Over the years, there’s been plenty of head-scratching moves made by the Chicago Bears’ franchise. Plenty of those questionable moves have been made in the NFL Draft, and unfortunately, quite a few in the first round as well. Teams hope to find franchise-altering players in the first round of the draft, but sometimes, things don’t work out as well as they hope.
Recently, The 33rd Team sent out each team’s biggest draft mistake. For the Bears, it was drafting Kevin White, and I heartily disagreed.
The draft is an imperfect science after all pic.twitter.com/FhDgoVVfSu— The 33rd Team (@The33rdTeamFB) April 11, 2023
There were some much bigger misses than Kevin White. Is Kevin White even in the top 5? Let’s examine it, shall we? When I look at these draft mistakes by the Bears, I’m not going to do the “this hall of fame player went 26th and the Bears had the 14th pick and took this guy.” We are going to examine each case individually. So without further adieu, here are the Bears’ 5 worst first round decisions of the last 30 years.
5. 2003’s double whiff
A lot of people are going to want Gabe Carimi or perhaps Kevin White in this slot, but we are going with the 2003 first round. The Bears had the 4th overall selection and chose to trade back and eventually settled in with the 14th and 22nd picks of the first round. The value was good for the trade back, the selections were not.
At 14, Bears’ GM Jerry Angelo drafted Penn State defensive end Michael Haynes and followed that up at 22 by selecting Florida quarterback Rex Grossman. When you have two swings in the first round, these are the types of situations that can propel franchises, but the Bears spun their wheels in the mud.
Haynes had a three-year NFL career where he totaled 5.5 sacks for the Bears and Grossman never lived up to the first round hype. He really only had one season as the Bears’ primary starter, they did reach the Super Bowl in that season, but Grossman’s performance in the big game largely contributed to the loss.
4. Drafting Mitch Trubisky 2nd in 2017
I will always remember NFL Draft analyst Matt Miller tweeting out at the time that the 2017 draft would be the one that got Ryan Pace fired. I took offense to that, especially considering he landed Tarik Cohen and Eddie Jackson in the 4th round. But the decision to draft Trubisky is in fact what led to Pace’s downfall, because he never got the QB position right.
There’s plenty of Mitch supporters here that are rolling their eyes and dismissing this choice because Mitch did have a modicum level of success at the NFL level, but this move for Pace was egregiously bad. Pace committed to replacing Jay Cutler in this draft, and with the third overall selection, he was going to have his choice of Trubisky, Patrick Mahomes or Deshaun Watson. Not only was Pace convinced that Trubisky was his guy, but he traded up one spot to ensure nobody could take Trubisky in front of him.
Mitch had a nice 2018 season and played well in the second half of their playoff game against the Philadelphia Eagles, but it’s Mitch’s lack of success in 2019 and 2020 that slammed the window shut on this group of Bears and eventually cost Pace and Matt Nagy their jobs.
3. Drafting Curtis Enis 5th in 1998
This is one that Bears fans love to point to and for obvious reasons. The Bears selected the Penn State running back with the fifth choice and fans love to point to the fact that Randy Moss went 21st that year. Sure, you can point to that, but 19 other teams chose to pass on Moss who had a rocky collegiate career and the entire league had concerns about his character.
My biggest issue with this season was the decision to win football games in December of 1997. Late in that season, the Bears sat at 1-10 and were in a prime position to end up with the top pick of the 1998 draft. The team was rudderless and was going nowhere. But Dave Wannstedt rallied his crew to win three out of the next four games and finished the season 4-12. That dropped Chicago from the 1st pick to the 5th pick. The Indianapolis Colts ended up with the top pick.
The Bears drafted Enis, the Colts drafted Peyton Manning. Nuff said.
2. Drafting Cade McNown in 1999
Writing about this selection makes me physically ill. I always hate throwing age around, but if you are under the age of 30, you can’t appreciate just how much of a disaster it was for the Bears to select UCLA quarterback Cade McNown with the 12th overall pick. McNown wasn’t just bad on the field, he was even worse off it.
His play was poor, but he constantly blamed his teammates for his lack of success. Whether he was singling out receivers in post game press conferences, or choosing to sit out a second half because the first half didn’t go well (against the Rams), McNown’s teammates grew to despise him.
McNown only lasted two seasons in Chicago. Fans couldn’t wait for his time in their city to be over. He was eventually dumped on the Miami Dolphins and only lasted two more seasons in the league, but never played another down again.
1. Trading the 11th pick for Rick Mirer in 1997
As bad as the McNown selection was, the Mirer trade was worse for multiple reasons. The Bears traded the 11th overall pick to Seattle in return for quarterback Rick Mirer. Mirer had been the second overall pick by the Seahawks in 1993 and Mirer had been rotten in Seattle for 4 years. In his final year there, Mirer started 9 games, Seattle went 2-7 in those games. Mirer barely completed half his passes and tossed 5 TDs compared to 12 interceptions. He was already labeled a bust. So when Chicago calls and offers Seattle a first round pick for his services, they laughed all the way to the bank.
Forget the fact that the Bears needed a tight end and Cal’s Tony Gonzalez was there for the taking, the idea of trading a first round pick for Mirer and thinking somehow he would become the QB the Bears desperately needed was laughable thinking and Mirer’s tenure in Chicago was even worse than you could have expected.
Mirer lasted just one season in Chicago. He started three games, no surprise he lost them all, tallying staggeringly awful numbers. He completed 51% of his passes for 420 yards, threw zero touchdowns and 6 interceptions.
If only somebody knew that trading for Mirer was a terrible decision and could have informed Michael McCaskey. Oh wait, that’s right, the entire Bears’ fan base did.
The fact that the Bears from 1997 to 1999 took 3 first round picks that were all in the top 12 and ended up with absolutely nothing is astonishingly bad management and sums up just how rocky it was for Bears’ fans following the fall of the Mike Ditka Bears.
Outsiders can look at a list and circle Kevin White as the biggest bust, but these moves (notice they all involve QBs in one way or another?) were far bigger setbacks for the Bears’ franchise, especially when you consider that most of the picks after White were all failures in the NFL as well.