clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Bear Quarterback Futility and the 17-Game Season

Erik Kramer has the greatest passing season in Bears’ history. In 16 games.

Syndication: Journal Sentinel Michael S. Green / USA TODAY NETWORK

I think it’s fairly well known at this point that the greatest single season by a Chicago Bears’ quarterback (certainly in the modern era) was Erik Kramer in 1995. That season, Kramer completed 60.3% of his passes, for 3,838 yards, 29 touchdowns, and 10 picks. His 1.9% INT rate is the lower for any season in which a Bear QB threw for at least 2,500 yards, and the only Bear quarterback in that sample to best Kramer’s 7.21 ANY/A is someone named Rudy Buckich, who, in 1965, completed 56.4% of his passes for 2,641 yards, 20 touchdowns, and just 9 picks.

More importantly, for your average NFL fan, Kramer holds the Bears’ single-season yardage and touchdown record (3838, and 29, respectively.) It’s pretty incredible for an old NFL franchise to never once have a 4,000-yard passer. The Green Bay Packers have had a QB throw for 4,000 yards in a season 17 times, split among 4 QBs (Aaron Rodgers, Brett Favre, Lynn Dickey, whose 4,458 yards in 1983 is second in franchise history, and Don Majkowski). Rodgers bested Kramer’s number 11 times. Favre also bested Kramer’s number 11 times.

The Bears’ touchdown futility is perhaps more hilarious as no Bear quarterback has ever thrown for 30 or more touchdowns in a season, with Kramer’s 29 leading the way, followed by two Cutler seasons, and then the undisputed greatest QB in Bears history, Sid Luckman, who threw 24 touchdowns over 12 games in 1947. (He also threw a league-leading 31 picks. It was a different time, but Bears are gonna Bear.) The Packers have had quarterbacks throw 30 touchdowns in a season 17 times, although Majik’s 27 didn’t quite get him the group with Rodgers, Favre, and Dickey.

(Note: In 1942 Cecil Isbell, Tony Canadeo, and Joe Laws combined to throw 28 touchdowns, with Isbell leading the way at 24 over just 11 games. This was Don Hutson’s 17 touchdown season, and a landmark season for NFL passing offense. It doesn’t count, but I thought I’d mention it.)

Anyway, the point of this post isn’t to look back at olden times and ridicule the Bears. That is merely a side benefit. The point of this is to be pedantic about the future, because Kramer’s records occurred in just 16 games, and we now play 17. Justin Fields played 15 games last season but didn’t even sniff Kramer’s single-season records, throwing for just 2,242 yards and 17 scores against 11 picks, but just in case the 3rd year signal caller does drastically increase his volume and efficiency this season with an improved receiving corps, just getting to 3,838 and 29 isn’t quite good enough IF it takes him 17 games to do it. Prorated, Kramer would have thrown for 4,078 yards and 31 scores had he played every game of a 17-game season, and so any Bear quarterback going forward may become the first to 4,000 or the first to 30, but Kramer will still be king if they fail to eclipse those numbers.

Jay Cutler, certainly the best modern Bears quarterback, may also have a bone to pick here, as in 2014 he threw for 3,812 yards, 28 touchdowns, and 18 picks over just 15 games, but I don’t think we should really give him the benefit of a prorated year. After all, he missed two games, and if you didn’t play 16 it’s hard to argue you should get the benefit of playing 17. If we DID give Jay that benefit, he would have had 4,320 yards and 32 scores, but he also would have thrown 20 picks, which is quite a bit higher than Kramer’s 10.

I’m skeptical of Fields’ ability to break basically any passing record, but if he gets close, we should know what the actual, sad record is.

Finally, I’m really rooting for Jordan Love to have a better season than ‘95 Kramer.