Sitting Jay Cutler is the smart play

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears' decision to sit quarterback Jay Cutler for Monday night’s game against the Dallas Cowboys appears to be the smart play, and the perhaps the best way to avoid a repeat of the situation that put him where he is in the first place.

If you remember, Cutler rushed back from tearing a muscle in his groin during an Oct. 20 game against the Washington Redskins when the team faced the Detroit Lions on Nov. 10, only to bang up the ankle on a seemingly random hit in the second quarter. Now, it’s easy to say one injury had nothing to do with the other because that’s absolutely true.

But if you watched Cutler’s movement early on in his return for the Lions game, it was quite apparent the quarterback’s mobility was compromised. That likely didn’t cause Cutler’s ankle injury in the second quarter. But the end result is the end result.

Cutler returned to practice inside the Walter Payton Center on Thursday, but it would be unfair to ask the quarterback to try to overcome nearly a month of inactivity in just four days of prep time in advance of Monday’s game. That’s setting him up for failure.

"We want to be very, very careful," Bears coach Marc Trestman said. "I was encouraged today just by the work that he got in considering the injury wasn’t that long ago. So we’ll see where he is next week. It was a good first day for him to come and get some work. I thought he threw the ball very, very well."

Trestman said that when Cutler is medically cleared, he’ll "absolutely" play. That clearance could come sometime next week or the week after, and at that time Cutler will receive ample opportunity to prove whether he's worth the long-term deal in Chicago he seeks. But really there’s no reason to rush Cutler back into the lineup, even if the team were in the thick of race for the NFC North crown because backup quarterback Josh McCown has played well enough for this team to win.

McCown is 1-2 in his last three starts, throwing for 1,038 yards and five touchdowns to go with only one interception. In five starts on the season, McCown is 3-2 with an overall passer rating of 103.6.

"I think they both do a great job, different personalities definitely inside the huddle," tight end Martellus Bennett said. "Jay has a stronger arm and can do different things with just his arm strength, rely on his arm strength, and Josh relies on timing and being where we need to be. So Jay could make some throws that Josh may not be able to make in some different situations. But they both do a great job for us, and it shows. Every single week we’ve still been putting up numbers no matter who’s [in] there."