Now that the NFL season has ended, everyone in Chicago has started the annual rite of passage - praising the back-up quarterback and throwing away the starter.
This year, Jay Cutler missed significant time with a couple injuries, opening the door for Josh McCown to look good enough that many fans have gone as far as to say he could/should be back as the Bears' starting quarterback for the 2014 season.
While there are certainly flaws in Cutler's game that open the door for debate about him being the long-term answer under center for the Bears, the merits of any discussion including McCown as a potential starter in 2014 are questionable at best.
McCown had a nice season for the Bears, that isn't being denied here. But many are ignoring the realities of McCown's season for the sake of hating on Cutler.
Simply put: McCown played bad teams and did well. He took the majority of the snaps for the Bears against only one playoff team (the Packers in early November), and put up nice numbers against some of the worst pass defenses in the NFL.
Here's the reality of McCown's season:
October 20 @ Washington (45-41 loss)
McCown: 14-20, 204 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, 119.6 Passer Rating
Washington Pass Defense:
96.1 Passer Rating against - 27th in the NFL
3,896 pass yards against - 20th in the NFL
29 pass TD against - 21st in NFL (tie)
36 sacks - 21st in the NFL (tie)
November 4 @ Green Bay (27-20 win)
McCown: 22-41, 272 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT, 90.7 Passer Rating
Green Bay Pass Defense:
95.9 Passer Rating against - 25th in the NFL
3,956 pass yards against - 24th in the NFL
30 pass TD against - 27th in the NFL (tie)
44 sacks - 8th in the NFL (tie)
November 17 vs Baltimore (23-20 OT win)
McCown: 19-31, 216 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, 92.9 Passer Rating
Baltimore Pass Defense:
82.2 Passer Rating against - 11th in the NFL
3,681 pass yards against - 12th in the NFL
25 pass TD against - 14th in the NFL (tie)
40 sacks - 16th in the NFL (tie)
November 24 @ St. Louis (42-21 loss)
McCown: 36-47, 352 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT, 102.4 Passer Rating
St. Louis Pass Defense:
94.7 Passer Rating against - 24th in the NFL
3,874 pass yards against - 19th in the NFL
21 pass TD against - 7th in the NFL (tie)
53 sacks - 3rd in the NFL
December 1 @ Minnesota (23-20 OT loss)
McCown: 23-36, 355 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT, 114.9 Passer Rating
Minnesota Pass Defense:
98.6 Passer Rating against - 30th in the NFL
4,598 pass yards against - 31st in the NFL
37 pass TD against - 32nd in the NFL
41 sacks - 13th in the NFL (tie)
December 9 vs Dallas (45-28 win)
McCown: 27-36, 348 yards, 4 TD, 0 INT, 141.9 Passer Rating
Dallas Pass Defense:
96.0 Passer Rating against - 26th in the NFL
4,589 pass yards against - 30th in the NFL
33 pass TD against - 30th in the NFL (tie)
34 sacks - 25th in the NFL (tie)
Jay Cutler faced (Passer Rating against NFL rank):
Cincinnati - 2
Minnesota - 30
@ Pittsburgh - 12
@ Detroit - 19
New Orleans - 14
NY Giants - 6
Detroit - 19
@ Cleveland - 16
@ Philadelphia - 15
Green Bay - 25
Cutler faced two of the top ten pass defenses in the NFL, and four more against teams that finished in the upper-half of the league in pass defense. The Saints (2), Bengals (5), Browns (8), Steelers (9) and Giants (10) were among the top 10 teams in average passing yards against per game in the NFL this season as well.
In McCown's six games, he faced only one team - the Ravens - that finished consistently in the upper-half of the NFL in pass defense. Indeed, five of the six teams McCown played against finished in the bottom ten of the league in Passer Rating against; he had a big day against those teams, but everyone did.
Many will immediately point to Cutler's 12 interceptions against McCown's one.
Again, the season-long stats indicate that stat shouldn't be the basis of praise of McCown. Of the six teams that McCown faced, the Ravens and Redskins tied for the highest interception total on the season at 16 - or one per game - and they ranked 15th in the NFL.
Cutler, on the other hand, faced three teams in the upper half of the league in interceptions: the Bengals (5), Eagles (8) and Giants (12). Of course, the counter-argument is that Cutler was personally responsible for four of the Lions' 15 total interceptions this season in only two games, and the Browns picked off Cutler twice but had only 12 in their other 15 games.
If Cutler had played complete games against the pass defenses that McCown faced, would the discussion be different? If Cutler had accounted for most/all of the Bears' 4,450 passing yards and 32 touchdowns, would fans be as unhappy with the team's quarterback situation today?
Probably not... because the Bears defense sucked.