in the background. McCown is not a long–range answer. Cutler gets hurt, and even if Cutler stays healthy there is no guarantee he will earn the faith the Bears have put in him.