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updated: 12/10/2013 12:13 AM

So is Cutler still the Bears' starting quarterback?

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  • Bears quarterback Josh McCown did it all again in Monday night's victory over the Dallas Cowboys.

      Bears quarterback Josh McCown did it all again in Monday night's victory over the Dallas Cowboys.
    Associated Press

 
 

The Bears' offense had just shredded the Cowboys' defense for the entire first half on "Monday Night Football."

The ceremony retiring Mike Ditka's No. 89 Bears' jersey was under way at midfield in Soldier Field.

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I passed a lineman from the Ditka era in the press-box hallway and, eyes open way wide, he looked at me as if to be marveling at the Bears' offense.

A minute later we passed in the same hallway and he said, eyes still open way wide, what a lot of people were thinking at that point: "Start (Josh) McCown the rest of the season."

All the Bears and their backup quarterback had to do was prove the first half was no fluke by sustaining the attack after halftime.

No problem.

The Bears kept shaking and baking and rocking and rolling on the way to a startling 45-28 victory over the Cowboys. Why startling? Because they averaged 21 points over their previous four games.

Coupled with Detroit's loss a day earlier, the Bears are back in the NFC North and playoff races. All sorts of questions were raised by these developments, primary among them involving what to do with Bears' injured starting quarterback Jay Cutler.

What if Cutler is healthy by next week? Would head coach Marc Trestman dare start him over a smoking hot McCown? Would he be insane if he did?

Trestman isn't me. I first supported McCown to start until he squandered the job. Then I wavered toward Cutler. Now I'm back to McCown.

Not Trestman. Not so far anyway. He has held steady to the premise that Cutler is the starter again when he's recovered from his high ankle sprain.

Maybe Trestman should consider wavering. For a fee I'll give him lessons. But he's not wavering.

"There's no change in the plan," Trestman said after the game. "We'll see where Jay is this week. When Jay's ready to play, he'll be playing,"

So imagine if Cutler is ready and he stinks up the stadium next week at Cleveland.

Trestman already has made enough questionable decisions this season. If this Cutler/McCown decision blows up on him, fans and the media might never forgive him.

Ironically, these weren't ideal conditions for McCown to showcase both himself and Trestman's long-promised wide-open offense.

The temperature was dipping below 10 above. The wind chill was barely above 10 below. The wind was swirling between 10 mph and 20 mph.

McCown's arm wasn't supposed to be strong enough to function under winterlike Chicago elements. Yet the Bears came out firing and he connected on short, midrange and downfield passes to a variety of receivers.

Most of the throws were precise enough to be uncontested. When a Dallas defender got in the way, Alshon Jeffery leapt over him for the type of spectacular catch that is becoming routine for him.

This was the West Coast offense that was supposed to accompany Trestman's arrival -- making the opposition bob when it should have wove -- but results were slow coming.

The quarterback who was supposed to make it happen was Cutler, not McCown. On this night, though, McCown was both a passing dervish and a game manager. He even contributed a couple of rushes, one for a first down and the other for a touchdown.

The Bears were so good from start to finish that they compiled 33 first downs and Adam Podlesh never had to punt. What witnesses to this game must ask today is whether Cutler ever has to pass again unless McCown's arm falls off.

Maybe it's a good problem to have: Two quarterbacks to pick from instead of the Bears' customary zero.

The night inspired only one regret: The expectation was that if the Bears trailed at halftime, Ditka would put on his No. 89 jersey, take the field and run over the Cowboys.

The Bears didn't need Ditka. McCown, Jeffery and the rest were more than enough.

Now Marc Trestman has to figure out -- perhaps as soon as this week -- whether to "start McCown the rest of the season."

mimrem@dailyherald.com

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