Former Chicago Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher believes the team should stick with Josh McCown at quarterback even if Jay Cutler receives the necessary medical clearance to return from the high-ankle sprain that has kept him out the past four games.
Urlacher, an NFL analyst for Fox Sports 1, said on "Fox Football Daily" that McCown has earned the right to continue starting for the Bears (7-6), who travel to Cleveland to face the Browns (4-9) on Sunday.
Both Cutler and McCown are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents in the offseason.
"It's going to be awfully hard to take Josh out of there right now the way he's playing," Urlacher said. "In my opinion, [McCown] should be the guy. He should be the starting quarterback of the Bears, even if Jay Cutler is healthy. You can't take a guy who's this hot out of the football game. If I was on that team, I would have a hard time with them taking him out."
McCown was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week on Wednesday after he completed 27 of 36 passes for 348 yards and four touchdowns Monday against the Dallas Cowboys, resulting in a 141.9 quarterback rating. McCown has thrown for 13 touchdowns and just one interception in seven games this season and also became the first quarterback in franchise history to pass for 300 or more yards in three consecutive games.
McCown is third in the league with a quarterback rating of 109.8 and first in Total QBR.
However, the Bears have said publicly on numerous occasions that Cutler will play again this season and will eventually return to the starting lineup. Cutler practiced on Thursday and Friday last week on a limited basis before resting his ankle on Saturday.
"There's no change in the plan," coach Marc Trestman said after the Bears beat the Cowboys. "We'll see where Jay is this week. He'll have to be released by the doctors. When Jay is ready to play, he'll be playing. When [Cutler] is good to go and can have a full week of practice, he'll be our quarterback."
Even McCown acknowledged Tuesday on ESPN 1000's "Carmen and Jurko Show" that he expects to step aside once Cutler returns.
"I understand that Jay's the starter, and he does too, and our team does and we're building this thing around him," McCown said. "More importantly, for everybody, it's not just Josh and Jay, let's just be for the Bears and for the Bears playing good football and winning football. That's the thing that matters the most, no matter who's in at quarterback. That's all I care about.
"As soon as Jay is ready and healthy and back out there ... he's been so good for me the last few weeks and how much he's helped me. I want to go back and return that favor to him and continue to help him. It's all about our team, and everybody has that 'C' on their helmet, and that's all that matters. It's not about if this guy plays or that guy plays, it's about our team winning. And that's all we care about. When Jay gets back in there, I have full faith that he'll do a heck of a job and that he'll lead our team like he has already."
The Bears will hold their first full practice of the week Thursday.