The Chicago Bears’ chances of bouncing back and being a legitimate playoff threat this season are not going to be dictated by a franchise quarterback.
There are none of those guys available, and the cost to acquire one of the two some thought might be available, Russell Wilson and Deshaun Watson, would be so high it would weaken the team so much in other areas it would still be stuck in the mud.
But should the Bears improve their defense to near 2018 levels, prove the running game it found the last six weeks of 2020 was no fluke, and find the right “game manager” to play quarterback, who knows how tough they could be?
When I say game manager I mean a guy who may not be special but knows how to move the chains, read defenses, always be the coolest guy on the field when the game is on the line and always protect the football.
There may be, and I emphasize “may be,” a couple of those guys to be had. Andy Dalton isn’t one of them.
Dalton is here because the Bears couldn’t trade for Wilson, didn’t want to or couldn’t trade for Watson and other QBs that interested them weren’t being shopped.
Free agency was the only avenue that offered the Bears some control – make the best offer – and the only four worth considering were all in the game manager mold: Dalton, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tyrod Taylor and Jacoby Brissett.
None of that group really fit the Bears’ needs in order to contend, but they liked Dalton the best and had to pick one or risk even more ridicule and struggles.
But since the Dalton signing things have changed.
Big trades by the 49ers and Panthers have now made Jimmy Garoppolo and Teddy Bridgewater very available. It’s quite possible – even likely – both are better options for the Bears, and either San Francisco or Carolina would welcome Dalton to be their short-term starter or backup in a trade, maybe even straight up or along with a high Day 3 draft pick.
Let’s look at a few key game manager measures:
|Name||Age||Comp. Pctg.||TD/Int.||Passer rating|
Perhaps most importantly Dalton is basically a .500 QB at 74-70-2. Bridgewater is as well at 26-24, but Garoppolo is 26-9 and 2-1 in the playoffs with his only loss coming in the final 11 minutes of a Super Bowl.
Both Garoppolo and Bridgewater would be more expensive – a cap issue for a cap strapped team like the Bears – but both of their deals expire after the 2022 season and neither has any guaranteed money in 2022 if the Bears chose to move on after this season.
The Bears would need to clear another $14 million or so in cap space for Garoppolo or about $7 million for Bridgewater this season.
Garoppolo and Bridgewater have injury histories, but both sure look like better gambles than Dalton, and with Garoppolo, who should be priority No. 1, you’d get the bonus of bringing the local kid home.
Since it also seems a given the Bears will not get one of the top five quarterbacks in the draft, are there potential long range answers after that?
There are four quarterbacks in what we’ll call the second tier, including in no particular order Florida’s Kyle Trask, Stanford’s Davis Mills, Wake Forest’s Jamie Newman and Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond.
All have grades that suggest anywhere from solid backup to eventual starter and possible consistent winner in the game-manager mold. All are likely Day 2 picks.
The big question is are the 49ers quitting on Garoppolo because something’s missing, or because they can’t count on him to be healthy?
We know the 49ers were the Bears biggest competition for Dalton, but they wanted him for what he is: a backup and mentor to their new youngster.
What’s clear is a duo of Garoppolo and one of the four rookies with Nick Foles here one more year as the primary backup – or Bridgewater if the 49ers get greedy with what they want for Jimmy G. – would offer a lot more hope than the duo of Dalton and Foles.