You don't need to be a football lifer or have the eye of a scout to determine Jay Cutler is a superior athlete to Josh McCown with a much stronger arm.
Similarly, you don't need to have an analytics background to determine the offense scores more points with McCown than it does with Cutler, something that dispels a popular notion these days about No. 6 and the struggles of the offense in the red zone in recent weeks with McCown.
That's right. The Bears are more productive with McCown at quarterback.
This isn't to suggest the Bears should choose McCown over Cutler after this season when general manager Phil Emery has a decision to make about the future of the franchise at the most important position. But it's worth thinking hard about when you consider the value — in terms of millions of dollars — for Cutler moving forward. And it's something Emery has to weigh when determining if he should commit to Cutler in 2014 and beyond or find another quarterback or maybe two, a veteran and a draft pick, for coach Marc Trestman to work with in his system.
Because the quarterbacks have shared time against the Redskins and in the second game against the Lions, you can't compare them by starts. In order to determine how many points they have produced, you remove the six return touchdowns scored by the defense and special teams. Similarly, you subtract points from them for the touchdowns Cutler and McCown have created for the opponent by fumble and interception returns — points scored against the Bears directly attributable to the quarterbacks' turnovers.
Do the math and the Bears are scoring 2.06 points per possession with McCown or one point every 1 minute, 27.1 seconds of possession. With Cutler, the offense is scoring 1.75 points per possession or one point every 1 minute, 27.8 seconds of possession. In calculating the figures, kneel-down possessions were removed because no effort was made to advance the ball.
We're not talking about a wide margin here, but quarterback discussions in recent weeks have suggested the offense is better off with Cutler, who hasn't finished a start since the Oct. 10 game vs. the Giants, than McCown, who has put up big yardage totals in losses the last two weeks at Minnesota and St. Louis but fallen short on the scoreboard. Crunch the numbers and McCown comes out ahead when it comes to points.
Cutler, 30, and McCown, 34, are both coming out of their contracts. Emery could attempt to re-sign both, one or neither. McCown will make his fifth start Monday night against the Cowboys at Soldier Field with Cutler still sidelined with a high ankle sprain. Cutler practiced twice last week but was held out as a precaution on Saturday. It's possible the Bears do not practice again until Thursday because it is a short week and that would leave Cutler two practices to get medically cleared and prepare for the Browns on Sunday in Cleveland.
The Bears' roster is going to undergo far more turnover before 2014 than it did in the transition from Lovie Smith to Trestman. No decision is greater for Emery than what to do at quarterback. Only four games remain and to this point the journeyman McCown has had greater production which makes talk of potentially placing the franchise tag on Cutler seem farfetched, especially when the expected price tag is about $16.2 million, a figure Cutler could use as a baseline for annual average pay in negotiations on a long-term deal if the club tagged him with the intent of continuing talks for a multiyear contract.
One argument to keep Cutler is the Bears gave up two first-round picks to get him and they can't allow him to leave for nothing. They can if Emery reaches the conclusion he's not the quarterback for the future.
Forte's career year
Big numbers in the passing game with the emergence of Alshon Jeffery have gotten a lot of focus, but running back Matt Forte is well on his way to having a career year in his first in Trestman's system. He entered the weekend third in the NFL in yards from scrimmage with 1,416. Forte has 971 yards rushing and seven touchdowns and 58 receptions for 445 yards and one score. He's on pace to rush for 1,295 yards and nine touchdowns and have 77 catches for 593 yards. Forte has already joined LaDainian Tomlinson and Curtis Martin as the only backs in NFL history to have 1,400 scrimmage yards in each of their first six seasons.