Players in contention: Jay Cutler (2009-2016), Rex Grossman (2003-2008), Erik Kramer (1994-1998), Shane Matthews (1996, 1999-2001), Jim Miller (1999-2002), Kyle Orton (2005-2008)
Single season honorable mentions: Jim Harbaugh 1993, Steve Walsh 1994, Dave Krieg 1996, Brian Griese 2007, Josh McCown 2013
In the fall of 2009 when I wrote the original All-Bears Post-Ditka series, only one member of The Committee could see the starting quarterback of the 2017 WCG All-Bears Post-Ditka team.
A Packers fan.
“As a lifelong Packer fan, I would have to say that Jay Cutler should be the starting quarterback without even having started a regular season game,” my friend Andy Shlensky responded. “This is the first Packer-Bear week of my life that I’ve ever been concerned with the Bears passing attack. He may be a whiny, entitled and cocky gunslinger, but I absolutely hate that he’s your quarterback. And I can tell you I never said that about anyone else on the list.”
When I started the series in 2009, I made a rule that Jay was off the table because I sent the emails in August, before Cutler had even suited up for us. But he already struck fear in Andy, and eight years later, that fear — in my opinion — proved warranted.
Jay was never what we wanted him to be, but he was certainly more than we’d ever had before, at least from a modern standpoint. (Shoutout to Sid.)
I have no reservation about naming Jay Cutler the starting quarterback of the WCG All-Bears Post-Ditka team. (Though my colleagues Jeff Berckes and Josh Sunderbruch have other ideas... keep reading...) Now that his Bears career, we can see more clearly where he ranks in Bears history, courtesy of Pro Football Reference:
Jay Cutler Bears passing ranks — career
- 2nd in wins — 51 (note: Neither Pro Football Reference, NFL.com, nor Wikipedia includes a win-loss record for Sid Luckman, but based on the Bears’ composite regular season record in seasons when Luckman had the team’s most pass attempts, I estimate his record at 81-26-3.)
- 1st in losses — 51
- 1st in passing yards — 23,443 (Luckman 2nd, 14,686)
- 1st in passing touchdowns — 154 (Luckman 2nd, 137)
- 2nd in interceptions — 109 (Luckman 1st, 132)
- 1st in completion percentage (min. 16 starts) — 61.8% (Kramer 2nd, 58.6%)
- 1st in quarterback rating (min. 16 starts) — 1st, 85.2 (Kramer 2nd, 80.7)
- 1st in sacks — 251 (Harbaugh 2nd, 157)
- 1st in 4th quarter comebacks — 16 (Wade 2nd, 8)
- 1st in game-winning drives — 18 (Avellini 2nd, 10)
Jay Cutler Bears passing ranks — single season
- 2nd in passing yards — 3,812 yards in 2014 (Kramer 1st, 3,838, 1995)
- 2nd in passing TD — 28 in 2014 (Kramer 1st, 29, 1995)
- 2nd in interceptions — 26 in 2009 (Luckman 1st, 31, 1947)
- 3rd in completion percentage (min. 200 passes) — 66.0% in 2014 (Hoyer 1st, 67.0%, 2016)
- 7th in quarterback rating (min. 200 passes) — 88.6 in 2014 (McCown 1st, 109.0, 2013)
- 1st in sacks — 52 (Harbaugh 2nd, 43, 1993)
- 1st in 4th quarter comebacks — 4 in both 2010 and 2015 (8 tied with 3, including Cutler in 2013)
- 1st in game-winning drives — 4 in 2009, 2010, 2015, tied with two others
It is neither cliche nor inaccurate to say that Jay Cutler rewrote the Chicago Bears record book.
But his selection as starter goes beyond the numbers.
As Robert Zeglinski and I discussed on WCG’s inaugural podcast, the Cutler experience was more than numbers, and certainly more than wins (and losses). For me, it was about finally getting to watch a Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback every week make plays for my team. Cutler may have never been as great as divisional foes like Favre, Rodgers, Culpepper, Cunningham, Moon, Brad Johnson, or maybe even Matthew Stafford.
But on a given play, at a given moment, he could make any play those guys could.
And he was ours.
Jay had the greatest deep ball of any Bears quarterback of my life, but he could also thread the needle short. He was no pocket stiff, routinely taking the first down (and his health) in his own hands by escaping the pass rush and running for yardage.
He was incredibly tough, taking beating after beating starting with that infamous Giants game in 2010.
And despite his reputation as “prickly” or “aloof,” his teammates — more often than not — swore by his preparation, humor, and loyalty.
When we made this list in 2009, Erik Kramer was our starter. My vote went to Jim Miller, who ended up as our backup, and we didn’t even spend another roster spot on our full 53 on a quarterback.
I loved Kramer and I loved Miller. I hope they make this team.
But we’re giving the football to Jay.
And that’s just fine by me.
To break this down further, I asked my WCG colleagues to answer three questions about quarterbacking in the post-Ditka era:
- Who do you want as the starting QB for our post-Ditka team, and who do you want as our backup?
- What is the greatest season a Bears QB had in the post-Ditka era?
- What was your favorite SURPRISE season a Bears QB had in the post-Ditka era?
Here are their answers:
1. Mitchell Trubisky — The landscape of Chicago Bears QBs since Ditka (and really, since Luckman) is a minefield of disappointments, retreads, and overachieving backups... and sometimes underachieving backups. While he hasn't thrown a professional pass, Trubisky comes into the Bears organization as the highest drafted player since 1951.
The Bears have selected four quarterbacks inside the top 3 of the NFL draft: Sid Luckman in 1939, Bobby Layne in 1948, Bob Williams in 1951, and now Trubisky. Two of those guys are in the Hall of Fame (yes, Layne was traded in the "biggest mistake" of George Halas' life, but he's HOF).
Whatever you think of how we got Trubisky, he hasn't let us down yet. And when it comes to Chicago Bears QBs, that's enough.
Backup — I want the ultimate team guy in Josh McCown. His 2013 numbers might qualify him for Best QB post-Ditka.
2. Erik Kramer's 1995 season was pretty great.
3. Jim Miller 2001. That was just a fun year. I know his numbers aren’t great but he got in the previous couple seasons as a backup and then had a good run as a game manager for that Jauron defense. That Hugh Douglas cheap shot in the playoffs still gives me nightmares.
I can’t disagree with any of this.
1. Jay Cutler is the best quarterback the Bears have had in the post-Ditka era, and the win-loss record of the team with him compared to without him makes that clear.
However, for the team you've assembled so far, I think that Kyle Orton could be the better match. Orton was sneakily reliable, and he was able to move chains. Whichever one of those two is not the starter is the one I want as backup.
2. 2010 Jay Cutler. The Bears won the NFC North, made it to the NFCCG, and it really looked like they might save it in 2011 had Cutler not gotten hurt.
3. 2013 McCown. It’s enough of an outlier in terms of performance that it skews all kinds of metrics.
1. Jay Cutler, bar none. He was the best and I believe he will be more appreciated as time goes on. And I want Orton as the backup. He’s the best backup: knows his place, can come in and fire up the team and take care of the football.
2. Kramer's '95 or McCown's 2013. McCown's 13-1 TD-INT was a little lucky but he balled out.
3. McCown’s 2013 was super fun to watch in that moment. Looking back, you see the record, you remember the horrid defense, but that was so much fun because you just thought "Man the Bears are going to have Jeffery and Marshall ball out and the team score 28 to win but they can win this thing."
Sneaky second: Orton's '08 was also really fun. He had them on cusp of the playoffs, they were an onside kick recovery and TD drive away.
1. Give me Jay Cutler as the starter, with Josh McCown as the backup. Cutler because he's the best QB of the post-Ditka era, and McCown because he has the right temperament to be a #2.
2. Erik Kramer's 1995 season was pretty good. His 29 TDs and 3,838 passing yards are still records to this day. Runner up season was Jay Cutler's 2011. That was year 2 of the Mike Martz era, and Cutler had the Bears sitting at 7-3 before he was injured. He posted his lowest interception percentage of his career that year.
3. Jim Miller's 2001 seemed to come out of nowhere. He took over in week two and helped the Bears to a 13-3 record. Miller went 11-2 as the starter and he did just enough to keep the Bears rolling that season. They were a run-first, defensive-minded team, but Miller was the right fit at QB.
1. Jay Cutler as the starter by default. Maddeningly inconsistent, but good enough to win with a quality team around him. 2013 Josh McCown can be his backup, even if all of his "almost-INT's" were almost interceptions.
2. The best season a Bears quarterback has had was 2015 Jay Cutler. That was the most efficient and highest level of playmaking the franchise's most talented quarterback ever enjoyed. His touchdown to interception ratio at 21 to 11 wasn't that impressive, however, a 92.3 quarterback rating was.
I'm discounting the team's performance as a whole at 6-10 and merely appreciating the individual calm Cutler put on display. It's the best he ever played and the best any Bears quarterback has played in a long time.
3. It has to be Jim Miller in 2001, right? That whole 13-3 Bears season came out of nowhere and Miller was at the forefront of it, even if the defense and timely playmaking was more at credit for the results.
1. Jay is our quarterback. As for the backup? I’m taking Kramer in 1995. Started all 16 games, still owns the team’s single-season records for passing yards and passing touchdowns, and by all accounts a great team guy.
2. Jay fills out the rest of my top 5 (and I agree with Josh, that I’ll take the 2010 Jay over the others), but the best season has to be Kramer in 1995, for all the reasons already provided. It’s a shame there are no clips of him on YouTube or great GIFs (at least that I can find), but his passes to Curtis Conway and Jeff Graham that season were a sight to behold.
3. With respect to Jim Miller’s 1999 season, my favorite surprise season for a Bears quarterback was definitely Steve Walsh in 1994. We signed both Kramer and Walsh the same season, Kramer as the starter and Walsh as the backup.
Walsh went 3-0 to get the Bears to 4-2, then Kramer returned the next week against Green Bay only to be pulled at halftime in favor of Walsh in the midst of a 33-6 route.
Walsh started the next week, his first of four straight wins, and kept the starting job, going 8-3 compared to Kramer’s 1-4. Walsh then took the Bears into Minnesota for a Wild Card game and knocked off the division champs 35-18 before losing to the eventual Super Bowl-champion 49ers.
Walsh was a Bear for two seasons.
I was a fan forever.
NEXT WEDNESDAY: the heart and soul of the defense... one of the greatest position groups in Bears history... the linebackers
All statistics from pro-football-reference.com, unless otherwise noted.
YOU BE THE JUDGE
Who is the BEST BEARS QUARTERBACK of the post-Ditka era? (1993-2016)
This poll is closed
What is the greatest season a Bears QB had in the post-Ditka era?
This poll is closed
1993 Jim Harbaugh
1995 Erik Kramer
2001 Jim Miller
2006 Rex Grossman
2008 Kyle Orton
2010 Jay Cutler
2013 Josh McCown
2015 Jay Cutler
What was your FAVORITE SURPRISE SEASON a Bears QB had in the post-Ditka era?
This poll is closed
1994 Steve Walsh
1999 Jim Miller
2001 Jim Miller
2001 Shane Matthews
2005 Kyle Orton
2008 Kyle Orton
2013 Josh McCown
*** Update, 3 p.m. ***
I’m adding a poll:
What was your favorite multi-QB season in the post-Ditka era?
This poll is closed
1999 Matthews/McNown/Miller (4352 yards, 25-22 TD-INT)
2007 Griese/Grossman/Orton (3692 yards, 18-21 TD-INT)
2013 Cutler/McNown (4450 yards, 32-13 TD-INT)