Of the NFL’s 32 teams, only 12 make the playoffs each year. In other words, the majority of the league has to wait until next year to try their luck again. Even the most winning franchises occasionally miss the playoffs. Yet when a team consistently fails to make the postseason, it usually means something is wrong at the decision-making level. The Chicago Bears are just such a team.
The Bears have been mired in football mediocrity for a disappointingly long time, missing the playoffs in 11 of the last 13 seasons. A surprising statistic from this year’s postseason field makes clear where a lot of the franchise’s problems lie: their inability to pick a quality quarterback.
The Bears’ quarterback woes
Chicago has struggled to field a decent quarterback for basically the entirety of their franchise. Sid Luckman, who remains one of the best Bears of all time, might have been Chicago’s last great quarterback. He retired in 1950 and relied on the T-formation to lead his team to four championships, earning the No. 2 spot on the Bears’ all-time passing yards list in the process.
The top spot on that list falls to a much more recent quarterback, Jay Cutler. On paper, Cutler looks like a quality QB — at least when compared with virtually all of the other Bears’ quarterbacks. In addition to passing yards, he leads the team in all-time completions, passing attempts, and passing touchdowns.
Yet Cutler’s tenure was marked by disappointment, despite leading the team to the NFC title game in 2010. He had one of the more powerful arms in the league, yet his decision making always seemed to hold him back. Cutler also notoriously crumpled in some high-pressure situations, leading many to question whether he had the mental toughness necessary to succeed.
For the last three years, Mitchell Trubisky has held down the quarterback position for the Bears. Trubisky hasn’t shown much to be hopeful about. And although general manager Ryan Pace has voiced his support for Trubisky, many analysts feel like the Bears will try to upgrade at the position, either through free agency or in the upcoming draft.
And that brings us to the one curious stat the proves the Bears are terrible at evaluating QB talent.
The stat that proves the Bears don’t know QB talent
The Bears’ ineptitude at assessing quarterback talent became especially apparent during this season’s playoffs. Of the 12 teams that made the postseason, nine of them did so fielding quarterbacks that the Bears had initially passed over in the draft. In other words, Chicago whiffed on their chance to draft 75% of the starting quarterbacks in this year’s playoff bracket.
To be fair, drafting a franchise quarterback isn’t an exact science. Analysts believed Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf were virtually equal coming out of college. Their fortunes diverged when they reached the NFL.
A quick look at Chicago’s QB misses
In selecting Mitchell Trubisky with the No. 2 pick in the 2017 NFL draft, the Bears directly missed out on two of this year’s playoff quarterbacks.
Deshaun Watson, who ended up going to the Houston Texans with the No. 12 pick, led his team to this year’s divisional round. Meanwhile, Patrick Mahomes, whom the Kansas City Chiefs selected with the number 10 pick in the 2017 NFL draft, has taken his team to back-to-back AFC Championship games.
The Bears’ poor decision making goes back farther than just the 2017 draft, though. Perhaps most infamously, the Bears missed the chance to grab Tom Brady, despite taking seven players ahead of him in the 2000 draft. Every team passed on Brady, but in 2001, Chicago missed out on Drew Brees, who fell to Chargers in the second round.
Aaron Rodgers led the Green Bay Packers into this year’s playoffs, and he fell to the No. 24 pick in the 2005 draft. The list doesn’t stop there. The four other quarterbacks in this postseason whom the Bears failed to draft are Kirk Cousins, Jimmy Garoppolo, Lamar Jackson, and Russell Wilson. When you look at that list of misses, it becomes clear that the Bears need to seriously reevaluate their process for analyzing potential quarterbacks.