To be clear, Mark Sanchez wasn’t brought to Chicago to replace Jay Cutler as starting quarterback – that job clearly belongs to Mike Glennon.
In fact, Sanchez’s signing might be nothing more than a blip on the radar when Week 1 kicks off.
The Bears signing Sanchez to a one-year deal on Thursday indicates a quarterback competition of sorts will take place in Bourbonnais this summer. Okay, so it might not be the one you wanted after the end of the Cutler era, featuring an open competition with an up-and-coming rookie and a veteran backup with starter’s experience dueling for starter’s reps and fan adoration. But it’s one worth keeping an eye on, especially if head coach John Fox’s past is a sign of things to come in the future.
— dan durkin (@djdurkin) March 24, 2017
History suggests that Fox isn’t going to keep four quarterbacks on the season-opening roster if the Bears draft a one in April. Which means if Pace goes through with drafting a quarterback, we’ll be looking at a situation where there are three quarterbacks (Sanchez, Connor Shaw, and the draft pick to be named later) for two spots.
Sanchez may very well be no good at this stage of his career. The Bears will be his fourth team in three years. Even during his stint with the Philadelphia Eagles, where he owned a respectable 86.6 rating, Sanchez still threw interceptions at a 3.8 percent rate that was way too high to be a productive starter. Tack on 51 career fumbles, and it turns out that Sanchez was either throwing an interception or fumbling the ball 5.6 percent of his snaps – which represents a higher clip than Cutler during his Bears career.
All that being said, Connor Shaw is still an unknown. He didn’t turn the ball over much during his college career at South Carolina (1.8 INT%), but Shaw has thrown only 28 passes in his NFL career, and they all came in his lone start with the Cleveland Browns in 2014. There is little tape on Shaw, while there is countless footage of Sanchez.
If they are the two duking it out for the backup job, it’s a classic battle of the known vs. unknown. Sanchez will be out to prove he still has something left in the tank. Or to be more specific, enough left to be on a roster serving as a backup role. On the other end of the spectrum is Shaw, a player hungry for a roster spot who will be aiming to prove he is more capable than Sanchez – or any other quarterback on the roster, for that matter.
Two different motivations for one roster spot. And that’s before factoring in a quarterback who could be potentially be added in the draft.
Even though this crop of college quarterbacks hasn’t been highly regarded (there still is no consensus at the top), let’s keep in mind that when GM Ryan Pace said all avenues were open on his search for improving the quarterback position that the draft was included among those roads. That didn’t necessarily mean the Bears were going to draft a quarterback with the third overall pick, which is fine considering the team’s needs at other valuable positions.
This team isn’t a quarterback away from contention, not with holes on the defensive and offensive lines, the secondary, uncertainty at linebacker due to health concerns of players such as Pernell McPhee, Willie Young, Lamarr Houston, and Danny Trevathan, and a group of receivers that grade out as average at best – even with the additions of Markus Wheaton and Kendall Wright in free agency.
So what if the Bears consider this, and choose a quarterback later in the draft to develop while Glennon serves his role as a placeholder? And rather than run the risk of picking a quarterback they aren’t sold on, the team makes use of its high selections in early rounds to improve roster spots in need of talent and upside?
It’s a distinct possibility that’s how the draft unfolds for the Bears in April, setting up for competition in July. And by September, Sanchez or Shaw might not even be around.