You may not have heard the news, but the Bears didn’t select a quarterback in this year’s draft, despite everyone’s speculation that they would either select one of the top QBs such as Chad Henne or Brian Brohm if they fell to them in the second round, or at least select a project player like Andre Woodson, Josh Johnson, or Kevin O’Connell. It seems that every Bears fan you speak to would have felt a lot better about the 2008 draft if a signal-caller was selected somewhere in the first 5 rounds. Even if the guy didn’t pan out as a pro, hey, at least the organization is trying. But, that didn’t happen, and none of us have any idea why. The only reasonable explanation is that Jerry, Lovie, and company didn’t believe that any of the QBs in this year’s class were going to amount to anything more than backups, and that the true franchise guy would have to be found at some other point. Obviously, free agency isn’t the answer this year. We did sign a couple of undrafted kids, but nobody can honestly expect them to have so much hidden star potential that 32 teams couldn’t see it through 7 rounds.
So what are our options? Let's start with free agency next year. Maybe Angelo could look for the answer there? Well, here’s a look at the list of 2009 free-agent quarterbacks:
- Kurt Warner
- Kyle Boller
- Matt Cassel
- Kerry Collins
- Trent Dilfer
- Charlie Batch
- Charlie Frye
- Jeff Garcia
- Quinn Gray
- Gibran Hamdan
- Byron Leftwich
- J.P. Losman
- Luke McCown
- Patrick Ramsey
- Chris Simms
- Anthony Wright
Not a very mouth-watering group, the only potentially decent options being J.P. Losman and Matt Cassel. Losman’s career so far has definitely been a roller-coaster ride in Buffalo, and he lost his job to rookie Trent Edwards at the end of the season. And if Chicago did indeed sign him next year, would you really be genuinely excited about it, or just feel that it’s a lateral move? As for Cassel, the simple fact that he's Tom Brady's backup is getting him attention. The truth is, he was a 7th-round pick in 2005, and has had very limited game experience in a garbage time blowout and a meaningless season finale. He’s as unknown a commodity as you can get, and it would take a big leap of faith to assume that he’s any more suited to be a franchise quarterback than an undrafted rookie would be. Chris Simms may also be an appealing name to some, but it's becoming pretty clear that he's not his father, and is a good backup at best.
So the 2009 free-agent crop looks pretty dismal, with no guy you’d want the Bears to really seriously pursue. Granted, that list may change with off-season cuts, but they can’t be predicted. There is also a slight, probably very slight, possibility that the Bears could trade for a quarterback. Although that would pretty much go against everything Jerry Angelo has done in the past, let’s just speculate on what could happen. But who could the Bears possibly want and/or get? A couple of options include Brady Quinn (who got drafted as the Browns savior but is now on the outside looking in with the emergence of Derek Anderson) and Donovan McNabb (whose name always gets bandied around in Chicago trade rumors because of hometown ties, but he’s definitely on the downslope of his career, and can’t stay healthy). Apart from that, there are guys who have been in the league a while who seem just on the verge of breaking out but haven’t accomplished it yet, such as Tampa Bay’s Josh McCown and San Francisco’s Shaun Hill. But would any of these guys be worth a gamble? Quinn maybe, but the Browns could ask for a steep price, and his bust potential is still up in the air.
That leaves us with the 2009 draft as the next opportunity to find the next Sid Luckman. Judging from the early look at this group, there could absolutely be the Bears’ franchise guy in there, and we’ll have an even better judgment after the upcoming college season is over. Obviously, this isn’t a complete list, just some of the guys who stand out at the moment:
Tim Tebow – Florida
6’3” – 233 lbs.
2007 season: 3,286 yards – 32 TDs – 6 INTs – 172.5 rating
895 rushing yards – 23 rushing TDs
Yeah, here’s another Florida QB. Here’s a guy who’s probably a gimmick, and his style may or may not transfer to the pro level. And here’s a guy who scored 55 touchdowns in one season. Fifty-five. Even half that kind of production would be a very welcome site for the Bears. Tebow is a type of QB that nobody has really seen before. You want to compare him to Michael Vick? Vick’s final college season numbers were 1,234 passing yards, 8 TDs, 6 INTs, 617 rushing yards, and 8 rushing TDs. That’s not even close to Tebow’s production. You want to compare him to fellow Florida alum Rex Grossman? Grossman’s final college season numbers were 3,402 passing yards, 22 TDs, and 17 INTs. Similar in yards, not similar in TDs/INTs, although Grossman did rush for -65 yards and 1 touchdown. The Florida argument is definitely understandable, but this kid looks like he’s in a whole other league than past Gator QBs.
Sam Bradford – Oklahoma
6’5” – 214 lbs.
2007 season: 3,121 yards – 36 TDs – 8 INTs – 176.5 rating
Bradford may actually be a better pure passer than Tebow. Of course, his numbers are very impressive, but especially if you realize that they're from his freshman year. Now, since he’ll only be coming out of his sophomore year next year, there’s no guarantee that he’ll actually declare for the draft, but if he can equal or better his stats, it would be a huge surprise if he didn’t.
Matthew Stafford – Georgia
6’3” – 237 lbs.
2007 season: 2,523 yards – 19 TDs – 10 INTs – 55.7% –128.9 rating
Stafford’s numbers aren’t exactly remarkable, but scouts are calling him probably the most NFL-ready quarterback to come out of college in years. He has a big arm and good mobility, and is entering his third year as the starter at Georgia. With pro-level coaching he could become a star.
Chase Daniel – Missouri
6’0” – 225 lbs.
2007 season: 4,306 yards – 33 TDs – 11 INTs – 68.2% – 147.9 rating
At only 6 feet tall, Daniel lacks the ideal height of an NFL QB, but so does Drew Brees. Daniel’s yardage numbers at Missouri in 2007 were outstanding, and he was a major reason why the Tigers had such a surprisingly good year, as well as being a finalist for the Heisman.
Curtis Painter – Purdue
6’4” – 230 lbs.
2007 season: 3,846 yards – 29 TDs – 11 INTs – 62.6% – 132.3 rating
Painter is a prototypical NFL quarterback with a very quick release. Painter caught everyone’s attention at the 2007 Motor City Bowl, where completed 35 of 54 passes for 546 yards and three touchdowns against Central Michigan. However, if he’s drafted by the Bears, there’s no way he’ll be able to shake comparisons to Kyle Orton if he gets off to a rough start.
Cullen Harper – Clemson
6’4” – 220 lbs.
2007 season: 2,991 yards – 27 TDs – 6 INTs – 65.1% – 140.9 rating
Harper enjoyed a breakout season in 2007 for Clemson. However, three starters on his offensive line have left, so we’ll see if he’ll truly be able to step up and win in the 2008 campaign.
Todd Boeckman – Ohio State
6’5” – 244 lbs.
2007 season: 2,379 yards – 25 TDs – 14 INTs – 63.9% – 148.9 rating
Boeckman is a big pocket passer with an absolute cannon for an arm, the only problem is that he moves about as well as a cannon, too. He’ll also be 25 before the 2009 season starts, which will probably cause him to slide.
Nate Davis – Ball State
6’2” – 214 lbs.
2007 season: 3,667 yards – 30 TDs – 6 INTs – 56.5% - 139.13 rating
Davis is a solid athlete who rewrote Ball State’s record books in 2007 in only his second season. He had 5 games of 300 passing yards or more and put up 422 against Nebraska.
Video (only ones I could find, sorry): http://youtube.com/watch?v
Hunter Cantwell – Louisville
6’5” – 230 lbs.
2007 season: 79 yards – 0 TDs – 1 INT – 57.1% – 90.3 rating
Cantwell seems to have the skills to succeed at the pro level, but lacks the experience, sitting behind Brian Brohm the past few seasons. But when he has had a chance to take the field, he’s looked good. His 2008 campaign will be the true test of his NFL potential.
Video: Only this video, which showcases his toughness…
So how likely are we to grab any of these guys? This is where not drafting a quarterback this year is a positive. If you think of the other NFL teams with shaky QB situations several of them (Atlanta, Baltimore, Green Bay, Miami, Minnesota, Tampa Bay, NY Jets) did in fact select a quarterback in this year’s draft whom they hope to groom for the future. This leaves Chicago in the position of one of the few teams who would be willing to use a first-round pick on a quarterback in the 2009 draft, with Kansas City being the only other team (unless San Francisco throws in the towel on Alex Smith) who may possibly want to use a high pick on a quarterback due to desperate need (and if Brodie Croyle happens to have a good season, things may change). So it actually looks like the Bears should at the very least be able to grab one of the top three quarterbacks in the 2009 class. Obviously, the slot where Chicago will pick will be determined by their play this season, and right now the line between playoff contenders and rebuilding mode is very thin. A guy like Tebow will no doubt go in the top five picks just based on his potential alone, especially if one of the top five teams have quarterbacks who are aging, so unless the Bears completely fall apart this season and happen to be one of those top five teams, some trading up will have to occur to get Tebow, and Jerry Angelo has shown no willingness to do that whatsoever. So Chicago will likely stay where they are and select the top guy who falls to them, like Bradford or Stafford. Even then, it will likely take a year or two for the guy picked to be ready to start with confidence, since throwing a rookie straight into the fire rarely works out well, giving us another possible two seasons with Grossman/Orton or whatever non-elite free-agent QB the Bears happen to pick up.
A lot can happen in a year. Good quarterbacks could be surprising cap cuts, or Kyle Orton could suddenly find his groove and pass for 4,000 yards and 60 touchdowns. In all likelihood, the search for a franchise QB is far from over, but it will happen one day, and when it does, we’ll be glad we took the right guy at the right time.