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 the fix the problem seemingly every offseason only to come up short.
Almost every offseason, the Bears pledge to fix the problem, only to come up short for various reasons.
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 in the past.
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 in order 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 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 makes 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.
Former New York Giants head coach Jim Fassel dies at 71
Former New York Giants head coach Jim Fassel has died at the age of 71, his son, John, confirmed to the Los Angeles Times on Monday night.
Fassel was the head coach for the Giants from 1997-2003. He was named the NFL’s Coach of the Year in 1997, and guided the Giants to three playoff berths.
Fassel’s Giants team lost to the Baltimore Ravens 34-7 in Super Bowl XXXV in January 2001, after going 12-4 and winning the NFC East that season. Fassel was 58-53-1 overall with the Giants.
Fassel also coached in the college ranks, leading Utah from 1985 to 1989.
Nine things to watch at NFL minicamps
Nine NFL teams open their mandatory three-day minicamps this week, with the rest of the teams to follow next week (except for the Philadelphia Eagles, who have elected not to have a minicamp this offseason). Most of the practices will be Tuesday through Thursday, though the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers will begin theirs Monday.
Teams have already been going through organized team activities, but for some, this is the first time that veterans will take the field since the end of the 2020 season. Of course, the biggest stories in some places will be which veterans don’t take the field, aka Aaron Rodgers watch in Green Bay, as the Packers are among the teams participating in mandatory camps this week. The Dallas Cowboys and Atlanta Falcons — who just traded away star receiver Julio Jones — also are having their camps.
We asked our NFL Nation reporters to preview this week’s minicamps and tell us the biggest thing they are watching from all nine camps. Come back next week for a primer on the rest of the minicamps.
What will the Falcons’ offense look like without Julio Jones?
Jones is off to Tennessee, and the first practice without him will be at minicamp, where theoretically all of Atlanta’s offensive options — including Calvin Ridley, Russell Gage and Kyle Pitts — will be in attendance. Seeing how these players work together with Matt Ryan, along with who might be taking an early lead as a No. 3 receiver, is going to be the primary thing to pay attention to throughout the week. — Michael Rothstein
Can the revamped Dallas defense continue its positive momentum?
The obvious storyline is Dak Prescott and his return from a serious right ankle injury, but the quarterback has looked good in the two OTAs open to the media. There is more up in the air about the defense, although there have been encouraging signs this spring in the changes Dan Quinn is bringing. The biggest change is the level of communication that has gone on throughout the group.
After virtual meetings leading up to camp a year ago, players were unsure of the new scheme and it was noticeable by how quiet practices were on the defensive end. With on-field work this spring, plus virtual meetings, there is a lot more talking between groups and an understanding as to what is expected. The Cowboys’ hope is that level of understanding leads to players going faster and making more plays when things get real. — Todd Archer
Who are the wide receivers?
Detroit’s receiving corps doesn’t look strong on paper, and it will be interesting to see who steps up as a primary target in Jared Goff‘s first season. Some guys to watch out for are Tyrell Williams, Breshad Perriman and Quintez Cephus. Fourth-round draft pick Amon-Ra St. Brown is also looking to take someone’s spot. — Eric Woodyard
How will Jordan Love look with his full complement of receivers?
Now that it appears certain that Aaron Rodgers will skip the mandatory minicamp, Love should finally get to work with the top receivers. The 2020 first-round pick hasn’t had many experienced targets to work with during OTAs because the top-four returning receivers (Davante Adams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Allen Lazard and Equanimeous St. Brown) along with 2020 opt-out Devin Funchess have all stayed away. They’re expected to attend this week’s camp. Love has favored check-down passes during the practices that have been open to reporters, but now he shouldn’t have any reason not to take some more shots down the field.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford‘s integration into the offense.
Stafford is entering his 13th NFL season, but his first in L.A. His arrival from Detroit immediately put the Rams in the Super Bowl conversation, but there is plenty of work to be done as Stafford continues to learn the offense and the tendencies of his new playmakers. — Lindsey Thiry
The Saints aren’t having a traditional minicamp with full practice sessions. So we’ll have to wait until late July to see how they divvy up first-string snaps between Winston and Hill at quarterback. But the competition is already well underway as the Saints install a playbook without Drew Brees as the conductor for the first time in 16 years. — Mike Triplett
Daniel Jones working with all of his new weapons.
There is Kenny Golladay, first-round pick Kadarius Toney, speedster John Ross, running back Devontae Booker. How will they all fit in this offense? And what is Saquon Barkley doing as he rehabs the torn ACL? — Jordan Raanan
How much will Tom Brady do on his surgically repaired knee?
He has been throwing for three weeks now in private workouts with teammates, but coach Bruce Arians said he may have Brady do more coaching on the sidelines and not take any chances. They’ll have Blaine Gabbert, Ryan Griffin and Kyle Trask if Brady can’t go. — Jenna Laine
Chase Young‘s return.
He was the only player not to attend at least some of the six voluntary workout sessions. Young is a workout maven and was doing his work elsewhere and was in communication with the coaches (who would always prefer everyone attends). But this will be the first time to see Young since the season ended and to see how he’ll start building on a strong rookie season. There’s been a good energy at Washington’s practices; having Young back could lead to more. — John Keim
New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft gifted new Bentley from celebrity friends for 80th birthday
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft celebrated his 80th birthday on Sunday, with some of his celebrity friends surprising him with an unexpected gift — a sparkling new Bentley.
Rapper Meek Mill posted a video on his Instagram account of a stunned Kraft receiving the car. Philadelphia 76ers co-owner Michael Rubin, the chairman of Fanatics, contributed to the gift, as did Jay-Z, among others.
All have worked together in creating the Reform Alliance, which since its inception in 2019 aims to transform probation and parole in the United States.
In the video posted on Instagram, Kraft put both hands on his head after first seeing the car, and said “Oh my God!” He had apparently been hoping to buy a Bentley, but seemingly wasn’t able to find the car he was looking for, which led to his surprise.
“How did you get it?” Kraft asked Rubin.
Kraft was then told the car had been delivered on a flatbed from Florida.
Kraft’s connection to Meek Mill is well documented. He met him through Rubin, and visited the rapper in prison in 2018, then spoke publicly on Mill’s behalf that his sentence was unfair and reflective of a broken criminal justice system.
“It makes it clear to me that we have to do something with criminal justice reform,” Kraft said at the time. “His kind of case, in a situation like this, it’s really bad. I know some of our players in the NFL have talked about this and I see it firsthand; it’s just wrong. We have to find a way to correct it.”
After the Patriots won Super Bowl LIII over the Los Angeles Rams, Kraft wore a thick gold chain at the victory parade that was gifted to him by Meek Mill.
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