With help from Houston, the Bears own No. 1 pick in 2023 NFL draft

Chicago Bears head coach Matt Eberflus (left) talks with general manager Ryan Poles before an NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023, in Chicago.

CHICAGO – The tank job was on. The Bears were bad, but the Texans were worse – until they weren’t.

Entering the day Sunday, the Bears had one avenue to the No. 1 overall draft pick in the spring. They needed to lose to the Minnesota Vikings and they needed the Houston Texans to find a way to beat the Indianapolis Colts.

The Bears held up their end of the bargain with a loss, 29-13, to the Vikings. The Texans, however, choked away a 10-point lead and looked like they were about to lose to the Colts. But moments after the Bears game ended, Houston quarterback Davis Mills led the Texans on a game-winning two-minute drive, went for two and got it in a comeback victory, 32-31, over the Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Texans coach Lovie Smith did the Bears a favor. The Bears finished with the worst record in the league at 3-14, and with one of the most valuable assets in football: the No. 1 pick.

The Bears will pick first overall for the first time since 1947. Houston finished 3-13-1 and winds up with the second overall pick.

The top pick opens up all sorts of possibilities for Bears general manager Ryan Poles. The Bears have the opportunity to select a potentially game-changing prospect. They could also elect to shop the pick and look for trade partners who might be willing to give up a package of picks for it.

With so many quarterback-needy teams and several promising prospects, including Alabama’s Bryce Young and Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, don’t be surprised if the Bears wind up eventually trading out of the top spot.

Bears head coach Matt Eberflus said he has “high confidence” in Poles to make the right move with the No. 1 pick.

“No question,” Eberflus said. “The first thing in a personnel man is the ability to pick players, and he can do that. The place where he came from, he’s shown that this year already.”

In Sunday’s game, the Bears kept starting quarterback Justin Fields sidelined due to a hip injury. Instead, Nathan Peterman started the game and Eberflus even played backup Tim Boyle for stretches.

It was a predictably ugly performance from an outmatched Bears team playing against the NFC North division champions. The Bears’ offense had no juice without Fields and the defense, beaten and battered in recent weeks, limped to the end of the season.

Bears receiver Velus Jones Jr. and tight end Cole Kmet scored touchdowns, but the Bears trailed for nearly the entire game and never really put up much of a threat.

The Vikings pulled starting quarterback Kirk Cousins at halftime and Nick Mullens finished out the game. Running back Alexander Mattison scored two touchdowns for the Vikings.

All the while, the Bears were not scoreboard watching. They did not have the Houston game on in the locker room after their contest ended.

“Those types of things just aren’t my focus,” Kmet said. “I’m sure the organization is going to use that to their advantage. Obviously, the No. 1 pick’s a big deal, but it’s just not where my focus is.”

But this will unequivocally help the organization move forward. At the very least, it is an opportunity, no matter what they wind up doing with it.

“Really just get whatever we need,” safety Jaquan Brisker said. “Offense, defense, special teams. Needs to make an impact now. Whoever comes in, we’re going to change things around. So have his mentality right. Whoever we get, hopefully, it’s somebody great. It’s time to turn it around.”

Bears’ top pick history: The Bears have picked first overall just twice since the draft was introduced in 1936.

They selected halfback Tom Harmon from Michigan with the first overall pick in 1941. That year, the Bears had acquired the first pick in a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles. They actually had three of 10 first-round picks that year. They also traded for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ first-round pick at No. 3 overall and had their own at No. 9 overall.

In 1947, the NFL began a new process where the first overall pick was determined by a lottery with all 10 of the league’s teams having an equal shot at the top pick. The Bears, coming off a championship season in 1946, won the first lottery and selected Oklahoma A&M halfback Bob Fenimore with the first overall pick. The NFL did away with the lottery system after the 1958 draft.

Since then, the Bears have not picked first overall. They selected quarterback Mitchell Trubisky with the second overall pick in 2017.

The last trade: The No. 1 overall draft pick has not been traded since 2016, when the Los Angeles Rams traded up with the Tennessee Titans for the first overall pick.

The Rams gave up the No. 15 pick, two second-round picks, a third-round pick, plus a first-round pick and a second-round pick the following year in exchange for the No. 1 overall pick, a fourth-round pick and a sixth-round pick. The Rams used the first overall pick to select quarterback Jared Goff.

Sean Hammond

Sean Hammond

Sean is the Chicago Bears beat reporter for the Shaw Local News Network. He has covered the Bears since 2020. Prior to writing about the Bears, he covered high school sports for the Northwest Herald and contributed to Friday Night Drive. Sean joined Shaw Media in 2016.