One of the leading questions about Phil Emery heading into the 2013 NFL Draft was whether or not he should or would draft a quarterback. It was an understandable question to ask, despite evaluations that the quarterback class lacked surefire talent and was "crappy." With Chicago's current quarterback offerings, however, you wonder if Phil Emery and company should've taken a flier on a late round quarterback. Even if only to be used in case of emergency.
The Bears' quarterback situation is in limbo, solved but unresolved, with little doubt about the depth chart and participants this season but a ton of questions about anything beyond the 2013 season. Free agent to be Jay Cutler is the team's clear cut and only option as a starter, but has a new coach to impress and new teammates to hopefully keep him off his back. Josh McCown is your veteran backup that, honestly, can't really play any worse than last year's backup, Jason Campbell, but he's a free agent after this season as well. Third string quarterback goes to former undrafted free agent Matt Blanchard, who is more likely to end up on the practice squad again than make an active gameday roster this year.
Emery obviously had a decision to make regarding the quarterback position this offseason, and he used input from Marc Trestman on how they wanted to address the position. Rather than make a splashy backup quarterback signing like last season - to be fair, the Bears didn't really have the money for that, anyway - they elevated McCown to number two for a minimum salary. And rather than spend one of six draft picks on a quarterback, they chose to keep Blanchard as the team's developmental quarterback (for now, since teams change third and fourth string quarterbacks like a 90's kid trades football cards).
The hype was there for the Bears to swoop in and claim a quarterback in the draft, in large part because nobody knew where these players would get selected. In the WCG mock draft, the Bears selected Matt Barkley at twenty; in reality, he went 98th. It was shocking to see Geno Smith tumble all the way out of the first round; even more shocking when E.J. Manuel was selected by the Bills in round one.
The lack of quarterback selections early in the draft was jarring. Only three players (Manuel, Smith, and Mike Glennon) were picked in the first three rounds of the draft. Total. Each of the past two drafts featured four players selected in the first round, and an additional three players that were selected in rounds two or three. Emery did a great job plugging roster holes with the additions of Kyle Long and Jon Bostic, but it was still possible for the Bears to address quarterback in rounds four through seven.
Before the Bears' fourth round pick (117th overall), however, the run on quarterbacks finally happened. Matt Barkley was the first pick of round four, going to the Eagles, and was subsequently followed by quarterbacks Ryan Nassib at 110 (Giants), Tyler Wilson at 112 (Raiders) and Landry Jones at 115 (Steelers). The Giants and Steelers have established veteran quarterbacks that have at least a few years left before they call it a career, while the Raiders and Eagles have good short-term options (Matt Flynn and Michael Vick) and have already invested in previous-regime long-term possibilities (Nick Foles and Terrell Pryor). That's four teams with a set plan for this year at quarterback, and at least have fall-back options already on the roster if the starting QB falters.
The Bears? They've pushed all their chips in with Cutler and McCown this season. Chicago added another linebacker (Khaseem Greene - great pick) in the fourth instead of trading up to go after Nassib, or Wilson, or Jones. Maybe Emery really wanted one of those guys to fall to him? We'll likely never know, but if any of those guys develops into a good starting quarterback, I'll have regrets about passing on them. For the record, I loved the idea of Landry Jones in the fourth prior to the draft, so I'll be paying special attention to his development.
But if we cast aside the three guys selected early, and the fourth round quarterbacks, who's left? A few guys you've heard of if you follow the pre-draft hype machines. Of the remaining quarterbacks selected, the biggest name is Zac Dysert from Miami (OH). Some looked at Dysert as a second-day prospect; instead, he fell to the seventh round before being selected by the Broncos. The same Broncos who have Peyton Manning and last year's second-round pick Brock Osweiler as their top two quarterbacks.
I understand not wanting to use (or not being able to use) a draft pick on a quarterback, especially when you start out the draft with only five selections. That was one of the more maddening things about Jerry Angelo: his constant selection of quarterbacks during his GM tenure. In ten years he took five quarterbacks anywhere from round one to six, not to mention signing Caleb Hanie in 2009 after he went undrafted. Angelo had two separate streaks of consecutive years selecting a quarterback. Grossman, Craig Krenzel (5th round) and Kyle Orton (4th round) from 2003-05 and Dan LeFevour (6th round) and Nathan Enderle (5th round) from 2010-11. Those were sandwiched around his trade for Cutler; which, if you recall, used up three addtional draft picks (and Orton). So in ten years, Angelo technically used eight picks on solving the quarterback quandary. And he was willing to pick a quarterback even if he had less than seven draft picks, as he did that in 2005 (six picks) and 2010 and 2011 (five picks each year).
Even without drafting a quarterback, the Bears still - so far - have not added anyone else to the roster. How would you feel about quarterbacks like Tyler Bray, Ryan Griffin, Jordan Rodgers, Collin Klein? All went undrafted and unsigned by the Bears. While the draft is a crapshoot, and this year's quarterback class was, in the words of one scout, "crappy," Emery and Trestman didn't find anyone they liked well enough to draft or bring in and develop?
Look, I'm not denigrating their draft choices; I love the picks they made, at least for the potential the players selected have. But I am surprised there hasn't been a quarterback addition this offseason. It makes it even clearer that the Bears are all-in on Cutler succeeding this year, and in future years, in part because they haven't started acquiring alternatives.
I guess I'm not entirely worried about the quarterback situation blowing up for the Bears and creating flashbacks of the Kordell Stewart or Peter Tom Willis years, just surprised that the man with the plan hasn't tipped his hand on the quarterback man (sorry, couldn't resist). Partly easing my tension concerning the quarterback situation long-term for the Bears? If Cutler can't cut it, there is quite an impressive list of quarterbacks coming into the NFL the next year or two. Unless that changes... then we're screwed.