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The Chicago Bears and Quarterbacks: a Retrospective

We talk a lot about all of the bad quarterbacks the Bears have had. Let’s take some time to reflect on all of the good quarterbacks the Bears haven’t had.

Last week I made a spreadsheet of every quarterback the Chicago Bears could have drafted since 2005, when the Green Bay Packers took Aaron Rodgers at 24th overall while Chicago took this guy instead at pick number 4.

(A disclaimer: I make a lot of spreadsheets.)

Anyway, the Bears quite famously have never had a good quarterback unless you count Sid Luckman, who played most of his career in the 1940s. I think this is mostly viewed as bad luck, but it’s striking how little the team has invested in the position. You can say that it’s excusable that they didn’t pick Rodgers in the 2005 draft, as he was a project and a bunch of teams passed on him, except for the fact that the 2004 Bears used Craig Krenzel and Chad Hutchinson and Rex Grossman and Jonathan Quinn at quarterback. Sure, Rex Grossman was drafted in the first round of the 2003 draft, but there were already signs that he wasn’t going to work out as he sat behind Chris Chandler and Kordell Stewart as a rookie and couldn’t stay healthy enough to even be bad after that.

The Bears also drafted the neckbeard himself, Kyle Orton, in the 4th round of the same 2005 draft, so it’s not like they were against the concept of selecting a QB. In any case, this isn’t really about who the Bears did or didn’t have at the helm. If your franchise has never had a good quarterback, you need to take more quarterbacks, not fewer, and Chicago spends far too much time assuming that they’ve found the answer rather than having a solid backup plan.

Here are the top 10 quarterbacks (plus honorable mentions!) the Bears could have had in the Aaron Rodgers era just by walking a card up to the front of the room.

Honorable Mentions

Gardner Minshew, Jacoby Brissett, Teddy Bridgewater, Andy Dalton

Minshew may not be great, but he’s a smart, accurate passer, and probably would have been the second best quarterback in Bear franchise history. He was taken in the 6th with the 178th pick in the 2019 draft. The Bears rarely have any draft picks because they trade them away with reckless abandon, and as a result, scoring Minshew would have been a reach, costing them receiver Riley Ridley at the 126th pick. That said, Riley Ridley is not good.

Jacoby Brissett probably isn’t quite good enough to be the second greatest quarterback in Bear history, but he’s better than Kyle Orton which makes him what, top 5? Brissett was drafted with the 91st overall pick in 2016, just 19 picks behind edge rusher Jonathan Bullard, who is still in the league. Good for you Jonathan!

We’ll never know what Teddy B could have been had he not suffered a catastrophic non-contact leg injury in practice, but he’s decent enough with Carolina as a conservative check-down artist, and that’s good enough to make him the second greatest quarterback in Bear history. He was taken with the 32nd pick in the 2014 draft, 18 picks behind Kyle Fuller, who is admittedly awesome.

Finally, we have Andy Dalton in 2011, who is the averagest quarterback ever. That’s good enough to make him the second greatest quarterback in Bear history. Instead of Andy, who was taken with the 35th pick, the Bears opted for Wisconsin’s own Gabe Carimi at 29. They also took a flyer on quarterback Nathan Enderle in the 5th, but he didn’t work out for some reason.

OK, with honorable mention out of the way:

10. Joe Flacco (2008)

Joe Flacco’s just slightly better than Andy Dalton, and even got hot once to lead a defense-focused Ravens team to the promised land. Could that have been the Bears? Sure! But they were happy with Grossman and Captain Neckbeard. So happy that they traded away several picks for Jay Cutler the following season! They love trading picks. Instead of Flacco they spent the 14th pick on tackle Chris Williams, who was fine, though not a quarterback good enough to be the second best in franchise history.

9. Jimmy Garappolo (2014)

Jimmy G isn’t great and may never have turned into a passable quarterback without his time in New England, but he’s good enough to be the second best quarterback in Bears’ history. He was taken with the 62nd pick overall in 2014, while the Bears opted for defensive tackle Ego Ferguson instead, at 51. He was out of the league after 2015. That must have been a pretty big blow to his...well...ego.

Jimmy G led a defense-focused run-based 49ers team to a Super Bowl. It’s understandable why the Bears would pass on a guy like that.

8. Colin Kaepernick (2011)

It’s easy to forget that Kaepernick was once an excellent quarterback who managed to lead a defense-focused, run-based 49ers team to a Super Bowl. He also tormented the Packers and Dom Capers along the way. It’s understandable why the Bears would pass on a guy like that.

Kaepernick’s star burned short and bright on the football field, but his peak was high enough to make him the second best quarterback in Bear history, and I’m sure all of Chicago’s mustachioed north suburbanites would have welcomed his calls for social justice.

Instead of Kaep, the Bears took the aforementioned Gabe Carimi at 29, as well as quarterback Nathan Enderle, who was terrible.

7. Derek Carr (2014)

After spending the first half of his NFL life as a cowardly Alex Smith-like check-down artist for the Raiders, Jon Gruden has actually managed to turn Carr into a pretty good passer. The Raiders picked Carr with the 36th pick that year, and the Bears would have had to reach for him with the 14th pick they used on Kyle Fuller, but given that Carr would have been the second greatest quarterback in Bear history, it probably would have been worth it. Later, in the 6th round, they selected quarterback David Fales, which, yeah, that’s about right.

6. Dak Prescott (2016)

Everyone had a shot at Dak, who fell to the 4th round, and the Bears are no exception, but when you have late-stage Cutler and Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley and David Fales as incumbents, why reach for Dak when you can shore up your defense with cornerback Deiondre’ Hall? Of course, Hall was out of football by 2018 and went 8 picks before Prescott.

Dak is a polarizing prospect who can fluctuate between disappointing and MVP-levels of play, but it’s clear he’s good enough to be the second best quarterback in Bear history without question.

5. Kirk Cousins (2012)

Is Kirk Cousins better than Sid Luckman? He might be. And he was available in the 4th round of the 2012 draft. While choosing Cousins would have disrupted the highly successful Jay Cutler era, it’s worth noting that Cousins was actually drafted by Washington, who took RG3 in the exact same draft. You can never have too many quarterbacks.

Cousins is perpetually underrated due to some high-profile playoff failures, but he’s super efficient and would be at least the second best quarterback in team history. Chicago took safety Brandon Hardin instead. He basically never played.

4. Lamar Jackson (2018)

The NFL’s 2019 MVP was freely available to anyone who wanted him back in 2018, but that includes Chicago. It’s probably for the best, as they would have turned him into a tight end or some nonsense. Jackson has struggled a bit in year two, but having one MVP award under your belt already makes you the best quarterback in Bears history and starts a nice trend of the Bears not selecting MVP caliber players.

Instead of taking Jackson, who went 32nd, they took inside linebacker Roquan Smith at 8, which just goes to show you that you shouldn’t take an ILB at 8 no matter how good he is, and that Chicago remains bad at this.

3. Russell Wilson (2012)

While we take the obligatory paragraph to point out that everyone passed on Wilson multiple times due to his height, let us also pause to point out that way back in 2001, the Chargers selected Drew Brees with the 32nd pick in the draft while the Bears went with underwhelming Michigan receiver David Terrell with the 8th pick.

The NFC North dodged a bullet when Wilson ended up out West with Seattle, who nabbed him with the 75th pick overall despite the presence of Green Bay career backup Matt Flynn. The Bears could have used either the 19th (Shea McClellin) or 45th (Alshon Jeffery) on Wilson. Had they not traded for wide receiver Brandon Marshall earlier, they also could have used the 73rd pick on Wilson, which seems pretty realistic given where Wilson ended up. Oh well, Brandon Marshall! He’s pretty good too.

2. Aaron Rodgers (2005)

Cedric Benson though.

1. (Tie) Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson (2017)

Once upon a time, way back in 1999, the Bears were in desperate need of a quarterback, on account of the fact that they are the Bears. But, they didn’t just want a quarterback. They needed a bunch of guys, so in a very unBear-like move, they actually moved down in the draft, trading the 7th overall pick to Washington in exchange for the 12th, 71st, 106th, and 143rd picks. Normally that’s a great idea and I’d be throwing out all kinds of kudos, but this is the Bears, and Washington used that 7th pick to grab the amazing defensive back Champ Bailey, while the Bears wound up with good old Cade McNown, just one pick after Minnesota took Daunte Culpepper.

Anyway, the Bears wouldn’t make that mistake again, and in the 2017 draft they moved up to get their guy, Mitch Trubisky. Sure it cost them four high picks to move up a single spot, and sure, had they just stayed put they could have probably drafted him anyways or had one of the other two fall into their laps. And sure, Trubisky lacked the arm strength of Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson, and he wasn’t as productive in college, and he wasn’t as athletic, and his CPOE was bad, and he only started one season in college which is usually a red flag for pro success, but they liked what they saw. Because they are the Bears.

And that’s the story of the Bears and quarterbacks. Oh, sure, there’s an even older, funnier story to be told about how they could have drafted any Packer quarterback from Brett Favre through Aaron Rodgers and almost any of them except maybe Aaron Brooks would be at least the second best quarterback in franchise history, but that’s a story for another day.

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