Earlier today, we broke down the pros and cons of Josh McCown, who will start at quarterback for the Chicago Bears for at least the next month. The conclusion: while McCown is just a backup, he's in a good position to keep the offense afloat while Jay Cutler recovers from a torn groin.
On paper, McCown has all the tools at his disposal to be successful in Marc Trestman's offense. But don't take my word for it. Let's go to the game film from last week to break down McCown's potential as the field general for Chicago's offense.
On 3rd down and 3, the Bears line up in a three-receiver set with TE Martellus Bennett at H-back right. Bennett will clear to the flat, while receivers Alshon Jeffery (bottom), Earl Bennett and Brandon Marshall will run five-yard curl routes.
All four receivers are covered on this play. McCown sees his receivers blanketed by the secondary, feels pressure coming from behind him and rolls out to his right.
Even after scrambling, no one can get open – although Marshall might have been able to find some room had he even tried. Instead of forcing a pass to a covered receiver, McCown chooses to throw the ball out of bounds, which sets the team up for a short field goal.
The key on this play is safety Brandon Meriweather. Jeffery (blue) will run a go route and, on the other side, TE Dante Rosario (red) will clear down the left hash. The idea is to force Meriweather to choose between receivers, and then fire the ball in the other direction.
Meriweather hesitates briefly after the snap and takes a false step in Rosario's direction. That's all the room McCown needs. Jeffery releases inside and gets a step on the corner and McCown lets it fly.
McCown drops a beautiful touch pass that hits Jeffery in stride, past the underneath corner and away from the safety. Meriweather can't get there in time and Jeffery ends up with a 28-yard reception. He then gets "Meriweathered" in the head, which adds another 15 yards.
At the top of the play, Marshall is going to run a 12-yard in route. The Redskins are in Cover 1, with man-to-man out wide and zone coverage underneath.
Marshall breaks inside as soon as he clears the underneath linebacker. McCown releases the pass as soon as his receiver makes the break. It's a simple pitch and catch but there is more to it than that.
Using the end zone angle, we can see McCown looking off the deep safety. This keeps him from floating into Marshall's area.
McCown's accuracy on this pass is phenomenal. He puts it on his receiver's hands in stride, which allows Marshall to keep his separation and break away from the defender. Marshall doesn't have to reach back or jump for the ball, and thus break his stride, giving him the opportunity to pick up an extra 10 yards.
On the first pass, we get a taste of McCown's veteran decision making. The play wasn't there and even though it was a third down in the opponent's red zone, he didn't force the ball and risk a turnover. Instead, he calmly rolls away from the pressure and gets rid of the ball. He knows that, while it's not a touchdown, a field goal is better than a game-changing interception.
On the second play, we see McCown's touch. That pass to Jeffery, with a defender underneath and a safety closing is over the top, is one of the hardest passes in football. Yet McCown throws a picture perfect ball, hitting his receiver perfectly in stride. You can't teach that kind of touch.
On the third play, McCown again shows his accuracy, only this time on a ball with a lot of velocity. He puts the ball where only his receiver can catch it, leading Marshall so he can pick up yards after the catch. In the area of accuracy, McCown trumps Cutler.
Bad quarterbacks don't make these types of plays. And for those who say, "It was just the Redskins", consider this: Washington has the 13th ranked pass defense, which is a higher rank than any of Chicago's next six opponents. So there's absolutely no reason to believe McCown can't repeat last week's performance going forward.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his third season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.