Chicago’s pursuit of a quarterback upgrade trudges on into April.
The bad news is that we’ve reached this month without seeing the Bears solidify the spot long-term. That you’ve made the trek with me as a reader bodes well for our future together, if not for the Bears. At least, that’s what I like to tell myself. To put up with Bears quarterbacking follies takes some real guts. And ultimately, your patience will pay off at some point down the line. Probably.
To that end, the good news is that the 2021 NFL Draft is coming, replete with first round quarterback talent. Surely, there will be a suitable solution here for the Bears if they’re willing to trade up, right? And this might be the only way to get a franchise quarterback any time soon, given the way trade talks have gone, right?
Da Bears Blog’s Jeff Hughes dropped an audio nugget today, which sent me down a path of thinking through all that would go into the Bears trading up to pick four in this year’s draft. So let me go down this road a bit, if you don’t mind. First, here’s the audio bit that got me thinking:
Good morning Twitter.
Bears want that fourth pick. pic.twitter.com/bkSWy6W3Bo
— DaBearsBlog (@dabearsblog) April 9, 2021
In this 1-minute, 20-second clip, Hughes changes lanes. Hughes now believes Bears ownership would OK a trade that moves future draft assets to take a quarterback in this class. Specifically, Hughes mentions the Falcons — who put the No. 4 pick on the trade block earlier in the week. New Falcons GM Terry Fontenot and Bears GM Ryan Pace have a friendship and history that goes back to their time with the Saints. See why it’s never a good idea to burn bridges?
While you don’t want to take away too much from any one rumor, there is some tracking here: as noted, the Falcons have reportedly made that pick available, reports have consistently indicated the Bears want to take a big swing at quarterback this offseason (with all appropriate love to Andy Dalton, he is not that), and perhaps the chips have fallen such that you know a guy you love would be there at four.
And to all of that, I say: GOOD!
The Bears should be all in on drafting one of the top-5 quarterbacks in this class, even if who is doing the drafting gives you some understandable initial pause. Anyone who has watched Chicago football knows (1) the Bears have long been deficient at quarterback, and (2) the modern game needs someone who can make the big throws in the guts of the game. Don’t get me wrong. I dig the ground-and-pound as a means of ball-control. The concept of teaming an excellent running game and a superlative defense can win some football games, even in an era when rule-changes tilt things in the offense’s favor. But when the rubber meets the road, as we’ve seen over the years, there will come a time when a QB needs to win a game with their arm. More than that, there will be a moment where the quarterback must put it all together — arm strength, mobility, processing — to win a game.
If your team doesn’t have that quarterback, then it will be stuck spinning its wheels around .500 until it does. And as we’ve seen for years now, trying to get that sure-thing quarterback outside of the draft is increasingly difficult.
One question this leaves me with is — why now? Why are the Bears once again OK with taking a big swing on an unproven draft pick using future capital? And why with this particular GM in place?
Maybe it’s because GM Ryan Pace has Matt Nagy along for the ride, which he did not in 2017? Having a former quarterback who worked under Andy Reid and was involved in the process of drafting Patrick Mahomes probably has a different set of insights compared to when Pace was working with Dowell Loggains and Dave Ragone ahead of the 2017 NFL Draft. Remember, the Loggains, Ragone, and John Fox triumvirate had never drafted a first-round quarterback prior to their 2017 selection of Mitchell Trubisky. So, at minimum, at least these Bears have someone who’s been there for this go-around.
Or, like I said, perhaps the decision-makers see some sort of sure-thing falling to where they would pick at No. 4. Because if the previous conditions for a trade were rooted in acquiring someone who was well-established, then the changing paths means there is someone (or are someones) the collaborators at Halas Hall feel comfortable with building from moving forward. In other words, *IF* the Bears believe the Mac Jones-49ers stuff, then they must have a strong conviction about Justin Fields or Trey Lance. But also, they’d need to have those same feelings about Jones — just in case San Francisco is just blowing smoke. Don’t want to be left holding the bag.
So maybe it’s Fields. The Ohio State product was an elite prospect coming out of high school in Georgia, but moved on from his home-state school to get a clear path at starting and showcasing his talents. Bears fans who also happened to be fans of any number of Big Ten teams certainly know what Fields is capable of at quarterback. Then again, Northwestern fans would probably point to the Big Ten title game tape as a cautionary tale. Nevertheless, Fields certainly talks the talk, especially after balling out at his Pro Day. And his words of warning could be something the Bears are heeding this time around.
Perhaps it’s Lance. The Bears were at his fall showcase and his Pro Day at North Dakota State. Lance has drool-worthy tools. He has an ideal pro frame (6-4, 223 pounds) and high-end athleticism. Owning a rocket for an arm whose throws could cut through Chicago’s “Hawk” winds helps, too. But Lance was just a one-year starter. And while he put up eye-popping numbers (2,786 passing yards, 28 TD, 0 INT; 14 rushing TD, 1,100 ground yards) as a redshirt freshman on a championship-winner in 2019, that he did it against FCS competition will be a red flag for some. Fair enough. I, too, am wary of short-term starters after the Mitchell Trubisky experience. But the talent and upside is so tantalizing with Lance. So I can understand why teams would move up to take him.
And what if it’s Jones? I know, I know … here we go again with the one-year starter. But in addition to big numbers (4,500 yards, 41 touchdowns) last year at Alabama, Jones won the Davey O’Brien, Johnny Unitas Golden Arm, and Manning Award in a season in which he earned first-team All-SEC honors and was a Consensus All-American. The résumé isn’t lengthy, but it sure is impressive.
Set aside who is doing the drafting for a moment, and simply consider the opportunity. Maybe it’s the right time to go big again in the draft, and while the sure-thing-ness of a top four pick isn’t going to come close to matching Russell Wilson, the price tag wouldn’t match his level either. And that certainly matters because, while ownership might now be OK with the front office sacrificing some future draft capital to snag one of these quarterbacks, you certainly don’t want to see this front office dig any deeper of a hole for the next front office, if it comes to that.
I suppose what I’m trying to say is: heck yeah I want the Bears to find a way to draft a quarterback like Justin Fields. But I also, you know, want them to get it right this time. That’s the risk, I suppose, but it might be the only way to actually land a franchise quarterback.
Brett Taylor contributed to this post.