With two picks in the first round, you would think the Chicago Bears would at least get one right. Right?
Coming off of a disappointing 4-12 season, the Bears held the fourth overall pick in the 2003 NFL Draft. With a willing trade partner in the New York Jets, the Bears would trade their high pick for multiple picks. Trading away the number four overall pick was not the only dealing the Bears did on draft day. When all of the smoke had cleared, the Bears had a total of 12 picks on draft day.
Only two of those 12 remain on the team to this day.
After trading the fourth pick, the Bears in return received the #13 and #22 pick overall, as well as a fourth round selection, #116.
With an opportunity to gain another pick, the Bears traded their newly acquired #13 pick to the New England Patriots. With the trade, the Bears dropped one spot and added another 6th round choice.
With the 14th pick, the Bears chose defensive end out of Penn State, Michael Haynes. The 2002 Big 10 Defensive Player of the Year, looked to hold down the Bears defensive line for years to come. Unfortunately, Haynes would not start any games as a rookie. In 43 games as a Bear, the former Nittany Lion would only start four. His career in Chicago only lasted three seasons before one last try at an NFL roster with the New Orleans Saints. Haynes would fail to play in any games as a Saint and left the NFL after 2006.
So, with one 2003 first round draft pick proven to be a bust, the Bears must have gotten their second pick in the first round right…right?
Well, if starting at quarterback in the Super Bowl means anything, then this next pick wasn’t all that bad. Too bad the team that he led to the Super Bowl always had to cover up his mistakes.
With the 22nd pick in the ’03 draft, the Bears took a chance on the University of Florida alum, Rex Grossman.
Leaving Florida after three seasons, Grossman had a pretty impressive college career. In his sophomore year, Grossman finished second in one of the closest Heisman Trophy votes ever. Though his college stats were through the roof, and his arm was considered one of the strongest in his draft class, the knock on Grossman was that he was too short to be an NFL quarterback (6’ 1’’) and that he played in a pass happy Steve Spurrier coached offense at Florida.
Despite the ‘Bad Rex’, the Bears looked at the ‘Good Rex’. Besides, anyone was an upgrade to then Bears quarterback Kordell Stewart.
Sitting for the first 13 games of his rookie year, Grossman would start the final three games that year. Winning his first two starts, the Bears seemed to finally have a legit qb. Like his first year, Grossman would only start three games in 2004. During a week three game against Minnesota, while scoring a diving touchdown run, Grossman would tear his ACL and be lost for the season.
After rehabbing for several months, the Bears and Grossman were excited for the ’05 season. However, once again, Grossman would only see the field for three games. Another injury would sideline the young gun slinger, this time a broken ankle sustained in pre-season. He would come in and play in two regular season games late in the season before starting the Bears lone playoff game that year; a loss at home to the Carolina Panthers.
With the team coming off a surprising playoff run, Grossman seemed poised for a break out 2006. It was a break out year all right, good and bad.
For the first time, Rex would start all 16 regular season games; along the way, amassing the second most passing yards in Bears history with 3,193. A self described roller-coaster season, Grossman would have seven games in which he would post a passer rating over 100, but five games in which he would post a sub 50 passer rating. With the help of a strong running attack and an impressive defense, Grossman would start and win two playoff games on his way to being only the second quarterback to start in the Super Bowl for the Chicago Bears.
Grossman would struggle in the Super Bowl, throwing two interceptions, one returned for a touchdown, and fumbling twice.
Even though Grossman was the starting QB during a Super Bowl run in ‘06, the leash was rather short to start the ’07 season. After committing 10 turnovers in the first three games of the season, Grossman was benched. He would start four more games that season as the Bears would finish a very disappointing Super Bowl hangover season.
The Bears gave Rex one more chance to prove himself in 2008, leaving the starting quarterback position open to start training camp. Adding more turmoil to Grossman’s short NFL career, he would lose the starting position to Kyle Orton and spend the season as the back-up.
Hoping a change of scenery might be able to help Grossman’s career, the Bears did not renew his contract for the 2009. He would sign on with the Houston Texans as their third string QB, he still remains a Texan.
Though the Bears bombed with their two first round selections, the next two rounds would provide some solace.
The only two Bears still on the roster from the 2003 draft, cornerback Charles Tillman (2nd round, #35 overall) and linebacker Lance Briggs (3rd round, #68 overall).
Coming out of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, the Chicago born ‘Peanut’ Tillman was happy to be home. A four year starter in college; an impressive combine showing coupled with his size made Tillman an early second round selection. Playing in all 16 games as a rookie, starting 13, Tillman would have 83 tackles and four interceptions. An injury in his sophomore season reduced Tillman’s season to only eight games. Coming back strong for his third year, Tillman would finish with 93 tackles, five interceptions and help the Bears to the best defense in the league.
Known as one of the best ball stripping defenders in the league, Peanut has finished with four or more forced fumbles in a season four times, having a total of 22 in his career. Always battling with injuries or ailments but still managing to play on game day, Tillman is the consummate professional embodying what a Chicago Bears is all about.
Another popular player with the fans, Briggs has emerged out of fellow linebacker Brian Urlacher’s shadow to become one of the best outside linebackers in the league. His five straight starts in the Pro Bowl back up that statement. Coming out of the University of Arizona, he was a part of the Wildcats’ famous Desert Swarm defense that led him to two first team All Pac-10 recognition. Starting 13 games as a rookie, Briggs would finish with 78 total tackles; it would be his only year in the league without reaching at least 100 total tackles.
Playing in at least 14 games a season in each of his seven years as a Bear, Briggs was rewarded with a team captain label this past season. Though he has always produced on the field, there was a time when Briggs considered himself no longer a part of the Bears franchise. Following the Bears Super Bowl appearance in ’06, Briggs felt the Bears no longer had him in their long term plans and wanted to be traded or released. A few trade offers were proposed but in the end Chicago felt that keeping Briggs on the roster was the best plan going forward. He was rewarded with a six year, $36 million contract.
The fourth round of the ’03 draft would produce two defensive players out of the University of Florida that would contribute nicely to the Bears Super Bowl run in 2006. Safety Todd Johnson, 100th overall, would miss all of his rookie season due to a broken jaw. He would return in 2004 to play in all 16 games, starting 10. A standout on special teams and a dependable backup, Johnson’s value rose after the ’06 season, prompting the St. Louis Rams to offer him a high free agent contract that the Bears would not match. Only playing two years in St. Louis, Johnson is currently the backup safety for the Buffalo Bills.
The other pick in the fourth round was made possible because of the trade with the Jets. With the pick, the Bears selected defensive tackle, Ian Scott. Playing in only seven games as a rookie, Scott would come around in his second and third years as a Bear starting 13 games each year. With injuries to starting defensive tackle Tommie Harris during the ’06 season, Scott would fill in nicely as the starting tackle helping the Bears rank as one of the top defenses in the league. Though he filled in admirable for the Bears, he would be cut after the Super Bowl season. The Philadelphia Eagles would sign Scott to a one year deal only to place him on injured reserve for the entire ’07 season. Getting cut for the second time in as many tears, he would catch on with the Carolina Panthers for a short four month tryout. After fully recovering from injury, Scott has spent the last two years on the San Diego Chargers, starting seven games last season.
With two picks in the fifth round, the Bears looked to bolster their receiving corps. With selection 139 the Bears chose another Arizona Wildcat, Bobby Wade. Four players later, after making a deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Bears would add receiver Justin Gage.
Wade was used more as a punt returner than receiver early in his Chicago career. His second year in the league would give some glimpses of solid receiver play, as he would catch 42 balls while starting 14 games. His third year in the league however would be a major setback. After 10 fumbles on the season, the Bears cut ties with Wade. He spent the following two years on the Tennessee Titans, then two years on the Minnesota Vikings and his currently a member of the Kansas City Chiefs.
Gage was the big receiver every team likes to have. A two sport star at the University of Missouri, not only does Gage hold many of the Tigers’ football receiving records, but he helped the basketball team reach the Elite Eight of the NCAA Championship tournament in 2002. After starting five games for the Bears in his first two years, Gage would have a break 2005 season, starting 11 games with 31 catches. He would fall off the following year, only playing in eight games with no starts. He was cut after the ’06 season and was quickly picked up by the Tennessee Titans where he has played since. His time on the Titans greatly out shines his Chicago career. Over three seasons, Gage has produced a total of 117 catches for 1784 yards.
The Bears would close out the 2003 draft by selecting; defensive tackle Tron Lafavor (171 overall), linebacker Joe Odom (191 overall), running back Brock Forsey (206 overall) and guard Bryan Anderson (261 overall). These four players would combine to play in 47 games for the Bears, Odom leading the way with 28. All players are no longer in the NFL.
The Bears made many trades in the 2003 draft to help improve both sides of the ball. After all is said and done, with 12 total picks and two in the first round, this could have been a very good draft to help the team. Good thing Briggs and Tillman were selected, otherwise this draft would have been a complete let down.