And McCown's been lucky to play terrible defenses, the Ravens aside. But the job he did against Dallas shouldn't go unnoticed for either the short- or long-term future.
Right now he gives them the best chance to win. Cutler's still dealing with multiple injuries, while McCown's starting to find his stride and is developing a significant rapport with Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery.
McCown tossed a career high 348 passing yards along with four touchdowns on Monday. It's no fluke that Marc Trestman's got him playing well, with McCown having bought into his system and somehow managing to find his groove as a 34-year-old journeyman.
Not that Bears wideout Brandon Marshall necessarily agrees.
"Jay's our guy," Marshall said after the game.
After the game, McCown, too, pointed out that he's the backup. We'll see if he keeps that attitude moving forward.
Beyond just this year, though, McCown makes even more sense. Cutler's a superb arm talent but hasn't always put everything together. He was playing great football in Trestman's system this year, but he'll want $20 million a year as a free agent. The better solution -- simply from an economic and roster-building standpoint -- is to draft someone high in the 2014 NFL Draft and let McCown serve as a bridge to that youngster.
If Trestman can do half as much for a rookie as he did for McCown this year, it should work out just fine.
More observations from Monday night's game along with grades:
1. How hot is Monte Kiffin's seat right now? The Dallas defense -- admittedly riddled with injuries -- is an abject dumpster fire right now and just got lit up by McCown. Giving up 45 points in prime time when they had a shot to move back into a tie for first in the NFC East is a horrible look. Being one of six teams to give up 450 yards six times in a season isn't good either. The good news for the Cowboys is they have the Packers and Redskins up next before getting the Eagles in Week 17. The bad news is they can't stop anyone right now. Nick Foles might light them up in the final week.
2. Speaking of bad defenses, it's borderline amazing how quickly the Bears running defense fell off the cliff. They can't tackle anyone. The only logical answer to what happened is injuries -- Henry Melton and Charles Tillman getting hurt really stand out -- but it's crazy to think how good the Bears were
3. Man, Alshon Jeffery is a stud. It's crazy to think how quickly he's developing into one of the elite wide receivers in the league. He's got the combination of physical skills, talent and willingness to improve to be one of the great wideouts in the NFL. Not many human beings can do this:
4. The Bears possessed the ball eight times on Monday. Only once -- on their last possession -- did they not score. It's really hard to lose when you do that.
5. Tony Romo has a bad record in December. And it's fun to get people all worked up about his quarterback play. But please don't go around citing his record in December after this game like the outcome was dependent on anything other than the Cowboys terrible defense. Romo wasn't great, but he went 11 for 20 with three touchdowns. It's not his fault he never saw the ball.
6. Why did the Cowboys do anything other than feed DeMarco Murray the ball? He ran for 146 yards on just 18 carries, averaging more than 8 yards a carry. He was gashing the Bears pitiful run defense for huge yardage on what felt like every play. They should've utilized him a lot more early on.
7. Martellus Bennett might be the best quote in the NFL:
Martellus Bennett said McCown had a Favre-type TD: "Old white quarterbacks all do the same thing when they score." I miss covering this guy.— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) December 10, 2013
8. I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that Matt Forte's a beast too. Dude casually piled up 175 total yards on Monday night. For as much as Marshall and Jeffery are big, powerful weapons in the passing game, Forte's no slouch. At 6'2" he's an imposing, versatile target in both the running and passing game.
|Bears 45, Cowboys 28|
|D-||The score looks better than the actual production. Dallas was gashed early and often and never stood a chance of slowing down the Bears. They were going to need 50 points to win and couldn't figure out how to generate the offense.|
|B+||Strong, strong performance from Josh McCown and the Bears offense. Matt Forte was his usual multi-faceted self and Alshon Jeffery continues developing into a stud wideout. Big, big win for the Bears.|
|Saints 31, Panthers 13|
|F||The Panthers weren't ready for that showing. They're still fine but a bad secondary got exposed when Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy couldn't put pressure on Drew Brees. The Panthers offense couldn't generate anything close to the points they need to keep up with New Orleans.|
|A||Drew Brees, Marques Colston and Jimmy Graham manhandled their top divisional competition on Sunday night. The defense basically shut down everything Carolina had to offer and Brees barely got touched.|
|Broncos 51, Titans 28|
|C+||They got handed the wrath of Peyton Manning on Sunday. This pretty good defense got completely carved up by the Broncos. They couldn't do much offensively, either. Good effort to hang in for a half. But they gave up 31 second-half points. Yikes.|
|B+||Not the greatest day for Peyton Manning but not too bad, huh? Manning threw for 397 yards and four touchdowns and continued his assault on the record books. Montee Ball is really coming on strong as a second weapon in the running game too.|
|Cardinals 30, Rams 10|
|D-||St. Louis couldn't get anything going on offense all day long aside from one Tavon Austin run. The defense gave up a touchdown in every single quarter. Pretty bad performance on the road in the division.|
|A-||Where was this Cardinals team last week? They throttled the Rams on all counts, bottling up Zac Stacy and turning Kellen Clemens into a human turnover. Carson Palmer only missed on five passes all day.|
|49ers 19, Seahawks 17|
|B-||Not a very efficient day for Russell Wilson, but this is a hard spot to play in. Winning this game would've been gravy, but not necessarily expected.|
|B||They won a physical battle to really boost their playoff hopes and their NFC West chances. Frank Gore continued playing the role of the most underrated running back in NFL history and Michael Crabtree's presence kept improving the vertical game.|
|Chargers 37, Giants 14|
|F||Just a lost season for Eli Manning. Hakeem Nicks finally came alive, which is about the only bright spot from this game. New York was officially eliminated after this loss. Finally.|
|A-||Another monster game for Philip Rivers, who threw three touchdowns and only seven incompletions. Keenan Allen should win Rookie of the Year. That was the Chargers best defensive performance of the year.|
|Bengals 42, Colts 28|
|D-||Andrew Luck ended up with nice passing stats, but the Colts got handled Sunday. Luck was also the team's leading rusher with two carries for 32 yards. Yikes. Da'Rick Rogers was a very pleasant bright spot, at least.|
|B+||The Good Andy Dalton showed up Sunday and you could tell: the Bengals rolled the Colts up, and the quarterback play helped a ton. The defense dominated Andrew Luck and crew in the first half, too.|
|Patriots 27, Browns 26|
|B-||Heart-wrenching loss for Cleveland after they dominated that game for 58 minutes and change. A questionable pass interference call really hurt them late. Josh Gordon continued his domination, while Jason Campbell keeps looking quite serviceable.|
|C-||Did they deserve to win that game? Maybe not, but such is life in the NFL. Tom Brady really, really struggled in the first half again before cranking things up. Losing Rob Gronkowski is going to hurt this offense a lot.|
|Jets 37, Raiders 27|
|D-||Nice games from Marcel Reece and Rod Streater, but when the Jets hang 30-plus points on you, things have gone very, very poorly.|
|B||Geno Smith threw a touchdown pass for the first time since October, Chris Ivory pounded the rock and the defense limited Oakland outside of one long Marcel Reese run. Good to see the Jets flash some life for the first time in a few weeks.|
|Chiefs 45, Redskins 10|
|B+||Dominant performance from Kansas City. Alex Smith didn't have to do much while Jamaal Charles and Knile Davis ran wild. Two return touchdowns as well.|
|F||Horribly embarrassing game at home; at least it wasn't in prime time. The Redskins special teams are a dumpster fire. And speaking of fire, how long does Mike Shanahan have left in Washington? Doesn't feel like long.|
|Ravens 29, Vikings 26|
|C-||Crazy game. Brutal loss. Insult to injury with Adrian Peterson going down with a foot sprain. Cordarrelle Patterson is really starting to come on late in the year.|
|C+||Season-saving victory for the Ravens. Says a lot that they barely could get by the Vikings at home. (And it doesn't say good things.) Clutch play by Joe Flacco late.|
|Packers 22, Falcons 21|
|D+||Another pretty good effort for a team that's really banged up. Matt Ryan and Co. keep remaining competitive in a lost season.|
|C-||This win keeps hope alive for Aaron Rodgers' return. Nothing pretty about it but the Packers are just a half game out of the first place in the NFC North thanks to the way things shook out for them.|
|Buccaneers 27, Bills 6|
|F||How absolutely embarrassing. C.J. Spiller averaged 2 yards a carry and EJ Manuel tossed four picks. They also gave up a huge game to Bobby Rainey. Miserable day.|
|B+||Big effort from Bobby Rainey (22 carries, 127 yards) although Mike Glennon wasn't exactly gangbusters (9 for 25). This game was never close. Lavonte David doesn't get enough credit for how good he really is.|
|Dolphins 34, Steelers 28|
|C+||Finished off the Steelers season on the road in tough conditions. Ryan Tannehill tossed a trio of touchdown passes and Charles Clay once again had a great day. He's a really underrated weapon.|
|C-||Big day for Antonio Brown but he stepped out of bounds at the wrong time. Ben Roethlisberger had another strong performance but the defense couldn't keep the Dolphins out of the end zone.|
|Eagles 34, Lions 20|
|D||Disaster game in the snow -- talk about a setting that wasn't conducive for the Lions offense. Matthew Stafford couldn't pass and the Lions defenders couldn't tackle.|
|B||Slow start but Nick Foles eventually got going in the snow. He finally tossed an interception but rallied nicely. LeSean McCoy was an absolute monster, running 29 times for 217 yards. Philly keeps impressing every week.|