Sunday night, we wrote about Jay Cutler suffering a groin injury in the Bears' 45-41 loss to the Redskins, and assumed/feared from all of the information presented that he had specifically suffered a torn groin.
Cutler then had an MRI on Monday, and the MRI revealed that the Bears quarterback indeed has a torn groin.
The good news is that the injury won't require surgery, and Cutler will return this season, potentially after just four weeks.
Here's what Marc Trestman had to say about the timetable for Cutler's return, via the Chicago Tribune:
"I'm only confident by what they've told me. This is a minimum of four weeks. Then he'll be evaluated week to week. ... Four weeks is a reasonable start. And then it'll be week to week. I'm encouraged by the prognosis."Considering that we figured Cutler had a torn groin, the fact he won't need surgery and may only miss three games (the Bears are on their bye week right now) is something we'll definitely take.
However, learning on Monday that the Bears will be without linebacker Lance Briggs for an estimated six weeks sort of pours a bucket of cold water on the "it could've been worse" Cutler injury diagnosis.
ESPN Chicago Bears beat writer Michael C. Wright even argues that the loss of Briggs will hurt the Bears more than the loss of Cutler:
The loss of Briggs weighs more heavily on the team than Cutler being out because at this point, he means more to the defense than the quarterback does to the offense. It sounds silly, but that’s simply the state of affairs these days at Halas Hall.
We expected the defense to fall off a notch in 2013, with the loss of eventual Hall of Fame linebacker Brian Urlacher contributing, in addition to the acquisition of two new faces in James Anderson and D.J. Williams and the hiring of a new coordinator in Mel Tucker. But what we’re seeing is an injury-induced dive off a cliff.
In all, the defense -- which has allowed 21 points or more in every game, and gave up 499 yards to the Redskins -- has now lost five starters with Briggs, who was playing at a Pro Bowl level, expected to be out at least six weeks.
On the offensive side of the ball that’s an easier proposition due to the quality of the replacement, the club’s revamped protection, not to mention all the weapons surrounding him in running back Matt Forte, tight end Martellus Bennett and receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery.
On offense, the highly-productive results likely won't change, either. Yet the same can’t be said for an already-reeling Bears defense without Briggs.First off, whether you agree with Wright or not, the main thing that should be taken away from this being an argument is the Bears are losing two crucial players for an extended period of time, and it should go without saying that the Bears' playoff hopes diminish greatly as a result.
But back to the article, what you'll notice if you give the whole thing a read (which you should), is that Wright is fairly confident that the Cutler-to-McCown drop-off in production won't be a big one, and that's obviously a huge reason he thinks Briggs is the bigger loss.
I hope Wright ends up being correct in regards to Cutler/McCown, but I certainly have my doubts.
Here's some of what I wrote about McCown on Sunday night:
McCown really did a remarkable job in replacement of Cutler on Sunday, completing 14 of 20 passes for 204 yards, one touchdown, and no interceptions. He even led a touchdown drive to get the Bears the lead in the final minute. Frankly, I was stunned with his performance. Bears head coach Marc Trestman was fantastic with his play-calling to get high percentage passes out of McCown and into the hands of the Bears' playmakers.
However, McCown is a 34-year-old journeyman that was recently out of the league for a while for a reason. And with the way the Bears' defense is playing, McCown would likely have to do more than just "manage" a game to get the Bears wins. That's especially the case with the Bears facing high-scoring offenses in huge divisional games in weeks 9-10 (Packers and Lions). Cutler can win you such potential shootout games, and unless McCown surprisingly keeps playing like the guy we saw on Sunday, he'll make it very tough for the Bears to come away with wins in games like that.McCown has played in 51 games over his NFL career, throwing for 38 touchdowns, 44 interceptions, a 58.2 completion %, and a 72.0 QB Rating.
Prior to this season, the 34-year-old McCown had only thrown for more touchdowns than interceptions once in his eight-year NFL career (11 touchdowns, 10 interceptions in 2004 with the Arizona Cardinals). He has never had a QB rating of 75.0 or better in any of those seasons.
Get this: In 1,133 career pass attempts, only one of McCown's completed passes has been a 50+ yard play (60 yards in 2003).
McCown played tremendously against the Redskins in relief of Cutler. He will have a terrific supporting cast around him with Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Martellus Bennett, Matt Forte, etc. He has a quarterback guru and creative play-caller at head coach that will do everything to put him in position to succeed.
So maybe McCown indeed plays very well over these next three games (or more), but given his track record, it would be quite unreasonable to expect it.
Cutler, though, had the offense rolling and trending to the top-tier level in the NFL.
In the cumulative grading from Pro Football Focus this season, the Bears currently rank eighth in passing offense (+19.4), eighth in rushing offense (+4.5), fifth in run blocking (+4.9), and 31st in pass blocking (-27.0). Cutler's playmaking ability, and particularly his ability to stretch the field and keep defensive backs away from the line of scrimmage, certainly has played a role in the success of the run game. And while the pass blocking grade has been PFF's second-worst, note that the Bears' have allowed the fourth-least amount of sacks on the season. That is because of Cutler getting rid of the ball quickly, and avoiding the pressure (and turning many broken plays into big ones).
On the season, Cutler has thrown 12 touchdowns, seven interceptions, and totaled 1,658 yards over 225 passing attempts. He has the best completion percentage (64.9) and QB rating (91.7) of any season in his career. He ranks fifth in PFF's QB rating at 93.38. Trestman has most definitely made a positive difference in Cutler, and Cutler was likely only going to improve as the year went on with more comfort in Trestman's system and more comfort working with the players surrounding him.
The modern-day NFL is a point-scoring league, and specifically, a quarterbacks league. You can win games with a bad defense if you have good quarterback play and can consistently put points on the board.
Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, the Bears' first opponent after the bye week (Monday night, November 4th in Green Bay), are going to put up points regardless of how good your defense is; we've seen it year after year when quality Bears defenses take on the Packers. You have to be able to score points and keep up with them.
The Lions, the Bears' opponent following the Packers, provide a similar challenge, and we saw it first-hand when they put up 40 points on the Bears in week four in Detroit.
Obviously with how badly the Bears' defense is playing right now, and given that they'll now be without Briggs, keeping up with those teams will even more difficult than usual. But, with Cutler, the Bears have an offense that can score points to keep up with those teams.
With McCown? That will be tough. McCown will have to do more than just "run the offense" against the Packers and Lions. The Bears will need explosive plays, and as McCown's NFL history shows, such plays have been few and far between. And unless he shows he can make plays downfield, the opposing defenses are going to put eight in the box to prevent Matt Forte from being the one to beat them. It would also have cornerbacks playing near the line of scrimmage frequently and give Marshall, Jeffery, and Earl Bennett fewer chances to make big plays out of short passes in space.
After the Packers and Lions, the Bears play a Baltimore Ravens team in Chicago that I think the Bears are very capable of beating with McCown, but it's a game you would certainly feel much better about with Cutler under center.
That ends the "four-week" stretch where Cutler could then possibly return. If he has to still miss a game or two after that, the good news is the Bears' schedule softens up as they face the Sam Bradford-less Rams in St. Louis, and the disastrous Vikings in Minnesota. Even if McCown is at quarterback, those are both games the Bears should still have a good chance of winning, but they're games we'd expect the Bears to win with Cutler at quarterback.
So, hopefully Cutler only misses a few games and McCown plays well enough to help keep the Bears in the thick of the NFC playoff race, but Cutler's loss is likely to felt against the Packers and Lions, at least. That especially hurts considering that those are the two teams the Bears are competing with for the NFC North title, and considering that the second-place team in the NFC North is a good bet to be an NFC Wild Card representative as well.
Get well soon, Jay.
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