Seeing Josh McCown in the postgame interview room was almost like finding an old friend. He seemed relaxed and happy, almost giddy over the surprisingly strong showing by Chicago's offense against Green Bay. It's rare for a quarterback of a losing team to bounce into the interview room, smile and wish everybody a Merry Christmas before taking questions. McCown did all that last night.
Not only was he eager to discuss the game, including his own perceived shortcomings, but he invited reporters to give their thoughts on his play and the efforts of the offense overall. That offer in itself is highly unusual in the NFL.
Although the Packers' defense is ranked last in the league in total defense, it was still a considerable achievement for McCown and company to have performed as well as they did. For McCown, it was the perfect Christmas present.
"I was figuring that it would be at least another seven years before the Bears play the Packers again on Christmas, so I thought it would be worthwhile to give everybody the best that we had," he said. "We fell short and that was definitely frustrating. It's never fun to lose but the guys worked so hard out there tonight. I'm proud of them."
The story of McCown's immediate past, including his stint as a high school coach this year, has been told frequently since his elevation to the starting job. Before last week, he hadn't thrown an NFL pass since 2009, which makes it doubly impressive he was able to come into a high-pressure situation on Sunday and perform as well as he did.
McCown accepted the postgame compliments but preferred to credit his offensive line, his receivers and the running game for the team's success on offense.
"[They are] a great group who gave everything they possibly could tonight," said McCown.
Aaron Rodgers ended up with the win, but McCown kept the Bears' pride intact.
Kahlil Bell put it best after the game when he said McCown "gave the team the opportunity to win."
"He led us," Bell said. "Josh was enthusiastic and helped boost our self confidence. Of course we wanted to come away with a win in Lambeau, but since that didn't happen, I think we have to find the positives where we can. McCown was a plus on the field."
When asked if he would have been ready to play three or four weeks ago when Hanie was designated the starter, McCown only spoke of the present.
"I knew I was ready today and I couldn't have been happier to get this opportunity," he said. "That time is done and I am not going to conjecture on what might have been. Al I can tell you is that I was ready today and I felt once the game was done that I had contributed in a positive way."
If Bears fans have learned anything during this disappointing end to the season, it's the importance of a knowledgeable and confident backup quarterback ready to come in if needed. Hanie was not the answer to that question. McCown very well might be.
Beth Gorr has been covering the Bears for the last 12 years and is the author of Bear Memories: The Chicago-Green Bay Rivalry. She is currently working on a second book about early Bears history.