Bears

Hub Arkush: Robert Quinn’s absence becomes 1st big test for Bears under Ryan Poles, Matt Eberflus

Chicago Bears outside linebacker Robert Quinn plays against the Detroit Lions, Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021, in Detroit.

LAKE FOREST – From the moment they arrived at Halas Hall, it has felt like the top priority for head coach Matt Eberflus and general manager Ryan Poles has been avoiding controversy at all costs.

It’s worked because they’ve made it clear that even without saying rebuild that it is exactly what they’re doing.

With no real effort in that direction for decades and the disappointments that have followed, the majority of Bears fans seem to feel maybe it’s time and worth a try. And as I’ve said over and over, this is what a rebuild looks like.

But controversy was bound to come eventually, and on the first day of their mandatory veteran minicamp Tuesday, the other shoe landed with a thud.

All-Pro defensive end Robert Quinn had been absent from all of the team’s voluntary on-field work until Tuesday. Whenever asked about it, Eberflus has said attendance was, in fact, voluntary and he believed Quinn would be here when he was supposed to.

But when Quinn no-showed Tuesday, facing a fine of up to $14,775 for missing the first day of this week’s mandatory minicamp, Eberflus attempted to nip any questions in the bud with an opening statement.

“We’re not talking about that as an organization,” Eberflus said. “We hoped he would be here. He’s not. [Poles] and his staff are going to work through that. I really don’t have any other comment other than that about Robert Quinn.”

Poles has continued a tradition started by Ryan Pace of not being available to the media since the draft – also likely to generate some discomfort if it continues much longer – and no answers are forthcoming for now.

Quinn’s lone public comments about the new regime and rebuild came two days before the draft when he accepted the team’s Piccolo Award. At that point, Quinn said he didn’t anticipate being traded.

“I didn’t expect to go anywhere, or want to go anywhere, but again, this is a crazy business,” Quinn said at the time.

So what are we to make of this?

Eberflus did confirm he’s been in contact with Quinn, saying he wished the veteran pass rusher a happy birthday a few weeks ago.

But knowing that Quinn can be fined up to another $29,550 if he’s absent Wednesday, and $44,325 if he misses Thursday – a total of $88,650 over the three-day minicamp – it sure feels like Quinn’s changed his mind about wanting to be the biggest fish in what is shaping up as a very small pond.

Again, because of the rebuild should Poles deal Quinn, I’d expect the blowback will be minimal.

But the bar for a deal like this was set Nov. 1 last season when the Rams sent second- and third-round picks to the Broncos for 32-year-old Von Miller with only three months left on his contract. Miller missed the entire 2020 season because of injury and had totaled only 4 ½ sacks and 17 tackles in six games last season before spraining his ankle, which he was rehabbing at the time of the deal.

That is why so many were so surprised Poles got as little as he did for Khalil Mack, even with the cap relief the deal included.

With Quinn 14 months younger than Miller, coming off an All-Pro season in which he was second in the NFL in sacks, and under contract for three more seasons at a very reasonable rate, it’s hard to see Poles and the organization avoiding significant controversy if they settle for much less than the Broncos haul.

Hub Arkush

Hub Arkush

Hub Arkush is the Senior Bears Analyst for Shaw Local News Network and ShawLocal.com.