The Bears are no strangers to quarterback Purgatory. But a few NFL organizations could match them in sustained futility at the most important position in football. It’s almost impressive how Chicago manages to swing and miss at quarterback year after year, decade after decade, era after era. They’ve made it an art form, perfected it, embroiling their identity with the idea of never having a consistent quality passer.
Chicago’s failures under center (and out of the shotgun) will soon come into hyper focus again. After missing on 2017 No. 2 overall pick Mitchell Trubisky—who at this stage is more playing out the string than being given the keys to the future—Ryan Pace and company will be in the market for an experienced quarterback this coming spring. A quarterback that has been there and done that. A quarterback who isn’t elite or a superstar, but can act as a seamless fit for a team that only needs a healthy pulse on offense to be relevant.
Looking ahead to 2020 means the Bears turning their gaze forward to a quarterback market that appears to be lush as soon as possible. It means getting advanced scouting done before dry birds, canned fruit, and tins of thin pastry dough grace tables across the country.
One player with enough of a ledger to draw back on should warrant more than a cursory glance: Ryan Tannehill.
Before the Trubisky’s of the world entered the spotlight, Tannehill was the most recent poster boy for familiar, disappointing experiments at quarterback. A former receiver turned quarterback with Texas A&M, the Dolphins elected to invest their long-term future in Tannehill with the No. 8 overall pick of the 2012 NFL Draft. While Tannehill wasn’t an outright lost cause for the Dolphins, it was clear he was far from the answer. Maturity and innate understanding of playing quarterback be damned, it took six underwhelming seasons for Miami to learn that seasoned college signal-callers were more prudent investments.
Once Tannehill tore his ACL and struggled in initial recovery procedures in 2017, it was the beginning of the end of his tenure in South Beach. A beginning that would allow for a fresh and needed change of scenery in Tennessee. When another substandard top quarterback (in accordance with expectations) in Marcus Mariota struggled to begin this year’s campaign, the Titans pulled the trigger and made Tannehill their starter for the time being.
Early returns have paid off in a spectacular fashion. In four starts, Tannehill has thrown for 1,017 yards, eight touchdowns, and only three interceptions. His lowest output of a passer rating has been an 82.3 outing against the Panthers in early November. He has otherwise been a stellar spark plug for the Titans, having enjoyed three performances with a minimum 109.8 passer rating. And after a 2-4 start the now 5-5 Titans are legitimate AFC Wild Card contenders. It’s thanks to a 31-year-old who has unlocked the once sleeping potential of an offense that only needed its quarterback to play up to snuff.
Pursuing Tannehill’s services in the coming months would be a risky but worthwhile endeavor for the Bears. Considering an unenviable position with a defense that should soon be past the stage of “long in the tooth,” adding a competent quarterback of Tannehill’s caliber would elevate Chicago back into the NFC playoff picture. It would give Matt Nagy a player who can execute his offense. It would afford the Bears someone who can better utilize a stable of weapons once constructed for a much younger quarterback. Anyone that possesses a semblance of a standard pocket presence and above average accuracy would be a significant upgrade for the Bears. Tannehill fits that description, and he may offer more.
An expiring one-year contract means Tannehill will be a hot commodity. Many teams, including the incumbent Titans, may enter a bidding war for Tannehill’s services if he continues to light opponents up in the prove-it year of his career. As usual, the Bears aren’t the only franchise seeking the last missing piece in the most integral place. If a short term contending window is of interest to the powers that be in Halas Hall, they would do well to make sure their offer stands tall above the rest.
Robert is fully aware that the Bears aren’t attempting to clear a high bar with their next quarterback. He has resigned himself to this reality.
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