The NFL broke a leaguewide scoring record last week, as all 32 teams combined for 859 points. And the gaudiest quarterback stat line wasn't put up by Peyton Manning, Tom Brady or Drew Brees.
34-year-old Josh McCown, the man with five other NFL teams in his rear-view mirror, totaled five touchdowns and completed 75 percent of his passes in a stadium cold enough to turn beer into slush. Some dude stole a fantasy football playoff win in your league using McCown.
McCown has a 109.8 passer rating, third in the NFL. He should finish with the highest single-season rating in modern Bears history, and possibly ever. (Sid Luckman posted a 107.5 back in 1943, back before the formula for passer rating had been invented.)
A gaudy performance by McCown against the worst defense in football doesn't mean he's the quarterback who will lead Chicago to the promised land of Games With Roman Numerals. Nor does this great string of games he's played mean he'll continue to perform at this level.
But it does show that the Bears could throw someone like McCown into Marc Trestman's offense and have success. And the Bears have to seriously entertain the thought of allowing Jay Cutler to walk away into Megacontractville, Population: Don't Care.
The NFL's salary cap total will be around $120 million in 2014. Cutler's cap number in 2013 is $10,370,000, and if the Bears need to use the one-year franchise tag for his services in 2014, it'll be more than $17 million.
That's almost one-seventh of their cap room for one player—a player who's played all 16 games only once in five years. A player whose production has been instantly outdone by a journeyman backup quarterback. That's too steep a price to pay when so many holes need patching on the Bears' leaky defense.
I wish the Bears had given Cutler a better offensive line earlier. And I wish Cutler would agree to a three- or four-year deal worth about what he's receiving right now. But he'll probably get offered stupid money from a franchise more desperate than the Bears (hello, Tennessee!), and Phil Emery should resist the urge to overpay him. As I wrote in the preseason, 2013 was a make or break year for Cutler.
RedEye special contributor Alex Quigley can be heard on WGN Radio 720.