LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- With a protective winter stubble and a camouflage hat pulled low over his face, Jay Cutler met with his good friends in the media Thursday to discuss his return to the job of starting quarterback of the Chicago Bears.
"I forgot how cheerful and uplifting this room is," he said at Halas Hall.
Yes, Chicago -- media included -- is just bursting with joy that Cutler Claus is back to doling out fastballs and droll wit.
Just kidding. Josh McCown is Chicago's Sweetheart now. He's Oprah in cleats. He's like popular restaurant Girl & The Goat because reservations are hard to find.
Sorry, Jay. You've been replaced.
I'm being a little facetious here, but the real story was that the Bears' offense has been humming along under McCown.
Cutler wasn't playing badly before he suffered the high-ankle sprain -- pretty, pretty well, actually -- but he's never put together a string of games to make Chicago implicitly trust him.
Cutler's shaky relationship with Chicago has certainly sparked the debate of his viability as the short-term and long-term starter. He's got the tools, from arm to makeup, to be one of the best in the league. He just hasn't realized it yet.
In the past, his Chicago backups were a forgettable lot. Talentless ( Caleb Hanie) to useless ( Todd Collins). But this time, Cutler got to watch his replacement shine. Perhaps it made him think a little bit about his own professional mortality.
"You also see how much you miss it," Cutler said. "How much you miss being out there and sometimes how you take it for granted."
Is Chicago taking Cutler for granted? Probably. Familiarity with Cutler breeds contempt.
And after McCown had the best game of his career Monday night against a bum Cowboys defense, the debate about McCown, with his 109.8 quarterback rating and three straight 300-yard games, and his worthiness as a starter has heated up.
Imagine that. Even Brian Urlacher weighed in. He's pro-McCown, of course.
Cutler, of course, said he didn't hear about it.
"There's not a debate in this building, so that's kind of where my concern lies," Cutler said.
Cutler said he's been buoyed by his teammates' support. None of his offensive teammates has even deigned to suggest he'd rather have McCown out there.
"It means a lot," Cutler said. "I think all the guys on offense have been behind me the entire time. The coaches have kept me involved. I've been involved in the whole process each and every week."
Cutler versus McCown, two good friends pitted against each other in the public forum, was a fun storyline, and maybe a legitimate debate about the short-term moreso than the long-term viability of re-signing Cutler.
It's not risky to start Cutler. It just might be safer to start McCown.
But that's coach Marc Trestman's decision to make. Not that there was one to make. This is Cutler's job.
"I don't think risk was part of this decision," Trestman said. "This decision was made a long time ago and that was when Jay was ready to play, he would play."
If there is a contingency plan for if, say, Cutler comes up limping as he did in his game against Detroit, Trestman won't announce it.