LAKE FOREST, Ill. – The Chicago Bears have been stuck on an endless loop at quarterback for the better part of 70 years.
Not since Hall of Famer Sid Luckman retired in 1950 have the Bears possessed a true franchise quarterback.
Like clockwork, the Bears pledge to fix the problem seemingly every offseason only to come up short.
The narrative this year has been no different.
The end of the Mitchell Trubisky era led Chicago to explore various quarterback options as the new league year approached. The Bears’ most ambitious overture was an attempt to acquire eight-time Pro Bowler Russell Wilson from Seattle. The Seahawks nixed any deal for Wilson and the Bears quickly moved on and signed veteran Andy Dalton to a one-year, $10 million contract.
“With Dalton, the things we like as you look at it, obviously his experience -- he’s a nine-year starter, he’s been to three Pro Bowls, a lot of leadership with Andy Dalton, decision making, his decision making, he’s won a lot of games in this league,” Bears general manager Ryan Pace said Friday.
“Andy’s been a durable player, too. I think that is something that is understated. And I think, really, Andy fits our style of offense. When you go through it with our scouts and coaches, he can handle the drop-back game, he can handle the RPOs, the play actions, the movements. And we just felt, as we went through those free-agent quarterbacks, he’s one of the more complete quarterbacks that we evaluated in free agency, and we’re excited to have him.”
Pairing Dalton, 33, and fellow veteran Nick Foles, 32, together in the quarterback room, “does bode well for a young quarterback [potentially] entering that room,” according to Pace.
The problem, however, is that nothing about Dalton or Foles screams long-term solution.
Moreover, the Bears have tried the veteran quarterback route multiple times.
Jay Cutler came the closest to stabilizing the position during his eight-year stint in Chicago, but ultimately the end did not justify the means. What many people forget is that Cutler ate up an enormous amount of resources. Besides the Bears trading away two first-round picks, a third-round pick and Kyle Orton to acquire Cutler, the organization also awarded the enigmatic quarterback two large contract extensions.
Cutler’s last deal contained $54 million in guarantees.
The payoff: one playoff victory.
Next came Mike Glennon, and $18.5 million guaranteed for four starts.
A mere month after signing Glennon, the Bears sent multiple picks to San Francisco to trade one spot up to select Trubisky second overall in the 2017 NFL draft. Trubisky’s rookie contract contained close to $30 million in guarantees.
The possibility of attaining another experienced quarterback is not out of the question. Time will tell what the Jets have planned for Sam Darnold, or the 49ers for Jimmy Garoppolo. Another draft day trade cannot be ruled out.
If nothing materializes on that front, the Bears are stuck holding the 20th overall pick -- barring a trade -- which likely leaves them out of the mix for any of the top-five quarterback prospects in the rookie class -- Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Justin Fields, Trey Lance and Mac Jones.
The Bears have closely monitored the second tier of draft-eligible quarterbacks, including Florida’s Kyle Trask, Stanford’s Davis Mills and Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond, but the NFL’s COVID-19 pre-draft protocols make evaluating all players -- especially quarterbacks -- much more difficult.
“It is more difficult [to evaluate these quarterbacks] because you just don’t have the luxury of being at the combine and seeing these guys throw and see the ball come out of their hands and their footwork,” Bears coach Matt Nagy said on Friday. “You get to see every one of those guys from the top guy to the bottom guy. Right now you just don’t have the luxury of doing that.”
“As everybody knows, we’ve been to a few pro days with some of these quarterbacks and it definitely helps, but there is only so many of those you can do and see. What’s fair is every other team is doing the same thing. Ryan [Pace] and I are super excited about going through that evaluation process together and how we do it. It’s a challenge, but we look forward to it. There are a lot of good quarterbacks in this draft class.”
One lesson learned from Chicago’s quarterback odyssey is that the Bears need to draft more quarterbacks. End of story. Trubisky is the only Bears quarterback drafted since 2015. Before that, the Bears used late-round picks on quarterbacks (Dan LeFevour, Nate Enderle, and David Fales) that had virtually no chance of developing into starting caliber players.
The Bears feel strongly they have a good strategy in place at quarterback, but the ultimate plan cannot be Dalton, Foles and call it a day. More moves must be on the horizon to pull Chicago out of its quarterback tailspin.