8:54 AM CST, December 12, 2013
Marc Trestman sounded optimistic that Jay Cutler would start Sunday.
One question, of course, is whether Cutler would finish the game.
The doctors cleared Cutler to practice at full speed and Trestman planned to put him through a full-speed workout Wednesday. If Cutler shows he has overcome the groin and ankle injuries and doesn’t complain of pain Thursday, then Trestman will start him against the Browns.
But perhaps the more interesting question is whether Trestman would pull him from the game if he was playing badly.
Such questions arose as Cutler struggled through the most recent game against the Lions. Cutler asked Trestman how he looked. Trestman said he looked good. Trestman needed better glasses.
Cutler would never take himself out of a game. Or at least, we haven’t seen it. He played a quarter of an NFC Championship Game with a partially torn knee ligament. He’s a tough guy. Maybe too tough for his own good. So, it would take a coroner or a coach to decide for him.
Trestman finally changed quarterbacks on the last drive when the Bears needed the elusiveness that Cutler couldn’t provide and Josh McCown could.
This is different. This is starting Cutler in place of the NFC’s Offensive Player of the Week.
It’s one thing that a player regains his starting spot upon returning from injury. It’s another to decide how long he gets to keep it if he isn’t giving his team the best chance to win.
Let’s say Cutler starts Sunday. Let’s say he is hurting the Bears because of rustiness, not health. Would Trestman pull him?
The Bears’ playoff life would be hanging in the balance. Same goes for Trestman’s growing relationship with Cutler. The Bears appear to want to make the Trestman-Cutler marriage a long-term commitment. But short-term results come first.
The long-term issue might be how Cutler reacts to such a move based on a performance the coach considers sub-par but Cutler doesn’t.
The short-term issue is how every other player in uniform would react if Cutler isn’t removed under those conditions with the productive McCown ready to play.
Trestman might be a quarterback whisperer, but he’s also the coach of the rest of the team.
The decision becomes acute when trying to evaluate the general manager’s idea of a franchise quarterback heading for free agency against a team trying to make the postseason.
Best-case scenario: Cutler sparkled in the workout, is healthy enough to practice full-speed this week, and comes up big Sunday.
Worst-case scenario: Robbie Gould’s field-goal try on second down starts looking like a minor decision.
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